Frontstretch Staff · Monday October 14, 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: New Alliances To Track In The Midst Of Silly Season — It’s been easy to overlook, with the attention on the sport’s elite teams, but several small organizations in the Sprint Cup garage have made gains this season. Tommy Baldwin Racing, Circle Sport, and NEMCO all picked up several races’ worth of new sponsorship. The most noteworthy, however, was an increased technical alliance between single-car Furniture Row Racing and powerhouse Richard Childress Racing, beginning last winter that ultimately saw FRR securing a Chase bid. Now, another single-car team will get the same chance.
Germain Racing is a two-time, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship team, but the organization has struggled to find a foothold in the Cup ranks since joining the Cup Series in 2010. Still, they have slowly grown from a team which parked early, several times a year to one with enough sponsorship to allow driver Casey Mears to run the distance in every race this year. The team has climbed to the top of the ladder amongst the small teams in the garage with Mears sitting 23rd in driver points, best in class. Perhaps it’s that steady push, along with support from sponsor GEICO that pushed RCR to take a chance on another strong alliance.
“We are very pleased to have a team like Germain Racing become our partner,” said Richard Childress Friday. “Bob (Germain) and his team have been very committed to this sport and worked hard to improve every year. We have worked with Casey before and he’s a very talented driver. We look forward to working with him and his crew chief ‘Bootie’ Barker.”
The move is a giant step forward for Germain Racing, who will, according to Mears, have an open-book policy with RCR on all things technical. The team will switch manufacturers, from Ford to Chevrolet while getting chassis and other support from RCR in addition to Earnhardt-Childress power.
Garage scuttlebutt is that there might be a similar alliance on the table for JTG-Daugherty Racing. If that’s the case, that team will also have the opportunity to step off the small-team tier and onto the next level. Amy Henderson
IndyCar: Franchitti Recovery Continues — Sub Named — Dario Franchitti was released from Memorial Herman Texas Medical Center in Houston Thursday. He’d been there since crashing on the last lap of last Sunday’s second race of the Houston doubleheader. Franchitti suffered a concussion, spinal fractures and a broken right ankle in the incident. Surgery was performed in Houston to stabilize the ankle before returning to Indianapolis, where he will be evaluated and eventually undergo a second surgery on the ankle.
“I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and I’m thankful to have such a great family and such wonderful friends and fans. Thanks to everyone at the hospital and the track who took such good care of me during my stay in Houston,” said Franchitti.
Veteran driver Alex Tagliani will substitute for the injured Franchitti and drive the No. 10 for Chip Ganassi at the final race of the season, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway next Saturday night. Toni Montgomery
Nationwide: A Two-Week Break? With Three Races Left? You Betcha — Are you ready for November 2nd?
It may seem strange, but that’s how long it’ll be before the Nationwide Series returns to the racetrack. Two weekends will come and pass sans series activity, with the brunt of the focus fixing on the Sprint Cup Series’ impassioned Chase battle and the Camping World Truck Series’ dash to the season finale.
The break could be therapeutic for some. Leaving last weekend’s Charlotte race, Austin Dillon sits just eight points ahead of his primary competitor, Sam Hornish, Jr. Both are chasing their first series championships, fresh off the heartbreak of a 2012 season where they lost. One slip-up could bring about the biggest consequence of all: failure.
Of course, that’s something for which Regan Smith could be hoping — for Dillon and Hornish, that is. The JR Motorsports driver is a distant third in the championship standings, 52 points behind Dillon. It’ll take a major meltdown — and some expert results from Smith himself — to get back in the title hunt.
But hey, anything could happen in two weeks’ time. There’s rest and relaxation, but there’s also the possibility of psyching oneself out. Plenty of time to think, to reflect on what needs to be done, could lead to the feeling of higher pressure. Higher pressure could then lead to, once the teams return to the track, major problems.
There isn’t much to think about during the two off-weeks, but if you consider the Nationwide Series at all, think about what this championship means for its contenders and what it could do in terms of messing with their heads. With three races to go, it’s all about remaining calm, keeping cool under pressure and — perhaps most importantly — getting strong finishes. That just may not be within the realm of possibility for some. Kevin Rutherford
Short Tracks: Winchester’s Wonderful Weekend — The future of stock car racing was on display again at a local short track this weekend. One of the premier Super Late Model races of the season was held at Winchester Speedway. The Winchester 400 has been run nearly every year since 1970 at the world’s fastest half-mile in Winchester, Indiana. Recent winners have included Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Boris Jurkovic and Ross Kenseth, present and perhaps future stars of stock car racing. This year’s event was no exception to the rule, with the talented Erik Jones scoring the win over a star-studded field of Super Late Model drivers.
Bob Senneker is the all-time winningest driver in the history of the race with seven wins, including five in a row from 1974 through ’78. Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Ted Musgrave, Gary St. Amant and David Stremme have all scored wins in the race. This year’s field included some of the biggest names in Super Late Models and future stars of NASCAR. Here’s just a sampling: Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Augie Grill, Bubba Pollard, Daniel Hemric, Stephen Nasse, Kyle Benjamin, Ross Kenseth, and Preston Peltier.
42nd Annual Winchester 400 Unofficial Results:
1 51 Erik Jones
2 9E Chase Elliott
3 98 Mason Mingus
4 112 Augie Grill
5 98H Daniel Hemric
6 29T Austin Theriault
7 1 Cody Coughlin
8 61 Johnny VanDoorn
9 26P Bubba Pollard
10 25 Derrick Griffin
Expect to see many of these future names in NASCAR. Mike Neff
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