NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Dover Downer, Elliott’s Excellence, Crafton’s Consistency and More

Sprint Cup Series:  Dover Downer – After the excitement of the first two races of the reborn Chase, Dover produced a race that didn’t follow the script.  Rather than being a hard-charging affair, with the four drivers positioned to lose out racing like madmen, it seemed like everyone did his best to log laps, not make a mistake, and do what was needed to bring a car home in one piece.

Perhaps Dover isn’t quite the track to make wild moves, or the oft-mentioned aero-push conspired to keep everyone from actually doing something (though Jeff Gordon seemed to be able to pass cars).  It doesn’t matter now, as the the field is four cars lighter and the next round should prove to be wild.

2014 Dover II CUP pack racing vertical CIA
Kevin Harvick led the early Dover parade (Credit: CIA stock photography)

A quick breakdown, however, of who’s making up the next twelve.  HMS: 4 cars.  JGR: 3 cars.  Penske: 2 cars.  RFR: 1 car.  SHR: 1 car.  RCR: 1 car.  Really, there aren’t many surprises there, just like what was anticipated.  Sure it’s a bummer that Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger, both feel-good stories, didn’t advance, but did anyone really expect them to compete for the championship at Homestead?

Right now, the drivers that have proven themselves throughout the season are the very ones who are still in contention.  Which means, so far, the Chase thing is playing out as it should. Huston Ladner

Nationwide Series: Chase Elliott Recovers For Solid FinishChase Elliott started second at Dover International Speedway on Saturday afternoon and stayed there until he got caught up when Tanner Berryhill and Kevin Swindell tangled to bring out the second caution on lap 41. The No. 9 team worked hard to repair the damage, but Elliott took a hit in the running order, restarting 23rd. But the young driver never gave up, working his way through the field steadily until he found himself inside the top 5 with around 10 laps to go. Though he was unable to catch eventual winner Kyle Busch and runner-up Joey Logano, Elliott took his damager No. 9 Chevrolet to a solid third-place finish.

“I’m proud and frustrated at the same time,” Elliott said. “I feel like we had a super-fast car, really from the get-go, and we were kind of biding our time in that first run. I made a mistake. I followed those guys (Swindell and Berryhill) way too close. It was completely my fault.

“I drove ourselves into a wreck and got behind and could never get back up to the front.”

Elliott was awfully hard on himself for bringing home a solid third-place finish. Of course he wanted to win the race (who doesn’t?), but he expanded his point lead to 26 markers over teammate Regan Smith with just five races remaining. Beth Lunkenheimer

Camping World Truck Series: Matt Crafton Continues Battle for Second ChampionshipMatt Crafton headed into Saturday night’s Rhino Linings 350 with a slim seven-point cushion over teammate Johnny Sauter, but he emerged looking even more like he can become the first back-to-back champion in series history. The driver of the No. 88 Toyota took home his ninth top-3 finish on Saturday night and came up 19 markers ahead of Sauter in the standings. There are still five races remaining, and so much can happen when the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks, but the defending champion has figured out exactly how to approach the championship battle.

“I’m not worried about the 19 point lead, we just need to show up each week and keep doing what we do,” Crafton said. “We come here each weekend to win races, and the points will follow.”

The attitude Crafton has had about the points standings all season seems to be working for him so far, and he has two wins, 10 top 5s and 13 top-10 finishes to show for it. Beth Lunkenheimer

NHRA: Halfway Home to the Championship – After today’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, the teams and drivers of the NHRA Mello Yello Series are halfway through the six race championship Countdown.

Tony Schumacher jumped out to a commanding lead in Top Fuel after winning the first two events of the Countdown, but when he fell in round one of eliminations in St. Louis, it opened the door for the competition. Teammate Antron Brown took advantage, racing past Brittany Force, Terry McMillen, and Steve Torrence to make it to the finals were he faced off against defending Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon. Brown took the win with a pass of 3.844 seconds at 315.42 mph and pulled himself up to fourth in the standings.

“St. Louis has always been a good turning point for us,” Brown said. “The more pressure that’s on us and the more our backs are against the wall, the more focused our team gets to do what we need to get the job done. It shows you how brutal this class is. All these Countdown boys are playing hard. We’re back in that fighting mode. With three races left, we have to keep pushing to do what we need to do.”

Langdon, second in points, lost in the final, but also capitalized on the weekend, pulling to within 57 points of Schumacher.

Courtney Force became the first female driver to post back-to-back wins in Funny Car, adding today’s trophy on top of last week’s win in Dallas. Force faced off against Matt Hagan in the final, winning with a 4.094 seconds at 313.44 mph. She also defeated Bob Tasca, Del Worsham, and her father, John Force, en route to the finals. Courtney Force also moved up to second and pulled within 30 points of her father, the current Funny Car points leader.

