Frontstretch Staff · Monday October 8, 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!
Sprint Cup: Final Finishing Order Still In Question As we wake up Monday morning, the smoke surrounding Talladega’s last-lap mayhem from nearly 24 hours ago has yet to be cleared. Yes, we know Matt Kenseth won, with Jeff Gordon second and Kyle Busch third — those cars were the only ones to hit the checkered flag at full speed, close to damage-free after a 25-car incident wiped out the field.
It’s a question that has yet to be fully answered, with NASCAR’s “official results” not scheduled to come out until Monday afternoon. With so many cars that stopped, badly wounded on-track, then had to limp to the finish, there’s a real debate as to the rest of the finishing order. For example, Brad Keselowski wound up seventh but Penske Racing adamantly claims there’s photo and video evidence that shows the championship leader should be fourth. On my scorecard, based on replay and at-track evidence that’s where I had the driver of the No. 2 Dodge as well.
At question here are NASCAR’s rules surrounding a last-lap caution. According to the rulebook, once the yellow comes out, the race is over and you cannot advance your position. At the same time, once that caution flag flies, you need to make it to the start/finish line by maintaining “pace car speed” consistently to the checkered flag. In the case of many of these wrecked race cars, they were stopped for a full minute, sometimes more before chugging their way through the tri-oval at a snail’s pace. Does that mean they get credit for passing the cars that were stopped? And what defines “caution speed” when the entire field was getting wiped out through a wreck?
The difference NASCAR makes in finishing positions here, rightly or wrongly, could determine the outcome of this year’s championship. Right now, Jimmie Johnson has lost nine points to Keselowski in the standings — two straight wins by the No. 48 might not even be enough to close the gap. Should Keselowski get more, or Johnson get less based on protests and rulebook tweaks, could easily make the difference in a battle that’s expected to go to the wire. Tom Bowles
Formula 1: Social Media Feud Amongst Top Contenders? After a relatively sterile Japanese Grand Prix, won by the charging Sebastien Vettel (who now stands a mere four points behind Fernando Alonso in what looks increasingly like a third title for the German), on-track news for the F-1 circuit was mostly sedated this Monday morning. However, you just can’t keep Lewis Hamilton out of the news… or, more pertinently, out of the Twitter headlines.
Having driven what could be at best termed an average race by his own standards, Hamilton has once again taken to Twitter to, this time, moan about how Jenson Button has “unfollowed” him on the social networking site… oh dear. Not exactly the mature way to handle it for a former champion who’s moving on to a new high-profile ride within the series — Mercedes — next season.
If you are a member of Twitter, I implore you to follow @lewishamilton Just don’t expect words of wisdom, insight, or anything like the type of writing you might expect a 27-year-old worth something in the region of $82m to be able to produce. No, look out for the aimless wittering of a young child or the “ghetto speak” of someone that should more likely hail from the Bronx than the quiet village of Stevenage…
I used to be a fan of Lewis Hamilton, but there’s only so much one can take. Is this the way someone of his caliber should be acting? I don’t think so. But for now, keep an eye out for the further fallout on Twitter! Andy Hollis
Camping World Truck Series: Will Parker Kligerman Remain With RHR? – Parker Kligerman began the year behind the wheel of the No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Dodge but was released from that ride following a seventh-place finish at Pocono this summer.
Turned out to be the best possible career move he could make. Joining Red Horse Racing prior to the following event, at Michigan he’s been a factor in every race driving their No. 7 Toyota. His first career victory on Saturday was no big surprise; the team has been knocking on the door for weeks. But perhaps the bigger eyebrow-raiser is that, despite all the recent success, this driver still has no idea if he’ll be back with the RHR organization come 2013.
“You gotta be open to all opportunities,” Kligerman told Doug Turnbull of WSB Radio early last week. “There are a lot of irons in the fire.”
Although Kligerman didn’t rule out the possiblity of returning to RHR next season, he has opened himself up to anything that may arise across the board in NASCAR. Could a Nationwide Series opportunity open itself up in the next few weeks — or even one at the top of the charts at the Cup level? Sponsorship could also be a problem at RHR, even though their team may wind up challenging for the championship this season. Kligerman remains within striking distance, just 34 points behind with four races remaining on the year.
With the performance he’s shown since joining the organization less than two months ago, it would be nice to see what the 22-year-old could do with an entire year in the equipment he’s got now. With that being said, you can likely place money on his return to RHR if he manages to pull off a surprise championship. Beth Lunkenheimer
Short Tracks: Familiar Last Name In Victory Lane For One Of NASCAR’s Big Events One of the biggest short track races of the year came down to a battle against Mother Nature more than the competitors on the track. The All-American 400 at the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway started under threatening skies but looked to be headed to a successful completion when things turned sour with five laps to go to halfway. After 40 minutes of running the cars under caution, done in order to keep the track dry, speedway officials and PASS made a decision to wave the green and yellow flags — counting the laps to make it to the halfway point. In the end, they did run 20 more green-flag laps, so the decision was moot, but it was dangerously close to being an officiating blunder of epic proportions. Intentionally skirting the rules to end the race like that would have caused a number of angry drivers and teams.
Once the skies did open up the final time, after 220 of the 400 scheduled green-flag laps, Ross Kenseth was awarded the victory. He wasn’t without his fair share of challengers, including many familiar names from higher echelons of NASCAR. Kyle Busch was among the race leaders, out in front for the 40 minutes of track-drying efforts, but lost a left-rear tire on the legitimate restart after the midway mark and ended the night on the hook after drilling the fourth turn wall. Sterling Marlin also contended early but had a handling issue develop and parked his car.
The final rundown saw Kenseth put his name in the record books as the first winner since 2012 of the All-American in a true, 400-lap format, even though the ending was cut short. Bubba Pollard came within inches of passing Kenseth before the final caution flew but had to settle for the runner-up spot. D. J. Shaw crossed the finish line third ahead of Johnny Clark while Daniel Hemric rounded out the top-5 finishers.
In a night filled with controversy, it was great to see the support for the historic Fairgrounds Speedway. The facility is still incredibly racy and the infrastructure is in great shape. The Formosa family and all of their employees who run the speedway these days are to be commended. Mike Neff
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