Frontstretch Staff · Monday July 22, 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!
Nationwide: Points Race Still Center Stage Yes, a Nationwide Series regular missed out on a rare opportunity at Chicagoland. Joey Logano snookered the field late, perfecting his handling to pull away from teammate Sam Hornish, Jr., Austin Dillon, and Elliott Sadler. But while those drivers have struggled in the win column, they’ve more than made up for it with a compelling championship chase.
Let’s just look at the numbers: Hornish, Regan Smith, Dillon, Sadler, and Justin Allgaier are separated by just 22 points heading into Indianapolis. The difference between first and 10th is now just 69 points. Let’s compare that to Sprint Cup, where Jimmie Johnson just has one driver within 70 points — and none within 50. Who needs a point system when you’ve got a points battle like this one?
Add in the bad blood, between Smith and Sadler from New Hampshire and you’ve got some rivalries taking shape, too. The other three inside the top 5 have a different sense of urgency; their performances, down the stretch will likely influence sponsorship that could move them up to the Cup Series full-time next year. Who will prevail? No one has a clue… and that’s making the series “must watch” television right now. Tom Bowles
IndyCar: Hunter-Reay Raises Eyebrows Call it a mild upset. Consider it a bit of a shocker. Or, as an IndyCar fan, think of it as long awaited confirmation. This past week, current IndyCar champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay won the ESPY for Best Driver. Debating the merits of the ESPYs is something best left for another column, but for a driver from this series to win the award is a big plus for the sport. While it is usually a fait accompli that a NASCAR driver will win the award, this year marks quite a change. Since the award began in 1993, a NASCAR driver has won it 14 times out of the 21 possible. The last time that an open wheel driver won, who was not in Formula One, was Jimmy Vasser in 1997, and that was CART! Being IndyCar, however, means there is always a bit of a rub, and for this award it was the fact that it was announced during the red carpet ceremonies rather than being part of the telecast. (Of course, that says how much ESPN cares about racing or something.) Negativity aside, a hearty cheers to Hunter-Reay on being chosen — and also to the sport. P. Huston Ladner
Short Tracks: DIRTCAR Takes Center Stage Five weeks of hell has come to an end. They started in Brownstown, IN on June 12th and saw the final checkered flag on Saturday night at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, OH. In between there were 26 races and nearly 5,000 miles of travel. The DIRTCar Hell Tour is the ultimate test of man and machine and this year was no exception.
On the Late Model side of the ledger, Brandon Sheppard was crowned the youngest champion in the history of the tour. Sheppard won four races during the tour and ran all 26 races. The only other drivers to run all 26 were Bobby Pierce and Dustin Griffin. Drivers winning races this year were: Shannon Babb (6), Bobby Pierce (4), Sheppard (4), Ryan Unzicker (2), Dennis Erb Jr., Brian Birkhofer, Kevin Weaver, Chris Simpson, Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Brian Shirley, RJ Conley, Doug Drown and Matt Miller. 314 drivers scored points during the 26 events.
The Summit Modifieds run most of the schedule that the Late Models run and they crown their own champion after the checkers fly at Oakshade. Mike Harrison won four races and secured the championship with the best points over his seven best finishes. Harrison, Devin Gilpin and Ryan Thomas were the only drivers to score multiple wins. Nick Allen, Mitch McGrath, Kenny Wallace, Brian Beilong, Michael Long, Lance Dehm, Dona Marcoullier, Matt Cooper, Lucas Lee, Ray Bollinger, Steven Delonjay, David Weitholder, Donovan Lodge, Brent Mullins, Jeff Curl, Doug Adkins, Kevin Morehouse and Jeff Babcock. 503 drivers competed in the Modified portion of the Hell Tour. Mike Neff
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