Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Fan Favorites Shine in NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar

Cup Series: Truex Out-Performs Himself in Kentucky – Even on Martin Truex Jr.’s terms, Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 was a dream night.

Leading 152 of 267 laps, Truex jumped to an almost-unheard of 16-second lead on second-place Kyle Larson as the field approached the final lap. And even after a last-second caution and a turn of strategy behind him (with the eight other cars on the lead lap pitting with new tires), the No. 78 car still was No. 1 in Victory Lane.

Now, in the middle of his fourth season with Furniture Row Racing, Truex has won 80 percent of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins with the Colorado team, winning eight of his 10 races since the beginning of the 2015 season.

The driver in the prime of his career, with the team at what looks to be their peak potential, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn have cemented themselves as the scariest competitor on the racetrack nearly every weekend in Cup.

However, as we heard multiple times post-victory, the Toyota crew hopes to move their 1.5-mile speed to the “other” tracks, with the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway next on their radar. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Cup Series Regulars Lead Every Lap, Kyle Busch Adds to Record Books – Hot off the heels of two consecutive weeks with XFINITY Series regulars dominating the top five positions, the Cup Series stars came out to play at Kentucky, leading every single lap.

Starting from pole, Kyle Busch had to overcome adversity, as he didn’t have the best car until the final stint of green flag racing. The No. 18 car and Kevin Harvick stayed out for a caution that saw  Joey Gase‘s engine erupt with just over 30 laps remaining as fresh tires had little, to no advantage.

Kyle Busch celebrated after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Kentucky.(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Busch held off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney, who restarted the event from 21st, at the tail end of the longest line for speeding on pit road during his final pit stop. The No. 12 car got all the way to second, less than one-second off from Busch’s pace.

Erik Jones led a race-high 77 circuits, while coming home third. Busch paced the field for 70 laps, while Blaney led 52. Joey Logano was the only other driver to lead, for one lap.

William Byron came into Kentucky looking for his third-consecutive race victory. He won “the best of the rest” category, finishing seventh, the highest XFINITY Series driver. Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top 10.

The series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where, surprise, surprise, Busch is the defending winner. The No. 18 car led 190 of 200 laps last season, en route to his fifth win at the race track. – Dustin Albino

Verizon IndyCar Series: Castroneves Ends Three-Year Drought with Iowa Win – Helio Castroneves won the Iowa Corn 300 to end a 53-race winless streak.

Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, last visited Victory Lane at The Raceway at Belle Isle in June 2014. J.R. Hildebrand finished second and Ryan Hunter-Reay third at the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Castroneves tightened the gap between himself and championship leader Scott Dixon to eight points. Dixon, who won at Road America two weeks ago, had a 34-point advantage entering the night over Simon Pagenaud, but Castroneves passed his Team Penske teammate and is now within close range of the Chip Ganassi Racing veteran.

The victory was Penske’s first at the track. Castroneves led 217 of 300 laps and is now in sole possession of 12th on the all-time wins list, breaking a tie with Rick Mears at 29 wins.

 The Verizon IndyCar Series heads north of the border for the Honda Indy Toronto next Sunday. – John Haverlin

Formula 1: Valtteri Bottas Amazing in Austria – Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, earned the win at the Austrian Grand Prix, his second of the season and of his career.  Bottas used an awesome start to blast off the line and into control of the race.  The start brought on scrutiny by the stewards, but Bottas was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sebastian Vettel in Ferrari, applied pressure to Bottas in the final laps but failed to make any kind of successful charge. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took the final step on the podium, not made easy by Lewis Hamilton

