Cup: The Race That Wasn’t – No one did anything surprising in the race at Richmond. Well, that’s not correct. The idiot who climbed the catchfence in turn 4 surely did something surprising. While many people have done idiotic things at a race track, it’s doubtful that anyone anticipated a fan climbing the fence bordering the track and using it as a perch. Aside from the unbelievable asininity, if you look at the photos, the idiot was so bored he wasn’t even watching the race. No wonder.
No one short pitted to try out a different strategy. No one used a bumper to knock someone out of the way. The race took on a such a sense of normalcy that everyone seemed happy to drive the top line and avoid risk of trying to pass low.
The overall sense, however, is that the drivers in the Chase showed what kinds of teams they are, with Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick all showing that they’re continuing the season they’ve had. On the flipside, drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, and Aric Almirola showed that they’re not really going to be a factor as things progress. Huston Ladner
Nationwide: Kyle Busch is Back – Though He Never Really Left – After being shutout from Nationwide Series Victory Lane since Dover in May, Kyle Busch got back into it by making sure no one else had a chance. Busch won the pole and led every lap of the 250-mile race on Friday night in Richmond on his way to win number four of the season. In doing so, Busch became the first driver since himself to accomplish the feat at Phoenix in 2011.
The domination comes after weeks and months of Busch coming up short to numerous others. He was second at Loudon to Brad Keselowski. Ty Dillon bested him on a late restart in Indianapolis before finishing second at Watkins Glen to Marcos Ambrose. There was the other late restart, this time in Bristol, where Ryan Blaney left him in the dust.
For the winningest driver in the series, Busch hasn’t been used to being upset on a continuous basis. So Friday, at a place he’s already racked up four wins, Busch stormed back and there wasn’t anyone who was going to get in his way. Kelly Crandall
Formula One: Hamilton Gets It Done – Lewis Hamilton earned the pole position for the Italian Grand Prix and looked like he would be the dominant car and be able to take the fight to his teammate who sits atop the points standings. Then the race began. Hamilton endured a problem with his Energy Recovery System (ERS) and failed to leap off the line like he should, allowing said teammate, Nico Rosberg to jump out to a lead.
Yet Hamilton recovered and did in fine fashion, racing his way back to the front and then being able to pip his teammate for the lead. Hamilton’s victory closes the gap between he and Rosberg to 22 points with six races to go. Though Rosberg maintains the advantage, it is Hamilton who has shown more outright speed the last couple races, and it appears that it is Rosberg who is starting to show a less stabile mentality.
Outside of the two-horse Mercedes race, Felipe Massa, the former Ferarri driver, earned the third spot on the podium – though he crossed the finish line some 22 seconds behind, showing how dominant the Mercedes team is. His teammate, Valterri Bottas finished close behind, with the Red Bull Duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel taking fifth and sixth.
At Monza, which is considered Ferarri’s home track, Fernando Alonso lost his engine and Kimi Raikkonen finished a disappointing ninth. As one of the stalwarts of the sport, Ferarri surely is looking to the offseason in a big way. Huston Ladner
NHRA: The Playoffs Get Rolling – Last week’s Chevrolet Performance U. S. Nationals marked the end of the regular season for the drag racers of the NHRA’s Mello Yello Series. Next week at the Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway outside of Charlotte, NC, the Countdown begins. It’s the NHRA’s six race dash to the championship for the four top divisions. So how does the Countdown work?
Short Track Pace Laps: Ben Rhodes is the K&N King – Ben Rhodes isn’t your typical 17 year-old. When he isn’t in school in Louisville, Kentucky, he is traveling to races around the country to compete for Turner Scott Motorsports. He is a member of the NASCAR Next family of drivers for the second year in a row, and on Saturday night he finished fourth at Greenville-Pickens Speedway to secure his first K&N Pro Series East championship. He has also already competed in the Camping World Truck Series for Turner Scott as well.
Rhodes has dominated K&N East this season, including a string of wins in May and June that was four straight victories at tracks including storied Bowman-Gray Stadium and Five Flags Speedway. He missed tying Ricky Craven for the most consecutive race wins when he failed to grab the trophy in Loudon for the fifth straight race. Rhodes’ first win of the season came at Greenville in the first visit by the series back in the spring. His season has been so strong that he clinched the title this weekend a full race before the end of the year.
While Rhodes didn’t win the race this time around, primarily due to an infraction on the initial start that resulted in a pass through penalty, that went to Austin Hill. Cameron Hayley came home second in the race, right in front of Gray Gaulding. Nick Drake rounded out the top 5.
Rhodes is not only a championship driver, he is also a championship student. Rhodes maintains a 4.0 GPA through hard work when in Louisville in class along and keeping up with his assignments when he has to miss school to compete in races. He spent last summer studying race cars in Mooresville, working in the shop every minute that his team was there working. He says it has improved his understanding of how the car works and greatly improved his feedback that he provides to his team.
Rhodes was not impacted by the recent financial issues at Turner Scott although his 2015 plans have not been announced. Mike Neff