The Frontstretch: Pace Laps: Busch Gets Banged Around, 'Dinger's Redemption And Invisible Viewers by Frontstretch Staff -- Monday June 24, 2013

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Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, 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 going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!

Kyle Busch was none too pleased Sunday after a series of setbacks left him with his fourth finish of 35th or worse in nine races.

Sprint Cup: Can Gibbs, Busch Bounce Back? Apparently, Kyle Busch confused Sonoma for a pinball machine, because every time you looked up Sunday the No. 18 car was getting bounced around. That’s not to say all of it was the driver’s fault; rivals Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards took their shots in turning his M&M’s Toyota into a shell of its former self, a mess of mangled sheet metal Busch then repeatedly tried to rip off the rest of the race. In the end, a 35th-place finish, one lap down was “lucky” in that the car looked like it should have been taken behind the wall, a car with speed shaken by competitor’s impatience. It was a bitter disappointment for the two-time winner this season, who’s sick of having cars capable of Victory Lane only to see those dreams ripped to shreds. Of course, the tempestuous driver isn’t that good at simply playing victim; he likes to fight back.

“Awww,” he tweeted sarcastically after the race. “My heart melts for @jpmontoya, who ran out of gas. Only thing I got for Carl is ‘aww crap.’”

It’s at least the third time Busch has had a potential winning car in 2013 only to be foiled by factors outside his control. Add in Toyota’s engine woes, a continuing soap opera and it’s no wonder the man’s infamous temper is about to burst. With four finishes of 35th or worse, in the past nine races how can you label him a Chase contender based on that inconsistency? Kentucky this Saturday should be a place to regain momentum; Busch won the inaugural Cup race there. Success is a near necessity at this point with a burst of frustration threatening to derail two years’ worth of progress.

Unfortunately for Gibbs, the problems don’t stop there. Denny Hamlin wrecked at Sonoma, his third finish outside the top 20 in four races and now sits 83 points out of 20th with ten races remaining. That mountain to climb is nearly impossible; even if he makes it, two wins are likely needed for Chase inclusion. So should the driver sit out the rest of the year? Is it no longer worth the risk of further injuring his back? Meanwhile, even Matt Kenseth seems off, 19th at Sonoma after freefalling out of the top 5 late. Questions are mounting, fast for last month’s title favorite organization who left Sonoma scratching their heads. Tom Bowles

Nationwide: AJ’s Time To Shine The Sprint Cup Series may not have had a one-off road course specialist contend for victory Sunday afternoon, but the Nationwide Series was a whole other ballgame. In a race occupied by an array of drivers who traveled to Wisconsin’s Road America, upstaging the series regulars and gaining a NASCAR victory, those in contention included some unfamiliar faces.

In the end, AJ Allmendinger, in his stock car return to former team Penske Racing, led 29 of the race’s 55 laps en route to his first NASCAR win. In doing so, he had to beat out a charge from series regular Justin Allgaier, as well as challenges from fellow part-timers Owen Kelly, Billy Johnson and Max Papis.

Despite a fairly frustrating end to the race, stemming from an abundance of cautions, the competition was some of the best the series has seen all year in 2013, bringing even more intrigue to the two remaining road course races on the Nationwide schedule. It was sweet redemption for the former Cup driver, who failed a drug test 11 months ago only to score his first ever NASCAR victory less than a year later.

Oh, and speaking of Allmendinger: he’ll be in one of those races, Mid-Ohio, later in the year. When it comes to winning at a road course, it looks like the Nationwide regulars are going to have their work cut out for them. Kevin Rutherford

IndyCar: The Greatest Race No One Saw IndyCar has a pretty fantastic on track product right now. That’s the good news. The bad news is that few people are aware of that due to the series’ invisibility on television, and the conditions surrounding Sunday’s race was a perfect example of why this sport continues to see little to no growth.

Instead of sticking with the brilliant Saturday night time slot, one that earned IndyCar’s Iowa race great praise and little competition over the past few years, some brilliant fellow decided that the race should be moved to Sunday… at the exact same time as NASCAR’s Sonoma event. At what point will IndyCar and its broadcast partners realize that it can not go toe-to-toe with NASCAR and emerge victorious? This kind of shortsightedness and poor planning is one of the many things that has led IndyCar down a dastardly path in the past, and once again it appears that IndyCar is refusing to learn from its mistakes.

Sunday’s race was a great event, with lots of passing and an intriguing winner. But what good is that if all of your potential new viewers are watching something else? IndyCar has all of the tools in place to turn this sport around, but blunders such as changing the timeslot of the Iowa event will continue to keep this sport from blossoming like it deserves to do. The sooner IndyCar learns from its mistakes, the better off the sport will be in the long run. Hopefully, they learned something this weekend. Matt Stallknecht

Le Mans: Audi’s Dominance Overshadowed By Tragedy This past weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was billed as a duel between the three factory Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s and the two Toyota TS030 Hybrids. All five cars had top-flight driver lineups and occupied the first five places on the grid. Despite the Toyotas having the advantage of being able to go further on fuel (and thus, have to make fewer stops for fuel), Audi dominated the proceedings. The No. 1 of defending champions Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fässler led early and often until a generator broke, putting the car in the garage for extended repairs. From there, the No. 2 Audi driven by Tom Kristensen, Loic Duval and Allan McNish held on to take the overall victory by a lap over the best of the Toyotas. For Kristensen, it is his record-breaking ninth overall victory at Le Mans.

