Frontstretch Staff · Monday July 9, 2012
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
Izod IndyCar Series: Teams Max Out on Engines Early Engines are the news of the week in the IZOD IndyCar Series once again. According to the rules, each team will be provided with no more than five fresh built engines throughout the year. Engines beyond the fifth fresh can be fresh or part-used; but using more than five fresh engines in a season falls under the Unapproved Engine Change-Out rule and will result in a starting grid penalty. With that in mind, INDYCAR put out a list of all the full season teams and where they stand on engines with six races remaining (the information was released prior to the Toronto race). Could this information have implications in the championship picture, especially with the season finale at Auto Club Speedway being lengthened to 500 miles? Auto Club Speedway is high speed, high revs, and hard on engines.
As far as the contenders go, championship points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay has two fresh engines remaining — as does teammate and fifth place driver James Hinchcliffe. Will Power and Helio Castroneves, second and third in points, respectively, each have one. Scott Dixon in fourth was already on his fifth and what was supposed to be his final engine entering Toronto, and that engine blew during the race. Dixon will have to go to engine six now; he will have the starting grid ten spot penalty in the next race at Edmonton. It will also set him up for another penalty down the road because he can’t possibly make that sixth engine last through the remainder of the season. Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud, and Simona de Silvestro are also on their fifth and final fresh engine. –Toni Montgomery
Formula-1: Will Maldonado Receive a Stiff Penalty? Formula One just finished a surprisingly rain-free British Grand prix, won by the popular Aussie Mark Webber. However, there might just be a fair amount of talk after the event about the even distribution of penalties. Well-known series aggressor Pastor Maldonado was, once again, the key protagonist in an incident that took out Sergio Perez, who had the pace to seriously trouble some of the top runners. Perez commented after the event that Maldonado was a “stupid driver” and needed looking at. After Formula 1 Friday this week being about the inherent danger still present at this top level of motor sport, keep an eye out to see whether Maldonado receives any sort of penalty that is actually strong enough to curtail his overaggressive tendencies, rather than the 20 seconds added to his race time, as he was assessed last week. -Andy Hollins
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Will Second Penalty Upset Dillon’s Momentum? Two consecutive weeks, two consecutive technical infractions for the No. 3 team. Only three days removed from a six-point penalty that cost them the lead in the standings after their race-winning Kentucky car was found to be too low in post-race inspection, Austin Dillon and his team saw a pole-winning run at Daytona thrown out due to a cooling hose violation. Like the Kentucky penalty, it didn’t prove to mean much; despite finishing 42nd and getting swept up in a melee coming to the checkers, Dillon still scored a top-5 finish Friday and now sits only two points out of the series lead heading to Loudon.
One has got to give the No. 3 team credit. They’re coming to play and pushing the envelope doing it, proving to be a volatile third wheel in a title race that seem poised to be a repeat of the Stenhouse vs. Sadler fight of a year ago. Though Sadler did come home in the top 10 and Stenhouse actually finished better than all the RCR entries with a runner-up result, Sadler’s relatively quiet finish and Stenhouse’s over-aggression (his bump drafting spun out both Jeffrey Earnhardt and Brad Sweet in separate incidents) do not change the fact that of all the teams involved in this bout, the No. 3 is the one seemingly playing every card in their deck.
There’s always little to take in terms of momentum or trends from the lottery that is a plate race. But in terms of sustaining momentum from last weekend’s Kentucky triumph, the No. 3 team did just that. –Bryan Davis Keith
Short Tracks: Is Pulliam Posed for National Title? 2012 started off with Lee Pulliam on the outside of his racecars looking in. He was on suspension for an incident at the end of 2011 with Whelen All-American National Champion Philip Morris at South Boston Speedway. Although other drivers were starting their 2012 race season, Pulliam was waiting for May 1st for his penalty to be lifted and was trying to piece together enough funding to go racing once it was.
Two months later, Pulliam is as hot as any driver in the country. Pulliam started his week on Tuesday at South Boston Speedway, where his indiscretions landed him on suspension last November. After 200 laps, Pilliam was standing in Victory Lane after besting 21 other drivers to win the Findithere.com 200. His team then headed to Caraway Speedway the next day for the 7th Annual Rusty Harpe Memorial. After another 200 laps, it was another trophy for Pulliam.
Finally, there was a trip to Southern National Motorsports Park for a showdown with Deac McCaskill, sixth in national points, on his home track in the Celebrate Independence 350. McCaskill wasn’t the only extremely talented racer in the field. Matt McCall, who Pulliam moved at Martinsville to win the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 last fall, was there for a rare start. Frank Deiny Jr., a long established force in Late Model racing, made the trip along with Michael Hardin, a semi-regular at SNMP.
But Pulliam once again was the man to beat for 200 laps. He led at the midway point when the competition caution flew. His team made some minor adjustments and then Pulliam went back out and took the win, withstanding several late-race cautions, collecting his third trophy in five days, on three disparate race tracks. Pulliam also claimed a $1,000 bonus for taking down McCaskill on his home track.
Pulliam added 143 points to his total in the Whelen All-American National Championship points race this week. Although it won’t move him into the top spot, he has firmly established himself as one of the two or three drivers that will most likely be hoisting the champion’s trophy in Charlotte this fall. It was quite a week for Lee Pulliam and, if he wins the National Championship, quite possibly the week that did it for him. -Mike Neff
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