NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Heartbreaking Losses and Replacement Drivers

IndyCar: Montoya Critical of Himself, INDYCAR Following Championship Loss – 1.179 seconds. That’s all that separated Juan Pablo Montoya from a Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Montoya, who led the points from the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, lost the championship in a tiebreaker to four-time champion Scott Dixon following a sixth-place finish in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Dixon, who entered the final race trailing Montoya by 47 points, took advantage of double points and contact between Montoya and Will Power to lead the most laps and win both the race and championship.

Following the race, a deflated Montoya was critical of his performance.

“It doesn’t matter what happened,” said Montoya to NBCSN. “We fought all year. Our Verizon Chevy was really strong. It’s just a shame. We had two ways to win the championship and just threw it away, and that’s a shame.

“We had a competitive car today to do what we needed to do, and just couldn’t close it.”

Keeping his cool throughout most of the post-race interview, the disheartened Indianapolis 500 champion took a moment to voice his opinion of INDYCAR’s decision to make the season finale at Sonoma Raceway worth double points.

“It’s crazy,” said Montoya. “When you put double points in the last race like that, it doesn’t matter what you did all year. We had one bad race where it’s double points and we’re out of a championship.” – Aaron Bearden

Xfinity Series: A surprise victory – Richard Childress Racing has been on a tear in the Xfinity Series as of late, tallying multiple top 10s by each of its drivers on a weekly basis. However, not many expected Paul Menard to come out on top at Road America. The veteran driver took the lead with five laps to go, winning his third career NXS race and second since he joined RCR.

The missed opportunity for Chase Elliott, who dominated the race, leading 23 of the 45 laps, was a slight blow to his title hopes. Going winless thus far into the season, Jeff Gordon‘s replacement had a keen opportunity for a victory on Saturday, but finished fourth and beat himself up plenty following the race. A fourth-place finish showed the raw demeanor that Elliott has, and after coming so close to a win at Road America, he will certainly find himself in position to win multiple races before the season concludes.
Ryan Blaney‘s close but no cigar finish once again was a rough one to swallow. However, he continues to prove that he has what it takes to run up front, and it will lead to him going full-time in the Cup Series as soon as next season. As for championship leader Chris Buescher, he finished ninth on Saturday, holding a 16-point lead over Elliott. – Joseph Wolkin

NHRA: New Driver Named for DSR Top Fuel Car – After announcing on Friday that Don Schumacher Racing had released Top Fuel driver Spencer Massey effective immediately, the question of who would drive the Sandvik Coromant/Red Fuel Top Fuel dragster going forward needed an answer. The team announced today that Khalid alBalooshi would take the seat beginning at next weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

alBalooshi is a four-time Top Fuel winner and formerly drove for Alan Johnson Racing. When the team scaled back to just one car this season after losing sponsorship, alBalooshi ran part-time in the Pro Mod category.

“Khalid does an outstanding job of representing NHRA drag racing and is a great international ambassador of our sport. He is a proven, versatile racer and showed that by quickly adapting to Top Fuel where he was very successful,” said team owner Don Schumacher of the driver, who hails from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. “I’m excited that our team will continue and with Khalid they are more than capable of winning these last seven races.”

“I was surprised a bit when I got the call from Don Schumacher, and I am very excited to be able to drive one of the top cars,” said alBalooshi. – Toni Montgomery

Camping World Truck Series: Canada Brings Major Points Implications – I’m starting to feel like a broken record talking about the championship battle each week, but that’s just how close Erik Jones, Matt Crafton and Tyler Reddick have been all season long. While Reddick and Jones had never raced at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the duo fared about as well as could be expected for much of the weekend. That is, until Reddick found himself sandwiched into a tire barrier, courtesy of some contact with Gray Gaulding. Though he was able to continue on, the resulting 19th-place finish did him not favors in the point standings, especially since Jones and Crafton finished 1-2.

In the blink of an eye, Reddick saw a six-point advantage coming into the weekend disintegrate into a 15-point deficit. Race winner Jones holds a slim three-marker cushion over the two-time defending champion Crafton. With eight races remaining on the schedule, anything can happen; it’s definitely in your best interest to keep an eye on this battle as the weeks wear on. Next stop: Chicagoland Speedway where Reddick finished fourth last season. Jones has not yet raced a truck on the mile-and-a-half oval. – Beth Lunkenheimer

Short Tracks: The 42nd Oxford 250 took place on Sunday afternoon with over 70 super late model entries trying to qualify for 41 positions. Billed as the richest single-day short-track racing event in North America, the schedule of events includes heat race lineups determined by a blind draw. The finishes in each of those six heat races set a majority of the starting field for 250 green-flag laps of racing later in the day.