However, very few people were really thinking about that once the rainy event came to an end Sunday morning. On the third lap of the race on Saturday, the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8 driven by Allan Simonsen got loose exiting the Tertre Rouge corner. Simonsen tried to save it, then overcorrected. The result was that Simonsen spun his Aston Martin head-on into the temporary Armco barrier that lines the course. The hit was hard enough to rip the driver’s side door off of Simonsen’s car and wrap the roof. The Armco barrier was significantly damaged. In addition, a tree behind the fence was struck by the warped barrier and had it’s bark ripped from the base. Simonsen reportedly was talking to doctors at the scene, but later fell into a coma and passed away at the Infield Care Center. He was 34 years old. He is survived by his partner, Carina, and a young child named Mie-Mai.

Simonsen was a past champion of the Australian GT Championship and was one of the strongest co-drivers in the V8 Supercar endurance races (Bathurst 1000, Gold Coast 600, Sandown 500) in recent years. Simonsen had co-driven cars at Le Mans to podium finishes two previous times, most recently in 2010. Simonsen’s No. 95 had qualified on pole in the GTE-Am (Grand Touring Endurance-Amateur) class and was considered to be a serious threat to be on top of the GTE-Am podium at the finish. As per rules, GTE-Am cars can only have one professional per car. Simonsen was the No. 95’s pro driver, teamed with gentlemen racers Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen.

Simonsen’s passing marks the first driver death during the 24 Hours of Le Mans since Jo Gartner died in a crash on the Mulsanne Straight in 1986. Three months earlier, Gartner had been on the winning team in the 12 Hours of Sebring. We at Frontstretch send our deepest condolences to the Simonsen family. Phil Allaway

Short Tracks: Sprint Speedweeks Steps Up To The Plate Sprint Car racing in the Midwest is more than a sport, it is a passion and a way of life. The All-Star Circuit of Champions runs eight races in nine days over the next week to celebrate Ohio Sprint Speedweek. They opened the action at Attica Raceway Park on Friday night with Chris Andrews grabbing the big trophy at the end of the night. Jac Haudenschild has run a winged sprint car around Eldora Speedway for about as many laps as anyone. That knowledge paid off for him on Saturday with a win in night number two of the Ohio Sprint Speedweek for the All-Star Sprints.

Sunday night the Winged Warriors headed to Waynesfield Raceway Park in Lima, Ohio. Monday night will see the All-Stars racing around a 3/8th-mile oval at Wayne County Speedway. Tuesday, the fearless sprint drivers will head to Hartford, Ohio to race at Sharon Speedway. Wednesday night is a much-needed breather in the middle of the week for teams to catch up on sleep and car maintenance. Thursday night, the racing action will be at Fremont Speedway. There will likely be a huge contingent of local racers taking on the touring wheelmen for the top prize. Dale Blaney has 12 wins at the track in his career, so he will definitely be a favorite as the teams unload on Thursday.

The homestretch of Ohio Sprint Speedweek commences at Limaland Motorsports Park. The racers will hit the quarter-mile track that is owned and operated by UNOH, the title sponsor of Speedweek. They will finish up back at Fremont on Saturday night to crown the champion for the 2013 Ohio Sprint Speedweek.

A sad note associated with the Speedweek this year, Paige Polyak’s hauler was parked in a hotel parking lot after a 12th-place finish in the second race of the week at Eldora. For some reason, it caught fire and the equipment for the 27P was completely lost. Racers tend to rally around their own when adversity strikes. Hopefully, she’ll be able to get a car and hauler to finish up Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Mike Neff

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Johnboy60
06/24/2013 02:58 PM
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Poor old Kyle….He sure is an excellent whinner!!! Why’s everybody pick on me….

Ken Smith
06/24/2013 03:21 PM
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Might mention that Dave Blaney was back home in Ohio racing a winged sprint car this weekend! And was joined on Sunday night by Nationwide regulars Brad Sweet (who won the UNOH All Star Sprint Week feature event!) and Kyle Larson who finished 2nd to Sweet in the feature event. Blaney could only manage a 19th place

Ken Smith
06/24/2013 03:32 PM
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PS: Anyone out there that can help Paige?
The word is that other racers may have already stepped up to loan her a car, but she needs motor and probably… a trailer. Anyone willing to put a motor in the car…or who wants to put Paige in their ride for the remainder of 2013…contact Duane Hancock 419.553.6746 or contact Tim Polyak or Paige Polyak on FB.

mike bauer
06/24/2013 05:06 PM
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I have to disagree with the contention that this was caused by a factor “outside of his control”. The fact is road courses are notorious for being great places for payback. There are only so many times you can bump someone out of the way or dive bomb them into a corner before they are going to bump you into a wall (or tires in this case).

In other words another example of Kyle not understanding being a champion is not just about pure skill on track. It is about being smart and driving smart.

He drives his car way too hard when he does not need to and rubs people the wrong way when he does not need to, and quite often he ends up paying for it with broken equipment, single car spins, or getting bumped into a wall. It is not supernatural, but there is definitely a Karma system in Nascar.

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