Sprint Cup Series: No Passing Zone – When even winner Jimmie Johnson says, “rough race today” then you know conditions were difficult at Dover. The Monster Mile was simply mediocre. NASCAR’s new rules package meshed with aerodynamic awfulness and the result was that passing was near impossible.
At times, during 15-lap stretches of the race, only one position within the top 25 would change. That’s right; one. It would take almost a full green-flag run for tires to wear and driver skill to finally make a difference in being able to push past some cars. Your opportunities to move up were simple: restarts, pit strategy, wait 50-plus laps. And that was about it. For drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started from the rear, there was no chance at ever making their way to the front. It was just too difficult, “clean air” dirtying the competition to the point everyone seemed to leave the racetrack frustrated.
“The top-five cars were so equal that it was just – you couldn’t pass,” Johnson said. “You really just could not get by somebody. If they made a bobble or a mistake you could close up, but then the next set of corners, they would get back to the bottom and run a line and kind of hold you up and you couldn’t get anywhere.”
Competition concerns like this one were doubtless on the mind of the nine-member driver council that had their second meeting with NASCAR officials Saturday night. Those in attendance remained tight-lipped, but it’s clear the single-file, “stuck in place” style of racing like the type we saw at Dover this weekend has left everyone involved with the sport concerned. – Tom Bowles
Xfinity Series: Teammates Clash at Dover – Roush Fenway Racing is in a critical state, especially with Jack Roush’s advanced age and no clear replacement for him within the organization. On Saturday, Chris Buescher brought the team to Victory Lane for the second time this season, but did so using fuel strategy – the way Roush has won multiple races in the past.
However, Buescher, the promising driver that could be the future of the team, got into teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. with 10 laps remaining at Dover. The two were not pleased with each other, and the lack of sponsorship for both drivers is likely a major part in their displeasure.
Regan Smith captured a $100,000 check due to the first Dash 4 Cash event occurring at Dover. Smith earned a third at Dover and would have benefited from Buescher running out of gas, but he was running inside of the top five throughout the day at a track that is statistically mediocre for him. As the season moves on, he appears to be running stronger than his teammate, Chase Elliott, and that will be something to watch for. – Joseph Wolkin
IndyCar: Blame it on the Rain – Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing are the dominant teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The two organizations have scored four wins, 12 podiums, and hold the top-three positions in the championship points standings. Through the first half of 2015, they’ve been nearly unstoppable. That is, until rain falls.
Three of the first eight races of the 2015 IndyCar season have been ran in wet conditions. In those three races, Penske and Ganassi have gone winless, combining for just two podium finishes.The results aren’t due to poor performance – the two teams have led 74 out of 162 laps in the three races. However, they’ve failed to play strategy correctly in each race, falling short of victory lane.
It all started in Louisiana. Juan Pablo Montoya led a race-high 31 laps, but his team brought him down pit lane at the wrong time, resulting in a fifth-place finish while James Hinchcliffe drove to victory. On the first day in Detroit, the team came to pit road too early for rain tires, letting Carlos Muñoz and Marco Andretti drive off to a large lead. On day two, Montoya’s pit crew failed to give him enough fuel. After his teammates crashed out, Montoya stalled on the last lap to finish 10th.
Penske and Ganassi have been nearly unstoppable on dry tracks, but given their issues in the wet, don’t be surprised if you see other teams doing rain dances at future races. – Aaron Bearden
Short Tracks: It was one of the biggest weekends of the year for the 1/4-mile North Carolina bullring fondly known as “The Madhouse.” The NASCAR K&N Pro East Series was visiting Bowman Gray Stadium with what was sure to be close quartered racing in the 150-lap event. Out front though, Scott Heckert set sail after being fastest in practice and qualifying for a flawless victory. His HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammates Dalton Sargeant and JJ Haley swept the podium.
The news of the two-day show was in the weekly headlining modified division, where multi-time track champion Tim Brown was looking to set a record as the winningest competitor of all-time at the Winston-Salem facility. The driver, who works for Michael Waltrip Racing during the week, passed Ronnie Clifton on the outside for the lead in the second half of the 100-lap feature to go on for the record setting victory. Brown did not stop there as he went on to get career win number 75 the following night. – Aaron Creed
Sports Cars: Inappropriate Officiating Leads to Injury at Belle Isle – Last weekend, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship held the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Belle Isle Park on the undercard of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Much like INDYCAR and Pirelli World Challenge (who cancelled their second race, which was due to air live on CBS Sports Network, due to rain), TUSC struggled with rain.
Most of the race was dry. There were showers from time to time, but not enough to allow for rain tires. In the last three minutes of the race, rain started falling once again. The No. 58 Porsche driven by Jan Heylen got caught out by the conditions and spun into the tires in turn 1. Rather than put out a full-course caution, which would have ended the race at a reduced pace, IMSA officials decided to keep the situation under a local yellow. Heylen was in harm’s way the whole time.
On the final lap of the race, it started to pour. With everyone on slicks, the track became a skating rink. Officials made the decision to send workers out to Heylen’s car while drivers were still at speed. At the same time, James Davison crashed his Aston Martin at the start-finish line, breaking the steering on his car. Davison then hit the safety truck before plowing into the tires. A worker can be seen on the tire barrier in pain after the crash. Leh Keen and Spencer Pumpelly were also involved.
Heylen was taken to the infield care center, but was ultimately released (Heylen later tweeted that the doctor told him that he’s “still Belgian.”). However, one unidentified worker was taken to the hospital. According to IMSA, the injured safety worker is in stable condition in a local hospital in Detroit. He suffered several broken ribs in the incident, a collapsed lung and a “non-operative injury to the spleen and kidneys.”
These injuries were unneccessary. IMSA knew that Heylen had crashed already before the rain picked up in intensity. They should have put the full-course yellow out with maybe half a lap to go (for winners Dane Cameron and Eric Curran). Perhaps that would have allowed the drivers to slow down enough to prevent the incident from magnifying to the degree that it ultimately did. Also, they should have waited to move the truck out. Never want to see that. – Phil Allaway
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