Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Cup Playoff Grid is Set, Justin Allgaier Readies For Xfinity Title Hunt

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Calamity Strikes, Playoff Grid is Set

Regardless of the attendance size, the 2019 Big Machine Vodka 400 was full of action. 48 of the 160 laps were run under caution, but when the checkered flag flew at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the playoff grid was set.

Nine drivers failed to finish the race at the historic 2.5-mile track in Speedway, IN, and restarts bred even more cautions. Four cautions occurred during the final stage, bunching the field back up together and increasing the focus on the final playoff spots.

Jimmie Johnson wrecked on lap 106 just as the third stage began, and he failed to make the playoffs. Before his day ended though, he had a fast No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He finished sixth and eighth in the first two stages, and he noted he was proud of his team.

Jimmie Johnson Misses NASCAR Playoffs For First Time Ever

Clint Bowyer did what he needed to do, and he made the playoffs.

As for the other two drivers, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman, it was an intense battle. Newman earned one more stage point than Suarez, but in the closing laps, Suarez had a faster racecar. He didn’t have enough time though, as he finished 11th whereas Newman finished eighth.

Newman clinched the final playoff berth and enjoyed a Coke during his post-race bullpen session as he discussed making the playoffs in his first season driving the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Newman is seeded last though, and he knows it’s an uphill battle.

Ryan Newman Stays Out of Trouble, Makes the Playoffs

One reason it’s an uphill battle is because of the dominance upfront by many drivers. At the Brickyard, Kevin Harvick dominated, winning the pole, leading 118 laps and celebrating his victory by climbing the fence and kissing the bricks.

Kevin Harvick Wins 2nd Brickyard 400 as Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman Make Playoffs

With the reseeding as the playoffs begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Round of 16 cut line has been initially set at 2001 points.

However, six drivers have more than a 20-point cushion above that Round of 16 cut line. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski all each 20 points ahead, and Chase Elliott isn’t far behind.

Of those drivers, only Keselowski failed to finish in the regular-season finale. He left with a wrecked racecar after his No. 2 Ford partially ended up on top of the tire barrier. He was critical of the tire barrier, but he starts the Round of 16 well-positioned to advance to the next round.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host NASCAR over the Fourth of July weekend next year, but it certainly provided quite the show to end the Cup Series regular season. – Mark Kristl

Xfinity Series: Kyle Busch Wins Indy, Will Justin Allgaier Win in 2019?

Whenever Kyle Busch enters an Xfinity Series race, he’s the odds-on favorite to claim the checkered flag. That was certainly the case on Saturday (Sept. 7) at Indianapolis, and it didn’t come easy.

Despite winning the pole and Joe Gibbs Racing sweeping the top three positions in qualifying, the race was a different story. Sure, Busch led a race-high 46 laps, but the likes of Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell were each able to race and pass Busch during the race.

The victory is Busch’s fourth win in seven starts this season (57.1%). He also went five-for-five in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019.

Allgaier, on the other hand, came within 15 feet of winning a second consecutive race at IMS. The No. 7 car led 24 laps. But on a final restart with four laps to go, wasn’t able to clear the No. 18 car. Because of that, and Busch’s speed on the short run, Allgaier wasn’t able to get by, though Busch noted had the race gone two more laps he believes the No. 7 machine would have won.

Admittedly so, 2019 hasn’t been one of Allgaier’s better seasons. The No. 7 car has shown speed, especially the past two months but has very little to show for it in results. Last month at Bristol, he led 131 laps but blew a tire with less than 10 to go, relegating him to an eighth-place finish. The next week at Road America, he came in as the defending winner but blew another tire by locking up his brakes.

Saturday was another near miss for Allgaier. With eight races remaining in the season, it’s likely the No. 7 team will get to victory lane. No, he didn’t have a good postseason last year and hasn’t won in an entire calendar year, but with Cup drivers unable to compete in any of the remaining races this season, I believe Allgaier wins and makes a push toward the championship. – Dustin Albino

Sports Cars: EEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Disappears From IMSA

The preliminary entry lists are already out for this weekend’s action at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.  Looking at the entry list for Saturday’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120, there is one team that has been a constant in the series that is missing.

That is eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing, which has entered as many as four cars themselves in races this season, split between the Grand Sport and TCR classes and run up to five.  More recently, the team has dropped down to three self-owned cars by dropping the No. 10 Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport in the TCR class.  After being present at all eight rounds to this point, they are not entered at all this weekend.

What happened?  eEuroparts.com has run into severe financial problems.  The notion of running a race team seems rather difficult when you’re having trouble keeping the lights on.  On Thursday, the company posted a blog entry indicating that they have sold themselves to Newparts.com.  As a result, the company is moving from Windsor, Conn. to Nashville, Tenn.  It is admittedly very difficult to field race cars under those circumstances, so the team’s self-owned entries are likely done for the year.

The sole exception to the rule is the No. 61 Audi RS3 LMS Club Sport.  That car, driven by Jon Morley and Gavin Ernstone, is under the name of Roadshagger Racing, but has been looked after by eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing to this point.  That team will continue to compete in the last two Michelin Pilot Challenge races of 2019 as a self-run effort. – Phil Allaway

Formula 1: Renault Gets Some Needed Results

Over the past three years, Renault have been pouring money into their program.  They have been trying to regain their position at the front but have rarely managed to make a showing for themselves.  The team has failed to earn a podium and have appeared to flounder more than flourish This storyline change on Sunday (Sept 8) at the Italian Grand Prix.

Renault saw their two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, finish fourth and fifth respectively. While normally those types of results would not be seen as praise-worthy, this time they are.  The reason why the team should enjoy some satisfaction is not only because the results are the best of the season – Ricciardo had finished no higher than sixth and Hulkenberg seventh – but because the finishes came at the power-intensive high-speed track of Monza.

The trouble with Renault has been that they lack power, unable to keep pace with Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull and they are frequently beaten by the team they supply engines to, McLaren.  But on Sunday they showed a teaser in the way that they are moving forward.  

Yes, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had to start from the rear and may have placed ahead of the Renault drivers had he started in the top ten but that makes the result no less discouraging.  

There is a glimmer that the offseason signing of Ricciardo, the break from supplying engines to the demanding Red Bull, and the money invested in the team is finally paying off.  Now if they could just score a podium. Ava Ladner

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.

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