NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Chase Shakeups and Surviving Talladega

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet failed post-race inspection at Talladega on Sunday. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Sprint Cup Series: Another Round of Chase Eliminations – As the checkered flag dropped over Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon, four more drivers were removed from the championship battle. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson are now left to just fight for Victory Lane for the remainder of the season. With that said, things could still change the makeup of the eight-driver field that remains if you listen to some speculation from the Twittersphere. Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet failed post-race inspection for being too low in the rear end. Of course, NASCAR will look into the failure further before any potential penalties are announced.

Typically, a car that is found to be too low would fall as a P3 penalty, which would indicate a 15-point deduction, enough to leave Newman in the Chase. However, some have mentioned that NASCAR could choose to consider it a P4 penalty (though based on the information shared when the new penalty system was announced it’s highly unlikely), which would be a 35-point deduction (including ten points for a problem found in post-race inspection), enough to drop Newman outside the top 8 and give Kasey Kahne another chance. But another thing to consider in the mix is that Newman did have wreck damage from earlier in the race too, something that will likely come into consideration when NASCAR discusses the incident early in the week. Obviously, it’s best not to even try to guess what decision the sanctioning body may make, but it’s certainly something that bears watching during the week leading up to the third round of the Chase that begins at Martinsville Speedway next Sunday. Beth Lunkenheimer

Camping World Truck Series: Matt Crafton Survives Talladega With Points Lead – As the Truck Series teams sat down to look at the schedule before the season even began, Talladega Superspeedway was undoubtedly one that was circled as a huge wildcard in their hopes for winning a championship. Matt Crafton, who has led the standings for much of the season, came in hoping to simply survive and not take a huge hit in the standings, and he did just that, despite being involved in multiple incidents. The first came when Crafton was leaving the pits under caution and nailed Bryan Silas, who was heading into his stall. He stopped multiple times under that caution but managed to stay on the lead lap. Later, NASCAR determined that Joe Nemechek locked onto Crafton’s back bumper and brought both drivers down pit road for a pass-through penalty. The good news for Crafton was that the caution flew shortly after he served the penalty, allowing the defending champion to remain on the lead lap and sneak home with a 14th-place finish and a 16-point margin over second place Ryan Blaney.

“We didn’t have the day we had hoped for, but it was a decent day for us points wise,” Crafton said after the race. “We didn’t gain any points, but we didn’t lose many points. Talladega was marked as the wild card race on our calendars and I guess we survived it. It could have been a lot worse.”

Now that the No. 88 team has survived Talladega with minimal damage to their point lead, Crafton can breathe a little easier in his quest to become the first back-to-back champion in Truck Series history. That’s not to say the battle is over by any means. With Martinsville, Phoenix, Texas and Homestead still on the docket, anything can happen, however the remainder of the season is more in Crafton’s hands now that the wildcard of Talladega has passed. Beth Lunkenheimer

Short Tracks: Scott Bloomquist Wins Another Major, Don O’Neal Finally Wins a Title – The Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model series wraps up at Portsmouth Raceway Park at the Dirt Track World Championship. Scott Bloomquist continued a strong finish to the season by notching his eighth victory of the year on Sunday in the rain delayed event. The victory is Bloomquist’s second of his career in the World Championship, having previously taken the trophy in 2005. Don O’Neal had the point lead coming into the weekend and had to finish eighth to close out the season title. Don O’Neal came home in fourth to land his first career Lucas Oil title after finishing runner-up for three consecutive years.

Bloomquist led the final 39 laps of the event to secure the triumph. Bloomquist was the fourth leader of the event and led 50 of the 100 laps. He had a heated battle with Jimmy Owens before permanently assuming the point on lap 61. Billy Moyer led the first 12 laps before Eddie Carrier, Jr. was able to lead the 13th circuit. Moyer regained the lead and held it until lap 40 when Owens overtook him for the top spot. Bloomquist wrestled the lead from Owens on lap 42 and held it off the defending series champ for 11 laps. Owens pried the lead from Bloomquist on lap 54 and kept it until lap 60. Bloomquist took the lead for the final time on lap 61.

O’Neal’s finish allowed him to end the season with a 65 point lead over Jimmy Owens for the season title. Bloomquist finished the year third in points, 190 behind O’Neal. Some early season reliability issues cost Bloomquist a shot at the title. Steve Francis ended the season fourth in points while Carrier rounded out the top 5.

The Lucas Oil Late Models will kick off the 2015 season at Golden Isles Speedway in February with the Super Bowl of Racing.

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