Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: For Many, The Final Chapter Begins

*Sprint Cup: A Postseason Snapshot* After 26 long weeks, the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup has been decided. Only one spot actually changed hands in Richmond, as Jeff Gordon passed Kyle Busch for twelfth place on the points chart and the final wild card. (Both Gordon and Busch had one win on the year, making points the deciding factor.) Now, as the series heads toward Chicago, the talk will inevitably turn towards that of title favorites among the twelve who make the final cut.

Pace Laps: Setting the Chase Field, Selective Editing and Dillon Redux

*Sprint Cup: 11 Drivers Locked Into Chase, but Things Still Up For Grabs* Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 almost completely filled out the cast of characters for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. The “almost” is important here. There was a fear earlier in the season that the top-10, plus the two Wild Cards, would be set weeks in advance and there wouldn’t really be much to race for in Richmond other than positioning. However, that is not the case.

The top-9 drivers are officially locked into the top-10 and can redeem their victories for bonus points. The exceptions here are Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick, who, despite dominating portions of Sunday’s race, are both still winless. Denny Hamlin’s fourth win of the season Sunday means that he has earned 12 bonus points and at least a share of the points lead at the beginning of the Chase in Joliet.

Pace Laps: Sizzling Stewart-Kenseth Feud, Bump-And-Buzzkill & IndyCar Tests

*Sprint Cup: What Effect Will The Stewart-Kenseth Feud Have On The Chase?* Bristol featured plenty of beating, banging, and crashing, but perhaps no incident had the potential to grow into something more than the one that occurred between Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart as they raced for the lead with 167 laps to go. Stewart made a move to the outside of Kenseth, who parried by pinching Stewart by the wall. Stewart then appeared to turn into Kenseth in an attempt to gain some racing room, sending both the No. 14 and the No. 17 into the inside SAFER barrier. Each driver blamed the other for the incident, with Stewart waiting for Kenseth on pit road and hurling his helmet at his rival’s car.

Pace Laps: NASCAR’s Regular Rewards, Old Dogs, New Tricks And Caution Crisis

*Sprint Cup: Regular Season Champion… For What?* Jimmie Johnson was quite vocal in his media center appearance this Friday about the fact that the point leader after the first 26 races in the Sprint Cup Series gets little recognition when the points are reset for the Chase. This has been long debated—should the “regular season” points leader get a trophy? Bonus points? Something else? But this kind of talk has rarely come from the drivers themselves; now that it is, the ball has gotten rolling behind the scenes on whether NASCAR should, in fact, consider a change.

Pace Laps: Dale’s Double Trouble, Double-Dipping And A Championship Update

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Dale’s Double Trouble* All season long, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been cruising along with a little something “extra.” No, I’m not talking about horsepower, conspiracy theorists; it’s called confidence, a personality trait this man usually loses by March in the midst of frustrating finish turned Eeyore-like perspective on the future of his No. 88 team.

It’s easy to put a smile on your face when completing every lap of every race run. But in the last two weeks, suddenly some cracks have appeared in the Earnhardt facade of excellence. Last week, it was mechanically induced – a faulty transmission at Pocono that left him behind the wall. At the Glen? Earnhardt’s fault, losing control in a spinout that’s a second consecutive finish outside the top 20. So much for completing 100% of every race; those results, combined with teammate Jimmie Johnson’s success have now switched the point lead over to the No. 48.

Pace Laps: Pocono Tragedy, A Tiff in Trucks, and The End For a Short Track?

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tragedy Mars Momentum From Pocono Finish* NASCAR Nation is in mourning this Monday after losing one of their own, a race fan during a series of storms that turned tragic. As severe weather swept through Pocono Raceway, shortly after the race was called a 41-year-old man was killed and ten injured as a series of lightning strikes hit behind the grandstands (four remained in area hospitals, one critical at press time). In a heartbeat, the smiles surrounding getting the race in on Sunday were replaced by sadness, confusion and concern as everyone tried to figure out what went wrong.