While Bottas sped away at the start, a number of drivers of faced issues, as Carlos Sainz Jr. bounced into Fernando Alonso, who ricocheted into Max Verstappen. Alonso limped to the pits and retired, as did Verstappen, who recorded his fifth DNF in seven races.  Sainz retired sometime after the mid-point of the race.
Vettel extended his championship lead over Hamilton by six points.  Bottas’ victory brought him to a 15-point margin to Hamilton and solidly third in the overall standings.
Aside from the first lap incident, the race ran clean.  Even rain, which is common for the Austrain GP, stayed away, allowing for a clear and fast event – clocking in at right around an hour and a half.
Next up for the series is the British Grand Prix from Silverstone on July 26.  Heading into the BGP, one of the big stories will be whether or not an announcement is made regarding its removal from the F1 schedule.  Huston Ladner
NHRA: When You’re Hot, You’re Hot – Steve Torrence and Ron Capps just keep knocking down those wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car, while LE Tonglet continues to roll to victories in Pro Stock Motorcycle, proving why all three sit atop the points in their respective classes. Pro Stock, by contrast, provided a fresh face for the winner’s photo in Drew Skillman for the Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals from Chicago.
For Torrence, it was win number five on the year as he faced off against Antron Brown in the finals. Torrence put down a run of 3.779 seconds at 326.08 mph to best Brown’s 3.786 seconds at 326.71 in a very good side-by-side Top Fuel final.

Steve Torrence was red-hot in Chicago.(Photo: NHRA Media)
Torrence also beat Scott Palmer, Blake Alexander, and T.J. Zizzo to earn the matchup with Brown.
In spite of his normal popularity, Capps was probably not everyone’s pick in the Funny Car final as he faced off against teammate Tommy Johnson, Jr., who drives Terry Chandler’s Make-A-Wish car. It would have been a storybook ending to have one of “Aunt Terry’s” cars win the race, but Capps has been a tough customer all season and prevailed yet again to notch his sixth victory of 2017. Capps posted a 4.026 second, 319.67 run to beat Johnson’s 4.047 seconds at 319.90 mph.
Capps had to face off against Jonnie Lindberg, Jim Campbell, and Matt Hagan in earlier rounds.
For as much as Pro Stock was a story of total domination by one team last season, it’s been a story of parity this year, as Drew Skillman adds himself to the roster as the ninth different driver to win in the class through 13 events this season, notching his first victory for 2017.
Skillman ran a lap of 6.627 seconds at 209.23 mph to beat Erica Enders and her 6.655 at 207.37 mph. Skillman also got by Shane Tucker, Tanner Gray, and Bo Butner en route to the final round.
“We’ve struggled all year, but we finally put everything together and took things round-by-round,” Skillman said. “The Pro Stock division is so close now, but I definitely feel like we have finally gotten where we deserve to be with this win.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle went to points leader LE Tonglet, his fourth win this year. Tonglet’s 6.835 seconds, at 195.99 was enough to defeat Hector Arana, Jr.’s 6.878 at 193.29 mph. He remains perfect on the year, winning all four times he’s made it to the final round this season.
Tonglet also beat Cory Reed, Scotty Pollacheck, and Karen Stoffer to make it to the finals. – Toni Montgomery

 Sports Cars: The Rumor That Keeps Flaring Up – In IMSA circles, there has been one huge rumor that has been making the rounds for the majority of the 2017 season.  That is the potential of Team Penske returning to sports car racing with a new DPi program in 2018.

Such DPi program would likely be a Honda DPi based around the ORECA 07 chassis.  The team is said to have extra space at their shop to potentially accommodate such an effort as well.

In recent weeks, the fervor has picked up.  On Saturday, RACER/NBC Sports’ Robin Miller wrote that INDYCAR regular Helio Castroneves could be one of the primary drivers for the potential Penske IMSA team.  SportsCar365.com reported on Wednesday that Team Penske could race an ORECA 07-Gibson as early as the Motul Petit Le Mans in October.

Finally, Miller stated on-air during Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series that an announcement will be made on Tuesday pertaining to the long-rumored program.  If that news breaks on Tuesday, we will have it for you here at Frontstretch. – Phil Allaway

About the author

Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.

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Wouldn’t it be a bit odd to have Penske’s team running Fords in the Cup, Chevy power in Indycar and Honda in sports cars? Talk about playing the field.

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