Frontstretch Staff · Monday September 9, 2013
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!
Sprint Cup: Restart Review Several controversies remain unresolved following NASCAR’s regular season finale at Richmond. One of them concerns a potential deliberate spin by Clint Bowyer, causing the race’s final caution with six laps left. It’s a wreck that wrecked the dreams of Ryan Newman, who was leading the race at the time and ultimately knocked Jeff Gordon out of the Chase — putting Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex, Jr. squarely inside it.
But the secondary issue, overshadowed by the playoff positioning gone wrong was the final restart of the race. Carl Edwards, placed second behind Paul Menard was a car length ahead of the No. 27 car at the start/finish line, a “no no” under NASCAR rules. It’s the same type of advantage that got Jimmie Johnson penalized, at Dover in June but in this case racing officials chose not to initially change the outcome. Edwards, in Victory Lane insisted the two made contact, coming up to speed that caused Menard to spin his tires and that resulted in a lopsided advantage that couldn’t be fixed.
“What happened on that restart is Paul had two tires,” he explained. “I knew he was going to be at a big advantage with grip — big disadvantage with grip. He took off. I waited until he went to go. As we were going, his car actually touched my door. I think it surprised him a little bit or something. He turned a little bit. I heard his engine speed up. He spun the tires. At that point, I mean, I really have a choice to either lift off the throttle and wait for him to try to gather it up. I’ve never seen a guy able to gather it up too quickly when they spin that bad. In this case, [NASCAR] — they understood he came up, hit me and spun his tires.”
Or so it seemed at the time. On Sunday, NASCAR made a statement they were reviewing the race “per protocol” and would have no further comment until that was completed. Typically, official race results are announced Monday afternoon so any adjustments to the final results will come then. It would be unprecedented for NASCAR to take the win away, days later for this type of offense although they’ve used a penalty to strip a victory during the Chase era. At Talladega, in the Fall of 2008 Regan Smith crossed the line first but lost out to Tony Stewart when NASCAR determined he made the winning pass below the yellow line.
Edwards, for his part received a questionable restart penalty at Richmond in the Sprint of 2012. Did NASCAR feel like they needed to even the score? And how can they justify the “no call” when the scenario seems eerily similar to Johnson’s on video? Tom Bowles
Nationwide: A Dominant Near-Miss
NATIONWIDE SERIES RACE RECAP: Keselowski Prevails
It was close, but no cigar for Brian Scott Friday night. In the end, circumstances broke against the Idaho native at Richmond, keeping him from a first-ever win in the Nationwide Series.
Actually, “close” may not even be a strong enough word. Scott led the first 239 laps of a 250-lap race, absolutely untouchable at the front. He would have won it, too, if not for a couple late-race cautions that allowed the rest of the field — Cup veteran Brad Keselowski, chiefly — to catch up.
That led to a tough-luck restart, one where the fourth-year Nationwide Series competitor was second, losing out to Keselowski. It’s the type of devastating ending that leaves an empty feeling in your stomach.
But look at the positives here. That’s three top-5 finishes in 2013 for Scott — a personal best for the 25-year-old driver — and the run bumped him up to 61 points behind the championship leader. An unlikely title, deemed unthinkable at the beginning of the year is a distinct possibility should a few breaks roll his way.
But boy… what could have been. Kevin Rutherford
IndyCar: Big Penalty For Big Title Contender Scott Dixon was very vocal about the accident with Will Power last weekend in Baltimore, specifically concerning Power’s lack of a mirror check before pulling out in front of him on a restart. He was even more vocal about his displeasure with INDYCAR as a result of the same incident, calling at one point for race director Beaux Barfield to be fired. Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing team wanted his car returned to pit road so they could evaluate the damage and, if possible, start on repairs, but INDYCAR ignored the request. When television crews interviewed him on pit road, an angry Dixon lashed out.
The sanctioning body responded this week with a $30,000 fine and probation through December 31st for violations of rules 126.96.36.199. (Using improper, profane or disparaging language or gestures in reference to officials, members or action or situations connected with INDYCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series, or any event) and 9.3.7. (If any member uses improper, profane or disparaging language or gestures and references a specific Official by his/her name, such member may be fined a minimum of $25,000 and may be subject to additional penalties based upon the particular circumstances.)
Dixon conceded that his remarks following the incident were strong and he fully expected to receive a fine. Because of the public nature of the incident, Dixon can work off the punishment if he makes public appearances on behalf of INDYCAR.
But those incidents still come with a cost. After running afoul of rules, two weeks in a row, Dixon trails championship points leaser Helio Castroneves by 49 points with three races remaining. Toni Montgomery
Camping World Truck Series: Buescher Making Case for Back-to-Back Championships
IOWA RACE RECAP: Buescher Catching Fire, Fries Truck Series Competition
It’s a well-known fact that James Buescher, who was widely expected to move to the Nationwide Series this season, chose to remain in the Truck Series in hopes of becoming the first driver to ever win back-to-back championships. But after spending much of the first half of the season trying to find victory lane, Sunday afternoon marked the defending champ’s second win in four races. Those two wins, combined with finishes of seventh and ninth at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, respectively, has allowed Buescher to gain nearly 30 points on leader Matt Crafton little by little.
“Slow and steady wins the race. A little bit is better than not gaining any at all,” Buescher said. “That’s two wins in the last four races, and we’re coming for that championship.”
Following his victory Sunday afternoon, Buescher now sits 37 points behind Crafton with seven races remaining. As I documented a few weeks ago after his win at Michigan, the upcoming tracks favor Buescher with four mile-and-a-half events to go alongside trips to Talladega, Martinsville and Phoenix. I’m confident in saying that this championship battle is far from over. Buescher just needs to gain six points per race to beat out Crafton, and a gain of 10 this week proves that a trip to victory lane is even more valuable as the weeks wind down. Beth Lunkenheimer
Short Tracks: Rockingham On Rocky Ground? Twitter is a great media to allow fans the opportunity to receive instantaneous news from athletes and owners. However, much like email and the Internet, there is no guarantee that the information received is 100% accurate. Ray Dunlap posted on Twitter that people should look for big news about the future of Rockingham Speedway next Tuesday. The next thing you knew, people across the Twitterverse had closed the doors and sold off all the land where the speedway resides — with no factual knowledge of what’s happening.
There is no question, regardless of what happens next that the battle has been a long one in trying to bring Rockingham back to prominence. The people of Richmond County have tried their best to support it, but the economy of the area is one of the hardest hit in the last decade by the economic downturn. The Truck Series returned to the Rock in 2012, revitalizing the 1.017-mile oval and has had two very successful races the last two years. Unfortunately, they were not as well attended as they should have been; the money raised is a fraction of what could have been. As a result, there may be some type of disappointing news coming out of the speedway next week. No, the track isn’t going to close, but expect a potential setback as its long-term future remains an open question.
It’s yet another reason to remind us all how fragile the life of your local speedway can be. So for those of you who are close to a short track, and 99.998% of you are, please get out and support them. Buy a ticket, buy a hot dog, pick up a t-shirt. Tell the promoter you appreciate them with your wallet. Mike Neff
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