“I’m pretty sure I know which one it was,” said winner Jeff Gordon. “We were walking down pit road, the umbrellas weren’t doing any good, there was a huge, huge crack from lightning. You can tell it was very close. I mean, that’s the thing that’s going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that.”

Pace Laps: Winning At All Costs, RestartGate, And Going Dancing Again

*Sprint Cup Series:* *Carl’s Last-Ditch Move To Make The Chase: Win At All Costs?* For Carl Edwards, the high point of Sunday’s race at Indy was simple: taking the plane ride home. Starting second, on the outside of the front row it took less than 15 laps for the No. 99 car to develop major engine issues; that forced several off-sequence stops, both under green and yellow before the cause of the problem was finally found. Dropping four laps off the pace, there were no Lucky Dogs to help him; just a lackluster performance, served up at the wrong time as a 35th-place result left him in the midst of Chase disaster. Now an all-but-insurmountable 61 points behind Clint Bowyer, who’s 10th in the standings a winless Edwards knows with six races left his key to making the playoffs won’t come through a handful of top-10, even top-5 finishes down the stretch.

“I think we are officially racing only for wins,” he said matter-of-factly after Indianapolis. “I think it will involve lots of pushing on the right pedal and turning left and going as fast as possible. We have to take chances. We have to go race. We can do that, we can race like that. It will actually be a big relief in a way because there is no other choice.”

Pace Laps: Title Hunts, Two Bueschers On Top, And Two Helmets For A Cause

*Izod IndyCar Series: Two Drivers to Allow Fans to Design Helmets for Charity* Fans with an artistic side have two chances to design helmets that will be used during races this season and then raffled off to benefit charity. Justin Wilson and the International Dyslexia Association have teamed up to present a competition for young people with dyslexia to design the helmet that Wilson will use at the Grand Prix of Baltimore. After the race, the helmet will be raffled off and the proceeds will benefit the IDA. Wilson recently revealed he had dyslexia.

Pace Laps: Off Week Strategies, A Blonde Moment And Bowman Breaks Out

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: How Will Teams Handle The Off Week?* NASCAR’s hectic schedule takes a breather this Monday, with Sprint Cup teams knowing it’s the final time they’ll be able to take an extended break until Homestead in November. For years, the fans have advocated a week off before the start of the Chase but instead, the last “vacation” for NASCAR programs occurs about two months before. So can the “hot” teams, like Hendrick Motorsports keep the momentum flowing through a weekend of no competition? And can other programs, like Carl Edwards’ No. 99 gather the information needed to get it together quickly? For those struggling teams, like the Earnhardt Ganassi outfit now is also a time to re-evaluate their crew chief scenario. Will they make a move with the Chase out of reach? As we saw last year, with the Greg Biffle – Matt Puccia matchup, among others now is the perfect time to make an adjustment if you’re going to do it. _–Tom Bowles_

Pace Laps: Suspensions, Infractions, and Penalties – Oh My!

_Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!_

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:* *What will Wal-Mart do now?* For NASCAR, it was a one-race match made in heaven. But will one of the richest Fortune 500 companies out there stick with the sport? Both Bill Elliott and Turner Motorsports indicated the deal is for one race only… But it’s still up in the air. We will know quickly if they liked what they saw as behind the scenes, the full court press is on to get that company on a car full-time. _–Tom Bowles_

Pace Laps: Andretti’s Leap, Austin’s Legitimacy, and Lucrative Legends

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Andretti Working to Complete NASCAR Deal* Although nothing is written in stone, it appears that there could be a brand-new team in the Sprint Cup garage in 2013. Michael Andretti, whose Andretti Autosport is an IZOD IndyCar Series powerhouse (two Andretti drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, are currently in the top 5 in points in that series), is strongly considering starting a NASCAR operation. Andretti would most likely bring at least one fully-sponsored ride to the table in the Cup Series, and that would be a welcome thing.

Pace Laps: Silly Season Starts, Engines A-Blowin, And A Classic To Be Sold?

_Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!_

*NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Is Silly Season about to explode?* The rumor mill has been pretty quiet on the Sprint Cup front so far in 2012, but as summer heats up, will Silly Season get hot as well?

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com