The Frontstretch: Pace Laps: Playing Catchup, Showcasing Success And Crowning A Champ by Frontstretch Staff -- Monday September 23, 2013

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Pace Laps: Playing Catchup, Showcasing Success And Crowning A Champ

Frontstretch Staff · Monday September 23, 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: What Happens Now? With Matt Kenseth winning the first two Chase races, the contenders for this year’s Cup championship have dwindled. Only teammate Kyle Busch and Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson sit within 30 points of the lead at this point; three of the 13 playoff participants are over 60 behind. That means, barring some Talladega tangle the race for the title will quickly come into focus, with the trio we all expected these next few weeks.

That leaves NAPA, their future, and Michael Waltrip Racing the top story. Now that Martin Truex, Jr. sits sponsorless, will he stay with the team or look elsewhere? What will NAPA do with what was a reported $16 million deal; shop around or leave the sport completely? And can MWR, already using owner Rob Kauffman to partially fund the No. 15 car recover their public reputation — and avoid 2014 extinction? Sadly, the racing at New Hampshire, while decent wasn’t good enough to drown out the scores of public opinion on these subjects. NASCAR wants to get past the “Spingate” scandal… it just hasn’t found the storyline yet to put it in the background. Tom Bowles

Nationwide: A Young Gun Flexes His Muscles The final standalone race for the Nationwide Series in 2013 certainly lived up to what was expected from it. Some of the sport’s younger drivers and Nationwide regulars were given a chance to shine — and shine, one in particular did.

Ryan Blaney is regarded as a hot prospect in NASCAR, one of the drivers most likely to break into the Sprint Cup Series with one of the circuit’s top rides. Saturday night at Kentucky continued to solidify that, as Blaney climbed into the No. 22 for Penske Racing.

It was only the youngster’s second start of the season, but he was the class of the field during the race’s second half, roaring to his first Nationwide victory in just his 15th start. He held off Austin Dillon, a celebrated prospect in his own right and a master of Kentucky in recent memory.

There’s quite a few offspring of NASCAR veterans around these days, but so far, Blaney’s showing some of the highest potential of any of them, along with Chase Elliott and the Dillons. That’s two wins in NASCAR this season for Dave’s son, and it may not be the last. Kevin Rutherford

Short Tracks: History Has Been Made It has been a long, six-month journey full of potential pitfalls and challenges but the battle for the Whelen All-American Series championship is over. The official phone call came this week to confirm that Lee Pulliam, for the second year in a row, has won the National Championship. Pulliam scored 810 points, a perfect score in the series to claim back-to-back titles.

Pulliam becomes the third driver in history to win a championship in consecutive years. Larry Phillips, a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee, did it twice en route to his record five titles. Philip Morris pulled off the double just a handful of years ago. Interestingly, Morris and Pulliam have been rivals for some time. 2014 will be the opportunity for Pulliam to try and set his name apart in the history of NASCAR, if he can pull off the third straight title. It has never been done before but records are made to be broken. Mike Neff

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters
Did You Notice? ... Keep On Asking, And You Will Receive A Qualifying Sigh Of Relief

If you want to know more about Tom Bowles or to view all of his articles here at the Frontstretch, check out his archive and bio page.

Want even more Tom Bowles? Check out Tom's archive at SI.com.