Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: A Major Weekend at Indianapolis for Hendrick Motorsports & Eldora Madness

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Kasey Kahne Happy Again – “This shows that I want to do it.”

Sunday’s Brickyard 400 for Kasey Kahne was more than a victory. For a driver who hasn’t won a race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in nearly three years, it was a statement.

Kasey Kahne celebrates his first victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo: Rusty Jarrett / NKP)

Not only is the 37-year-old in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, but he feels his gutsy win will prove to people that he wants to win in the premier series.

Kasey Kahne Wins Shocking Brickyard 400

But for those who never doubted Kahne’s drive to enter Victory Lane, his emotional celebration on the Yard of Bricks showed that he will not go out quiet if 2017 is his final season with Hendrick Motorsports.

“You hear a lot of things, but tough to say what’s going to happen,” Kahne said. “I know Mr. H and I will figure it out. This shows that I still have the passion and drive to do it.”

With now two HMS cars locked into the playoffs, Kahne is holding his own in the four-car stable. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: William Byron Becoming Rookie Sensation – It took William Byron 14 races to find Victory Lane, but since then, the 19-year-old has become the hottest driver in the sport.

Byron led 78 laps at Iowa Speedway en route to his first career victory. The following week at the World Center of Racing, the No. 9 team led a race-high 29 laps to pick up a win at Daytona. Two weeks of being the highest full-time XFINITY Series regular at Kentucky Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the Charlotte native following it up by going into Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a hot streak.

XFINITY Breakdown: William Byron Wins First Attempt at Indianapolis

Byron turned 55 laps in the two practice sessions on Friday, the first time he had ever visited Indy in any form. In qualifying on Saturday, he turned the second quickest lap, only behind JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler.

As soon as the race began, Byron went to the front. The No. 9 car earned a playoff point by winning the first stage. In the second stage, he failed to pick up any stage points as crew chief Dave Elenz called him to pit road with three laps to go in the stage, banking the gasman fill the car with fuel, so the No. 9 car could go the distance and have track position to begin the final stage.

With 18 laps to go both Kyle Busch and Erik Jones came to pit road, as both were worried about tire wear. Byron, who had a vibration of his own, stayed out, hoping the tire would make it to the end. It did, as he held off a hard-charging Paul Menard to post his third victory in the last five events.

Oh yeah, the series heads back to Iowa next weekend and Byron will be the odds-on favorite, as he now is in many peoples minds in terms of winning the championship. – Dustin Albino 

NHRA: Mile-High Victories – With the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, the first race of the three-race Western Swing, in the books, the drivers who now have the opportunity to try to sweep the Swing are Top Fuel’s Antron Brown, Funny Car’s Robert Hight, Pro Stock’s Drew Skillman and even though Pro Stock Motorcycle runs only two of the three events, Eddie Krawiec is the rider with the chance to win both events for his class.

Brown faced off against teammate Leah Pritchett and made a run of 3.792 seconds at 319.82 mph to beat Pritchett’s 3.816 seconds at 324.90 mph. He also got by Scott Palmer, Doug Kalitta, and Brittany Force in earlier rounds.

Funny Car set up a classic battle of the titans between John Force Racing’s Robert Hight and Don Schumacher Racing’s Tommy Johnson, Jr. Hight walked away the victor, running 3.995 at 317.57 mph to best Johnson’s 4.09 at 297.16 mph.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped me get to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Hight also beat Todd Simpson, Jack Beckman, and Cruz Pedregon en route to the finals.

It was a tough day for the Nitro class points leaders as Top Fuel’s Steve Torrence bowed out in round two and Funny Car’s Ron Capps went down in the first round.

Pro Stock points leader Bo Butner fared better, advancing to the finals, but he lost to Drew Skillman who won two consecutive events for the first time in his career after scoring the victory two weeks ago in Chicago as well. Skillman’s 6.916 second, 198.15 second run was good enough to beat Butner’s 6.953 at 198.88 mph.

