_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 moving forward. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!_
*Sprint Cup: How Will Keselowski Respond?* Texas saw the No. 2 team step up and give Jimmie Johnson their best shot. Its driver, Brad Keselowski, entered the weekend without a top-10 finish at the track but waltzed in like he expected to contend. And he did: the car was on top of every practice sheet, qualified eighth and, during the last 100 laps, turned Johnson into mincemeat with the fastest car. Using a two-tire stop for track position, fighting back from a botched pit entry, Keselowski forced Johnson to beat him the hard way — on speed. He even made contact with the No. 48, several times to try and intimidate his rival back into submission while crew chief Paul Wolfe worked wonders in keeping his driver cool.
There’s just one big problem with this whole scenario for Kes: once the smoke cleared, it was Johnson who somehow found a way to stop the madness and make a hard left turn into Victory Lane. It’s Hendrick Motorsports that is now up seven points, heading to one of Johnson’s best racetracks statistically, and another tough spot for rival Keselowski (5.3 average finish for Johnson to worse than 20th for Kes). We’ve seen so many come this close to toppling Five-Time before: Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin come to mind. But in each case, just before getting over the hump some hardship occurred, just enough for the No. 48 team to break a rival’s spirit, then emerge victorious. Has that happened to Keselowski? He surely won’t admit it in public, but come Friday should the Penske Racing team struggle the pressure will be on, tenfold. Can they overcome it and stay in title contention? _Tom Bowles_
*IndyCar: Simona Stepping Up To A Two-Car Team* KV Racing Technology announced on Tuesday they have signed popular Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season. She will be a teammate to veteran driver Tony Kanaan, who will also return with KV Racing next year for what will be a two-car program. This signing marks first time since joining the IndyCar Series, in 2010 that De Silvestro will have the benefit of someone else to work with.
“I’m really excited to be joining KV Racing Technology,” De Silvestro said this week. “I think it’s going to be great having Tony as a teammate.”
De Silvestro wasted no time getting familiar with her new organization, testing with them at Barber Motorsports Park this week. They also plan to test at Texas and Sebring before the end of the year.
“I am very happy to welcome Simona to KV Racing Technology,” said team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven.”I have been watching her race for many years and she shows tremendous talent. I think we will really see this on the road/street courses and having Tony as a teammate will provide her a wealth of information, so I am excited for what the 2013 season will hold.”
The announcement that KV Racing will be a two-car team also confirms that 2012 drivers Rubens Barrichello and E.J. Viso will not return next season. Their plans, at the moment are uncertain. _Toni Montgomery_
*Nationwide Series: Two Races, Two Drivers* Two races to go, and the razor-tight championship battle is now a true deadlock. Elliott Sadler’s late fade at Texas opened the door for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who rebounded from early handling woes to score a fourth-place finish. Stenhouse and the No. 6 team currently hold the tiebreaker with the most race wins in 2012 of all Nationwide regulars.
With the points now out the window as these two duke it out, each faces their own unique head game to deal with as they travel west to Phoenix. For Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., as impressive as his No. 6 team has been the last two weeks with their comeback performances at Kansas and Texas, one can’t help but think the team is playing with fire. Between Stenhouse’s agitation over the radio (audible, anyway) and the team being off the mark in early race runs to the point that they are falling double-digit positions behind the leaders, the question has to be asked… will the No. 6 team go to that well too many times?
As for Sadler and the No. 2 team, though, the challenge is much larger, as the points lead they’ve held for months is gone. The same team that was the favorite heading into last year only to get bested by the No. 6 squad is now falling into the same trap, only this time they’re faltering down the stretch. Losing ground the way they have, by fading late in races they’ve otherwise run well in, is about as demoralizing a level of performance as any race team can experience.
The team that doesn’t psyche itself out will win this one. _Bryan Keith_
*Camping World Truck Series: Another Kenseth On The Horizon For 2013?* “According to Lee Spencer of Fox Sports,”:http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/Kyle-Busch-looks-to-sign-deal-with-ex-Cup-champion-Matt-Kenseth-son-Ross Kyle Busch Motorsports has their eye on Ross Kenseth for a Truck Series ride in 2013. Kenseth, who has been making a name for himself on short tracks, won the All-American 400 and the Winchester 400 – besting Busch both times – last month. That’s quite the resume builder for your future boss, leaving Kenseth in position but the one obstacle that keeps popping up, just like any teenage driver looking to make the NASCAR leap is sponsorship.
“I’d like to do something with Ross [Kenseth]. It’s just a problem trying to get funding. There’s no backing for some of the drivers that are here right now,” Busch said. “The price is obviously cheaper in the Truck Series. You can start small and grow big. But it’s hard to get interest there. There’s still about two or three things in the fire. There are two that are done and two that are in the fire. Hope to have all the announcements done by Homestead.”
Clearly, Kenseth has made an impression on Busch, having outrun him twice last month. While it’s hard to know whether the 19-year-old would find success moving to the Truck Series, his late model numbers say he’s got a shot, and his dad Matt Kenseth, who ironically will become Busch’s Sprint Cup teammate next season, says his son has “matured and grown a lot as a driver.” One thing is for sure: should Kenseth sign with KBM, he’ll definitely be a driver to keep an eye on throughout the 2013 season. _Beth Lunkenheimer_
*Short Tracks: Some Championship History Made* As seasons wind down, there are many different ways for series to crown their champions. This year, for the UARA and the K&N East Series, their seasons ended at Rockingham on Saturday with two very dramatic races to cap off fantastic seasons. Travis Swaim lost a power steering pump very early in the UARA race, which resulted in the belt being knocked off of his water pump and his engine overheating in the first handful of laps. Swaim’s crew called in their sister car, yanked the pump off of it, put it on Swaim’s and got him back out long enough to make it up to a 23rd-place finish. That was the position that they needed and that is where they ended, which gave them a season championship in a squeaker. For the K&N East Series, Brett Moffitt was leading the race heading into Turn 1 on the last lap. Moffitt ran for the win, because he knew that was what he had to do to take the title, but he never made it to Turn 3. A crash off of the nose of Tyler Reddick’s car sent him into the outside wall and back across the track into the inside wall, crushing his title hopes a half-a-mile from the checkered flag. With Moffitt out of the way, Kyle Larson came across the finish line in seventh place, which was enough to outdistance Corey LaJoie (who was hit with a 25-point penalty before the final race) to be crowned the 2012 K&N East Series champion.
The championship for Larson is the first touring series title for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. Larson was a new member of the program in 2012 and joined the ranks of Rev Racing, making the most of it. He has won races in seven different kinds of vehicles this season, earning his first championship in a stock car just nine months after making his first start in a full-fendered vehicle. He is not sure what his 2013 season holds but, as a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, he is hoping that they’ll revive their Nationwide program and give him the next step in his racing career. From what we’ve seen so far, Larson is cut from the same cloth as the legends of racing like Foyt, Andretti, Rutherford, Stewart, and Kahne. He has competed in more than 120 races this year and, if the opportunity presents itself, he’ll do it again in 2013. _Mike Neff_