Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Series Breakdown: NAPA 200

It took more than a year, but Justin Allgaier finally found redemption for his fuel mileage shortcomings at Road America a season ago. In yet another Montreal race dotted with late-race yellows, Allgaier capitalized when leader Jacques Villeneuve got complacent in turn 6 trying to save fuel, bumped the No. 22, and took the lead for good. It was his third career Nationwide Series win, scoring a Sunday sweep for Turner Motorsports (Nelson Piquet Jr. had scored the Truck win at Michigan earlier in the day). Sam Hornish Jr., Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler, and Ron Fellows rounded out the top 5.

Five Points to Ponder: Keselowski, Road Courses and “Real Racing”

*ONE: Brad Keselowski Speaks the Truth on “Real Racing”*

Anyone that wasn’t thrilled with Sunday’s finish likely doesn’t have a pulse. Whether a fan had a dog in the Busch/Keselowski/Ambrose finale or not, the beating, banging, and sheer unpredictability of the last lap was easily the most compelling end to any race NASCAR has seen in 2012, and the best finish the Glen has seen since Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon off-roaded their way to the checkered flag in the 2006 Nationwide race.

Edwards’ Cup Troubles Benefit Nationwide Teammate Stenhouse

Asked this past week at Pocono why he would be making his first Nationwide Series start of the year some six months into the season, Carl Edwards gave the expected answer: “It gives me a chance to have some fun and we can practice something we want to try on the Cup car.” But when asked if he’d be running any more races in 2012 after seven consecutive seasons of full-time double duty, Edwards remarked “This one just came up. There is the other factor that Ricky [Stenhouse] and those guys wanted someone at the road course to bounce information off of.”

There’s two facts to be taken from that statement. One, this race came about spontaneously, with longtime Cup sponsor Subway being the one to foot the bill for the Saturday race.

Five Points to Ponder: Bring Back Racing to the Yellow Flag

*ONE: Scoring Errors Call for Racing Back to Yellow*

Yes, the restart melee that ended up the conclusion of Sunday’s abbreviated Cup race at Pocono was the purest example of mayhem seen on TV since the latest Allstate commercial. That being said, with race cars that are chock full of transponders, TV cameras all over the damn place and officials whose sole job is to manage the ongoing race, NASCAR still managed to create controversy in resetting the running order. Jimmie Johnson triggered the entire wreck and all but spun his car out, yet he got to restart ahead of Greg Biffle, who accurately represented his situation as merely slowing to avoid a wreck. It took nearly a half-hour after the race was red-flagged before NASCAR reset positions 16-19 on the results sheet.

The Insignificance of Dodge’s Absence from 2013’s First Test

There’s nothing surprising behind the announcement that Dodge won’t be taking part in the first test for the Cup Series’ 2013 race cars at Martinsville next week. Penske Racing’s on the way out of the Dodge camp after this season, a swirling rumor about the Andrettis coming from IndyCar to NASCAR proved fruitless, and there’s hardly a rosy relationship between the manufacturer and journeyman Robby Gordon. The same Robby Gordon that made the Daytona 500 as an underdog Dodge entry, and got no subsequent engine help despite making all but a plea for a Penske motor in his post-Duel press conference.

Fact of the matter is, there’s no sign whatsoever that Dodge has made any progress on finding a new flagship Cup team since Penske announced their defection back to Ford. The chances of Dodge being unrepresented in the 2013 Daytona 500 are not miniscule.

Five Points to Ponder: Send the Brickyard Packing (and the Restart Rules…and the Points System)

*ONE: The Brickyard Has to Go*

Back in 1994, when the Brickyard 400 was an inaugural event, there’s a reason it sold out and was instantly one of the sport’s marquee moments. Taking the green flag there was more than tackling a storied oval. It was a story of triumph for how the backwater racers of NASCAR had surged from down south, become prominent in a way open-wheel racing used to be, and brought their beating and banging onto Indy’s home turf. It was the equivalent of planting the flag in the enemy’s capital city.

Looking Back: A Surprising 2012 for the Nationwide Series

Anyone that’s followed NASCAR’s scheduling habits the past decade was far from surprised that one of the sure-fire races of the Nationwide Series season (Lucas Oil Raceway) was yanked from the schedule in favor of a 250-mile jaunt at the Brickyard. Never mind the logic that less crappy stock car racing is still crappy stock car racing.

But having said that as the Nationwide Series approaches its debut on the big track in Indy, the 2012 season has been, well, surprising, on a number of fronts. Enjoying a compelling title race for the second consecutive year after an ugly stretch of Cup dominance from 2006-2010, this year’s campaign has actually been worth watching. Now, heading down the summer stretch, here’s a few of those surprises that have made the season just that.

5 Points to Ponder: Driver Development Hits and Head-Scratchers

*ONE: Where’s the Development Opening at Penske Racing?*

Yes, Ryan Blaney had a hell of a Nationwide debut at Richmond earlier this spring. Yes, the younger Blaney has all the makings of being the hottest prospect the 2012 season has found yet. But the question has to be asked: Why, exactly, is Penske Racing in the market for his talents?

Right now, the team has one seat up top in flux–the beleaguered No. 22 car. Sam Hornish Jr. seems to be all but a lock for the seat the remainder of this season (the chances of ‘Dinger’s test results coming back clean are about the same as Joe Nemechek running at the finish of a Cup race). He’s the safe choice for sponsor Shell/Pennzoil and a longtime Penske loyalist that has made his desire to return to Cup racing no secret.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: STP 300

The good news for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his No. 6 team on Sunday was that the event marked a return to championship form. For the first time this summer, the defending champions were the class of the field.

The bad news? That still wasn’t enough. Though Stenhouse was running down Elliott Sadler in the closing laps, a late-race yellow bunched up the field and left the event up to a final restart. On that restart, Justin Allgaier gave Sadler a huge shove down the frontstretch, which provided all the No. 2 team needed to score their third win of the 2012 season and first since Bristol way back in March. Stenhouse, Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, and Michael Annett rounded out the top 5. The late caution interrupted what had been a largely green event, one of only five yellows to fly Sunday afternoon.

Three Reasons Chicagoland’s the Wrong Place for Nationwide’s Sunday

There’s a number of things “wrong” with the Chicagoland Speedway. It’s about as cookie-cutter as cookie-cutters come. Despite having the name of the Windy City in its title, the venue is about as close to Chicago as the ill-fated Nashville Superspeedway was to the Music City. It’s hold the (in)distinction of kicking off the abomination known as the Chase on the Cup side.

And on the Nationwide side, though it’s hard to complain about a standalone weekend that sees the AAA ranks get their shot at a Sunday race date where they’re center stage, Chicagoland Speedway’s the wrong venue for such a rare opportunity race.

5 Points to Ponder: Talking NASCAR Trash, Tires and Tracks

Yes, Sunday’s race was far from a classic, with rock hard tires again making track position the sole dictator of everyone’s race strategy. But this one was shaping up awful nice before a communication breakdown between Denny Hamlin and Darian Grubb put the No. 11 car that was the class of the field back far enough in the field that even a brilliant late-race charge couldn’t produce a checkered flag. And there’s not many race tracks out there that can overcome hard tires anyhow…or the mentality that every driver that didn’t win had, that they’d win in September…when it counted for something.