The annual event held at the 3/8-mile Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine was part of the NXS schedule on a few occasions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Starting on the front row on this afternoon was former NASCAR K&N East Series race winner Eddie MacDonald and all-time winner on that tour when it was known as the Busch North Series, Kelly Moore. Dirt racing ace and now NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner Christopher Bell has captured some big short-track race wins on asphalt as well, and was in the field driving an entry for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

On this day though it would be some lesser known names that would be up front by race’s end. Home state driver Glen Luce took over the lead from Shawn Martin with less than 50 laps remaining and brought home a somewhat unexpected victory and more than $30,000 in prize money for his first career win in what was also a Pro All Stars Series-sanctioned event. Luce finished second in the 2008 running of the event to defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who made a rare late-model start during an off weekend that year. Reid Lanpher and Ben Lynch completed the podium. – Aaron Creed

Sports Cars: Porsche Stomps ‘Em at the Nürburgring – Ever since the FIA launched the World Endurance Championship in 2013, the P1 class has been marked by close competition between the manufacturers. First, it was just Toyota and Audi, then Porsche joined up with their V4-powered 919 Hybrid. The first couple of years saw outright dueling between the manufacturers and close finishes.

Not so much in 2015. If you saw the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June, Porsche ran roughshod over their rivals back then. Sunday saw Porsche destroy their rivals in the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring as well. The domination was slow in coming as Audi’s No. 7 entry driven by Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Tréluyer was actually fastest overall in the first two rounds of practice. However, the No. 7 is down to only one more fresh engine for the remainder of the season (teams get five engines for the whole season, which totals roughly 15,000 miles of racing). As a result, Audi’s pace may have been toned down to help their engine longevity given the fact that there are still four more six-hour races remaining.

In qualifying, Porsche swept the front row with the No. 18 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb fastest with an average lap time of 1:36.473. The nearest Audi was a full second slower. In the race, the Porsches were far from perfect, but had all the pace they needed and then some. The No. 18 was the fastest in the race, but was penalized multiple times due to violations pertaining to the team’s fuel rig (Short Explanation: The fuel was flowing into the No. 18 on pit stops too quickly). That allowed the No. 17 of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley to recover from an early bodywork issue to win by a full lap, plus another 49.5 seconds over the No. 18. The first Audi (No. 7) was 15 seconds further back, while the No. 8 of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis was fourth. The Toyotas were three and four laps down, respectively, at the finish.

In P2, the lone ORECA 05 in the field for KCMG won with the team of Matthew Howson, Nick Tandy and Richard Bradley. GTE-Pro saw the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR from Porsche AG Team Manthey of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen topped off a Porsche 1-2, while GTE-Am went to SMP Racing’s No. 72 Ferrari F458 of Andrea Bertolini, Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaytar.

The next WEC race is the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas from Texas on Sep. 19. That race will air live on FOX Sports 2 at 6 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at the 3.4 mile-Texas road course. – Phil Allaway

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salb

So, Indy cars now have a double points final race format that can negate what a team has done over the entire season. Hmmm. Sound like anon ‘chase’ version of Nascar’s ridiculous ‘chase’?

Steve

Does it surprise anyone that Montoya acted like he did in his post race interview. Blaming IndyCar for him not getting it done. One might argue that if he had shown some patience instead of punting his teammate early in the race, things might have ended differently. But with him its always someone elses fault.

Nice to see the 250 get some attention in the article. its a great race to see in person and sometimes you get a name that you don’t typically expect to see in Victory Lane. Anytime you win the 250, you have earned it, considering you have to get through the draw, heat races and 250 laps unscathed all in one day to get the big pay check.

MPM

Oddly enough JPM didn’t object to accepting the double points at Indy. Yes, it’s a big race but that’s one thing NASCAR does right (blind hogs and acorns) the Daytona 500 pays the same points as NHIS.

Could it be that Power’s paint scheme somehow reminded Juan of a jet-dryer?

Anyone get a look at David Letterman, co-owner of Rahal’s team? He’s given up disguising his age since he left TV and with the white hair and beard he look’s like a Crackhead’s Santa Claus.

For all those fans who want to see more road courses in NASCAR is there anything worse than watching laps run under the yellow at caution speed that seem to drag on a half hour? NASCAR really needs to get with the program and learn how to throw a localized yellow. Fluid on the track? Hell they were willing to run in the rain!

Thrilled that the Southern 500 is returning to Darlington on Labor Day weekend. Not as happy it’s another Sunday night race. Current forecast (yes it’s a ways out) is 60% chance of Thunderstorms Sunday. Throw an extra can of coffee in the shopping cart this week when you’re getting your burgers and Beanie-Weenies for the BBQ. Tom, I’m expecting an emergency air drop of Red Bull prior to any rain delay.

russ

Couldn’t agree more about Nascar being unwilling to use local yellows on road courses like everyone else in the motorsports world. Heck, from SCCA club racers to F1 that is the standard. Guess its the equivalent of debris cautions on the ovals.

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