Skillman also beat Richie Stevens and Jason Line on his way to the finals.

Harley-Davidson has not been the dominant force it usually is in this class in 2017, but Eddie Krawiec upheld the manufacturer’s dominance on the mountain at least when he beat Matt Smith in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Smith red lit on the start, handing the win to Krawiec who ran 7.145 seconds at 188.28 mph to earn the win.

“We’ve gotten off to a slow start since we had to switch bikes, so we were behind in terms of figuring out the strengths of this new bike and how it works,” Krawiec said. “We really like where we are at currently and we’re going to try and keep this momentum going on the West Coast.”

Krawiec got by David Hope, Joey Gladstone, and Scotty Pollacheck in earlier rounds. – Toni Montgomery

Sports Cars: K-PAX Racing Cuts Down to Two Cars – On Friday, K-PAX Racing announced two notable changes to their Pirelli World Challenge operation.  First off, the team has cut down to two cars for the remainder of the 2017 season.  The No. 98 McLaren 650S GT3 that has been campaigned by Mike Hedlund full-time in the GTA class (joined by Michael Lewis in Sprint-X GT Pro-Am) has been parked for the rest of the season.

The team did not go into much in the way of detail as to why it occurred.

“It is very unfortunate both for K-PAX and for Mike that we have to withdraw his entry for the remainder of the season,” K-PAX Racing Program Manager Darren Law said in the team’s press release.  “[Hedlund] is great to work with, and it’s frustrating we could not achieve the results we both thought possible. I respect Mike and he does a great job in the car. We continue to work together with him and look forward to more programs in the future.”

Through five Sprint races, Hedlund was sixth in GTA points with a best finish of third in race No. 2 at St. Petersburg.  Hedlund and Lewis were sixth in Sprint-X Pro/Am points with a best finish of fourth in race No. 2 at VIR in April.

While Hedlund’s time with K-PAX Racing is over for now, Lewis will continue with the team.  Lewis will replace Jonny Kane as Bryan Sellers’ co-driver in the No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3 for the two remaining Sprint-X race weekends (Utah Motorsports Campus and Circuit of the Americas).  In the No. 6, Lewis will now compete in the Sprint-X GT Pro-Pro division. – Phil Allaway

Camping World Truck Series: Eldora Doesn’t Disappoint in Fifth Running – Last Wednesday night, the Camping World Truck Series descended on Eldora Speedway for the fifth annual mid-week visit. And once again the racing proved why this race is one of the ones many look forward to all season long.

Though there was a significant amount of carnage, there were all of the pieces needed for a successful dirt race: beating and banging for position somewhere throughout the field on every lap. Bobby Pierce, a heavy favorite, struggled throughout his time at Eldora this year before ultimately retiring with a DNF. Stewart Friesen, a virtual unknown who had to take a few weeks off earlier this year to reevaluate the team’s program, nearly won the race. Christopher Bell spun early but was right back in contention as the checkered flag drew nearer. And Matt Crafton, who hadn’t quite figured out how to win this race, snap a 27-race winless streak, his longest since 2011 – ’13.

But more importantly, social media was abuzz all night long with fans, media and drivers alike, all expressing how much they enjoyed the race.

In fact, viewership was even up over last year, despite the race being pushed off onto the FOX Business Network in favor of soccer on FOX Sports 1. Clearly, Eldora reminded everyone, once again, why it’s on the schedule and likely will remain there for many years to come. – Beth Lunkenheimer

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Sol Shine

Too little too late for Kahne. He’s been on cruise control since he went to Hendrick and has made some incredibly dumb moves. The one where he wrecked Patrick was a great example, looked like he was asleep at the wheel when he dumped her. I think Hendrick’s deflection of questions regarding Kahne’s future in the post race yapping says a lot. He’s a long way from the Kahne we saw at Red Bull and Evernham.

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