Frontstretch Staff · Monday November 11, 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: Those Other Storylines Heading To Homestead So much talk this week will be centered around Jimmie Johnson’s sixth title. Yes, he must still run 23rd in the season finale but after Matt Kenseth swung and missed at Phoenix, that type of run is a mere formality for the No. 48 team. As has been the case so often, during their run of dominance in this sport their time in Homestead-Miami will serve as a coronation of sorts.
Instead, Sunday’s race will take on a different focus, a bunch of smaller stories adding up to one big ones. Kevin Harvick, fresh off Sunday’s victory has a good battle going with Kenseth for runner-up in series points. It would be the best finish since 1986, when Darrell Waltrip left Junior Johnson for a “lame duck” driver jumping to another team the following season. No doubt, the Harvick-Richard Childress combination is still hurting after their Martinsville mess but would love to carve that ending in the record books.
Further back, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. sits fighting for fifth place. It would be the best point finish of his career with Hendrick Motorsports. Brad Keselowski sits nine ahead of Jamie McMurray in the battle for “best of the rest,” 14th place. For the reigning champ, that’s a disappointing label but one he still wants to wear with pride heading into 2014. All the way down the line, drivers are fighting for every position they can and the bonus year-end money that comes associated with Sprint’s primary sponsorship.
You’ve also got the retirements of two drivers, Mark Martin and Ken Schrader, whose time has finally come well past the age of 50. Both men, in their own way contributed to the sport’s growth during NASCAR’s heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s. So don’t turn away from the last race of 2013; there’s still a few memories left to be made. Tom Bowles
Nationwide: A Champion Whose Gift Is… A Pink Slip? Here’s an interesting thing to think about: there’s a chance the Nationwide Series champion this season might not race in the series full time next year.
That’s not necessarily anything new; after all, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. didn’t return in 2013, instead moving up for his rookie season in Cup this year. Austin Dillon, one of the potential champions this year, will do the same in 2014, whether he earns the title or not.
However, it’s the other competitor for the title — Sam Hornish Jr. — that differs a bit from the precedent. Even though he’s locked in the title battle with a very real chance of scoring his first NASCAR championship next weekend, a trophy on his wall may be all he gets — certainly no ride for 2014 or anything. Hornish is currently sans any 2014 plans in any series as Penske Racing struggles to get him sponsorship to run the full Nationwide season.
Therefore, while Dillon may not have much riding on winning a championship at Homestead, Hornish may have everything — especially a ride for next year — banking on it. If that’s not a reason to tune in next week, I don’t know what is. Kevin Rutherford
Camping World Truck Series: Crafton to Clinch Championship With Homestead Start Following a solid fifth-place finish on Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway, Matt Crafton will head off to Homestead-Miami Speedway and clinch the championship simply by starting the race. In a career that began with a ninth-place result at Auto Club Speedway in 2000, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota has been with ThorSport Racing for every single start. With 19 top 10s in 21 starts—and only an 11th and a 17th to break that streak—Crafton has held the top spot in the championship battle since his victory at Kansas Speedway in April.
“I think I’m alright with that. It’s going to feel damn good to go to Homestead and forget about everything and race like hell,” Crafton said. “It’s beyond gratifying to win this championship, especially for Duke and Rhonda and ThorSport — and for Menards — who have all meant so much to my career.”
While Crafton and the No. 88 team have the championship locked up, they’ve still got their eyes set on one more accomplishment: bringing home the owners’ trophy also. ThorSport currently holds a 23-point lead over the Kyle Busch Motorsports-fielded No. 51 Toyota. While it’s unlikely that the No. 88 will falter enough to lose that battle, there’s always the possibility that a strong run for the No. 51 will make the points tight until the checkered flag flies. Beth Lunkenheimer
*Short Tracks: * Mike Neff
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