Monster Energy NASCAR Cup: Career Day for Daniel Suarez – In the opening 21 races of 2017, Daniel Suarez has been the “other” at Joe Gibbs Racing. The dominate Kyle Busch, the two veterans of Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth and then, the rookie, is how JGR’s line-up looks on paper this year.
Sunday, however, Suarez made a statement by blowing his previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stats out of the water.
It started in qualifying when the Mexican lined up fifth, only his second top-five start of the year. When the race progressed through Stage 2, Suarez found himself in the lead following pit strategy and held off Martin Truex Jr. for the stage win.
With a convincing block on the No. 78 in the final corner, Suarez threw him name in the hat for the remaining 45 laps.
Leading 14 laps, Suarez had never spent more time out front, previously leading 11 at Daytona in July. But as the top two of Truex and Kenseth conserved fuel before battling to the end, Suarez was the next guy in line waiting for chaos.
Unfortunately for the 25-year-old, the two made it to the checkered flag, giving Suarez a third-place finish, a career-high result. With his best race behind him, can Suarez win his way into the playoffs? – Zach Catanzareti
XFINITY Series: Cup Drivers Dominate at the Glen – Heading into the Zippo 200 at the Glen, everyone knew that the Cup Series regulars were going to be the ones to beat, after the entry listed was posted. Eight of the top Cup drivers were in quality XFINITY rides.
To no surprise, Joey Logano won the pole, his third straight at Watkins Glen. However, it didn’t take long for Kyle Busch to pass him. Make that the first corner, with Brad Keselowski coming quickly behind.
Busch led a race-high 43 circuits on Saturday, en route to his first XFINITY Series victory at the Glen. Cup drivers took seven of the first eight positions with Justin Allgaier winning the best of the rest category, finishing fourth.
Overall, even with the Cup Series drivers in the field this was a rather uneventful race though a caution with six laps to go made Busch work for it on the final restart. Once the green flag flew, the No. 18 car was gone.
Sports Cars: IMSA State of the Series Brings Good News – As we reported on Friday, IMSA released the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge schedules at Road America. However, that was not all that was discussed.
The schedule announcements came as part of a State of the Sport special presentation from IMSA President Scott Atherton (originally scheduled for Victory Lane, but moved indoors due to weather). The goal of the presentation was to bring IMSA competitors, media and stakeholders up to date on certain aspects of IMSA.
So far, there are a lot of positive aspects to the 2017 season. Likely the most visible is the recent announcement that Team Penske is returning to sports car racing with an Acura DPi next season. There is still the potential for more prototypes. Also previously announced was the 36 Hours of Daytona initiative to attract European squads to race Daytona and Sebring next year with a series of discounts, which has generated interest.
Atherton touted an improved relationship with FOX Sports that led to Long Beach being aired live on FOX back in April to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s best TV ratings in years. The April 8 broadcast peaked at over one million viewers and averaged 837,000 for the whole 100 minute race, more than twice the viewership for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. For the year to date, ratings are up over 30 percent from 2016.
For 2018, there are a couple of changes that are being considered. One revolves around giving more of a reward for qualifying. Another involves making the Roar Before the 24 test session more of an event. Stay tuned. – Phil Allaway
NHRA: Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad – The annual Western Swing was completed today with the NHRA Northwest Nationals from Seattle. Every year, drivers in the three professional classes that make the whole three-race swing make their best attempt to sweep the swing, but often the feat is just too difficult. This year S,onoma was the swing-killer as all of the drivers who won the first leg struck out in Sonoma, only to find themselves hoisting the Wally again in Seattle.
Antron Brown faced off against Terry McMillen, a driver attempting to earn a spot in the championship Countdown for the first time. Brown couldn’t take McMilllen lightly as he’d already taken out Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence along with Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett. He brought his A-game and ran 3.776 seconds at 326.48 mph to best McMillen’s 3.772 seconds at 318.54 mph on a holeshot.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys, because the Western Swing can bring you down,” Brown said. “My team gave me a great car to allow me to go some rounds against tough competition, but this sets up some real interesting scenarios with only two races to go before the Countdown.”
Brown also got by Ron Smith, Mike Salinas and Clay Millican to reach the finals.
Robert Hight has been setting records all over the West Coast so it’s no surprise to see him as the last driver standing in Funny Car. Hight faced off against Tommy Johnson, Jr. in the finals and laid down a pass of 3.890 seconds at 328.62 mph to best Johnson’s 3.978 at 323.27 mph.
Hight also beat Jeff Diehl and took out teammates John Force and Courtney Force en route to the final round matchup with Johnson.
Drew Skillman has been on quite the streak and scored his third win of the season in Pro Stock. This makes three of the last four events he’s won. Skillman faced off against Erica Enders in one of the closest races of the day, posting a 6.604 at 209.33 to just edge out Enders’ 6.609 at 209.49.
“We definitely thought we had a car to sweep the Western swing and we missed it by two rounds, but today definitely makes up for that,” Skillman said. “Our team is working really well together right now, and I couldn’t be happier with the results over the past few events.”
Skillman beat Alan Prusiensky and Bo Butner in earlier rounds. He had a solo in the second round due to a short field. – Toni Montgomery
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