Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Christopher Bell Puts on a Clinic, Truck Series Drama Unfolds In Iowa

Xfinity Series: Christopher Bell Show in Iowa 

Heading into Sunday’s CircuitCity.com 250 at Iowa Speedway, Christopher Bell was the favorite. The No. 20 team lived up to expectations in the race, leading 186 laps en route to its fourth victory of the season.

The victory is Bell’s second in four starts at the 7/8-mile short track, leading 434 laps, ranking third most in track history. However, on this day, he had to hold off Cole Custer, who kept the Oklahoma native on his toes for the duration of the event.

Defending race winner Justin Allgaier finished third, just ahead of Harrison Burton and Zane Smith, both of whom picked up their first top-five finishes in Xfinity competition.

Through the opening 14 races of the season, just five drivers have won a race. Bell has now surpassed the other two members of the Big Three, as both Custer and Tyler Reddick have three wins. Kyle Busch also has three triumphs in four starts, but doesn’t race again until August at Watkins Glen International.

The scariest moment of the race was on lap 76 when Brandon Brown brought his No. 86 Chevrolet to pit road. Ultimately, the engine expired, but fumes got into the cockpit and Brown was coughing and choking on the fumes, needing medical attention. In a text to Frontstretch, Brown confirmed he was fine and looking forward to Chicagoland Speedway in two weeks, as the series has an off week next week.

Side note: It was nice to see Circuit City back in the sport, formerly in the sport in the early 2000s. Not only did the company sponsor the race, but it was also stamped on the hood of the No. 28 driven by Shane Lee, who wheeled the No. 28 Toyota to an 18th-place finish in H2 Motorsports’ debut event. – Dustin Albino

Gander Outdoors Truck Series: Could a New Rivalry Be Emerging?

Obviously, the biggest story coming out of Sunday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race is Ross Chastain’s disqualification after a dominant victory at Iowa Speedway, especially since it came just two races after he announced he would run for the series championship.


But one that could prove to be equally important in the coming weeks is that of Johnny Sauter vs. Austin Hill.

An incident that started out as what appeared to be innocent racing contact turned into one driver wrecked, the other driver intentionally turned and a call to the NASCAR hauler.

It all began when Sauter made contact with the back end of Hill’s No. 16 Toyota and slid him up the track a little. Both drivers managed to carry on without issue until a short time later when Sauter spun off of Hill’s front bumper in what was likely payback for the first contact. Sauter clearly didn’t appreciate the follow-up contact and made that point clear with a spin and a shover down the track handed to Hill under caution.

As was expected, that follow-up contact earned Sauter a shortened race and a trip to the NASCAR hauler to answer for his actions. After emerging from the infield care center, Sauter did not comment while on his way to visit with NASCAR officials but later indicated that his retaliation stemmed from more than just this race.

In fact, it’s not the first time the pair have tangled. Contact between Sauter and Hill left Sauter with damage to the No. 13 Ford last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, a fact Hill alluded to in his post-race interview.

It’s clear there’s no love lost between these two drivers, and given that Sauter tends to have a short fuse at times when he’s the most frustrated, it’s possible this incident isn’t the last between the duo. And that doesn’t even take into consideration what punishment NASCAR might feel is worthy after Sauter intentionally wrecked Hill under caution. Granted it was at a mile-and-a-half track and almost immediately after the yellow flag flew, but when Kyle Busch did the same to Ron Hornaday years ago at Texas, he ended up parked for the remainder of that race weekend and had to sit out of the Xfinity and Cup races. – Beth Lunkenheimer


ARCA: Chandler Smith Proves More ARCA Drivers Deserve Opportunities

Sunday’s postponed M&M’s 200 featured the national series debut of Chandler Smith. Friday night, Smith scored his fourth career victory in the ARCA Menard’s Series and second straight at Madison International Speedway. After moving south to Newton, Iowa on Saturday, he was declared as the pole winner after qualifying was canceled. He already led the way in first practice, and it looked like his debut would be a Father’s Day to remember.

Issues that were completely out of Smith’s control ultimately pushed him out of contention for the victory but he still battled hard and crossed the line in ninth unofficially. After Chastain’s truck failed post-race inspection, Smith moved up to eighth in the running order. Earning the top-10 finish in his debut proves that more ARCA drivers should get the opportunities.

Michael Self, who is currently the ARCA points leader, has failed to earn an opportunity in a truck. Neither has second place driver Bret Holmes and third place Travis Braden. These two drivers aren’t affiliated with a “higher power” if you will, but they should get eyes by what they do during ARCA races. Raphael Lessard is a prime example of showing his worth in ARCA than earning an opportunity with a good team in DGR-Crosely. On Sunday, Lessard finished ninth in Sunday’s event. Riley Herbst is another driver who raced in Sunday’s Truck Series event, but didn’t have as strong of an afternoon.

Champions get opportunities, last year’s ARCA champion Sheldon Creed currently runs full-time with GMS Racing alongside 2015 ARCA champion Grant Enfinger at ThorSport Racing. 2014 ARCA Menards Series Rookie of the Year Austin Wayne Self also competes in the Truck Series.

If Michael Self can seal the deal here in a few months, does that make him a strong candidate for an opportunity in trucks? Did Smith and Lessard’s showings on Sunday open team owners’ eyes to possibilities in the Truck Series later on this year? It should. – Christian Koelle

Sports Cars: The WEC Confirms The Future For Their Top Class

For the last couple of years, there has been a serious discussion about what the new top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be.  The current formula is only good through the end of 2019-20.  Friday saw those questions put to rest.

During the WEC’s annual press conference (think Brian France’s past “State of the Sport” press conferences in NASCAR), details were revealed about the new top class (which is currently unnamed but has been referred to as a “Hypercar class” in recent months).  Cars can be either prototype or production-based cars.   Cars can have hybrid or non-hybrid engines but will be limited to approximately 750 horsepower.  In addition, the current non-hybrid LMP1 cars (Rebellion’s R13, the BR Engineering BR1s run by SMP Racing and DragonSpeed and ByKolles Racing Team’s Enso CLM P1/01) will be grandfathered in through the end of the 2020-21 season.

The cars are likely to be significantly slower than the current LMP1 prototypes.  A target lap time of 210 seconds for Le Mans has been floated, which is more than 14 seconds slower than this year’s pole time and nearly five seconds off of the LMP2 pole time.

With these rules finally released, there are takers.  Aston Martin announced its intentions to be on the grid when the new regulations debut in 2020 with two Aston Martin Valkyries, developed in association with Red Bull Racing.  The Valkyrie is a limited-production hybrid supercar that has made the car show rounds over the past couple of years.   Road car-based cars in the new class have to have 20 road equivalents produced under the current rules.

Toyota, which just claimed their second straight 24 Hours of Le Mans victory on Sunday, also indicated their intentions to continue in the WEC beyond Le Mans next year.  They will do that with a racing version of the upcoming Toyota GR Super Sport.  Additional manufacturers are said to be discussing potential entries into the class in the future, but may not make the grid prior to 2021. – Phil Allaway

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via