“We need to create a gap between us and everyone behind us and climb our way up to catch dad if we want to win this championship. That’s what we have our eyes set on right now,” Force said. “Everyone is so tough in this class that I’m definitely going to savor this moment with dad and I at Nos. 1 and 2.”

Dave Connolly also made it back to back wins in Pro Stock, facing off against points leader Jason Line in the finals. In an extremely close finish, Connolly took the win with a 6.562 at 211.53 to Line’s 6.565 at 211.66. This is the fourth win in a row for a car out of the Gray Motorsports stable and tightens up the Pro Stock points, with Connolly now trailing Line by only 26 markers.

Non-Countdown competitor Jerry Savoie, who farms alligators in Louisiana when he’s not at the track, scored his first career victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle, beating points leader Andrew Hines with a 6.871 second, 196.53 mph pass. Hines still leads the points by 57 over teammate Eddie Krawiec, but the two have pulled out to a convincing lead over third place Hector Arana, Jr., who trails Hines by 144 points. Toni Montgomery

Formula One: Changes to the Field – Much like all aspects of motorsport racing in the U.S., Formula One is facing the likelihood that some of the teams that are competing this year won’t be appearing on the grid next year.  That’s to say that the backmarkers have had their fill and are not longer seeking to be also-rans to Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and Red Bull.

The interesting aspect is that should a team like Caterham, Force India, or Sauber drop out, that it’s the big teams that have to pick up the slack.  Head honcho Bernie Ecclestone is pushing for the super-teams to field three cars to make up the loss on the track.

Whether or not the idea is a good one, the bigger issue is the cost of doing business in motorsports.  It seems that nearly every series is struggling with its sense of financing, which raises the question of whether or not it is a sustainable enterprise – or if there remains the steadfast interest to make it worth the investment.

How the 2015 season pans out for F1 could very well foretell how the future of other series, like NASCAR and IndyCar continue.  It is something of which being mindful. Huston Ladner

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jerseygirl

“the chase is playing out as it should”. Yeah right, by resetting the points to the same for all 12 participants, negating the efforts of those who won races in the “round” or bracket or whatever the heck nonsense Brainless came up with. What a joke.

JohnQ

I live on a strict budget. I set money aside in January so I could catch one of the Dover NW races this year. A decent ticket could be had for less than $20.00 for the spring race. By then though NASCAR had decided to have Cup Extended Practice runs instead of races so I did not go. By Saturday’s race I had lost interest in the series entirely. I did not consider going. I didn’t even watch on TV. I used to love the Busch Series. I enjoyed the shorter races with less riding around in the middle waiting until “go time” . There was a blue collar feel with hungrier drivers yet to become the pouty entitled fools that the first million dollars almost guarantees. Now the series has lost its identity. It isn’t even racing. Thanks NASCAR!

L.D.

The two most hyped races of the year for excitement have been the recent Richmond race as for who would get in the Chase and the second Dover race due to who would advance to the next round of the Chase have both been the worst races I watched all year and possibly ever.
I will find something else to do the next nine weeks on race day.

L.D.

Pardon my math but I meant the next seven weeks.

GinaV24

LD, LOL, yes please don’t make this go on any longer than 7 more weeks!

GinaV24

JohnQ, you are right, it used to be fun to go to a NW race, now I don’t bother going or watching. Pouty entitled fools pretty much sums up the main reason.

Tim S.

preach on JohnQ. It used to be fun to follow the Busch cars. Maybe Mark Martin could beat Jeff Green and maybe not, but it was going to be worth watching. now, cup team vs. cup team is totally uninteresting for me 29-30 races of the year.

racefangurl

I may not watch the Nationwide once it’s Xfinity. If Chase Elliott’s champion, I’m through with the series. An 18 year old rookie champ just ain’t for real. If someone passes Chase in points, I’ll watch the series next year. Watch for Ty Dillon, since Trevor Bayne will have moved on up, best case scenario. Ty Dillon’s my secondary Nationwide driver. His brother Austin finished 3rd in points as a rookie and Ty could do the same. Except without the Rookie of Year. That’s Chase’s, no matter what happens.

JohnQ

It is obvious from your posts that you both understand and enjoy the NW series. That even you have almost had enough is indicative of just how fan deaf NASCAR is. Sadly, with TV revenue pretty much guaranteed I suspect that they really do not care whether anyone actually watches on TV or attends the events. It is disheartening.

racefangurl

I’d watch Cup races on Fox next year. I don’t have cable TV at home, so I’m limited in how much NASCAR I can watch. I get results/info from the Internet and paper when it’s on cable. Trucks is always on cable, but I have a blog which I link to. I get Trucks results from catchfence.com, but only for my blog. I’d still record the Xfinity results in my blog, no matter what, but I may not follow the series the way I do now. I’ll see who the champ is and that’ll be my guide. If Chase is champ, I won’t believe in the series as I do now. If an experienced driver is champ, I still can watch, when it’s on FOX.

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