NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Tough Luck for Martin Truex, Jr. at Texas, Timmy Solomito Wins in Whelen Modified Tour Opener and XFINITY Series Short Tracks

Sprint Cup: Everything’s Tougher in Texas for Truex, Jr. –  Several moments throughout the 500-miler Saturday night made it seem like Martin Truex, Jr. was nearly untouchable out front. With the exception of Carl Edwards, who later suffered a loose wheel and fell off the lead lap, Truex was the only driver to be able to pull a lead up over seven seconds.

With strong pit stops and killer restart skills, the only thing that could take first Texas Motor Speedway victory from Truex was pit strategy, and that’s exactly what happen.

LUNKENHEIMER: Martin Truex, Jr., Carl Edwards See Dominant Race Slip Away

Staying out while the rest of the lead-lap field pitted following a caution on Lap 289, Truex was still in the green as they restarted with 42 to go.

However, a 13-car pileup led to another restart, one that proved fatal for Truex as he fell like a rock outside the top 5. Kyle Busch got the win but Truex got the beef.

“It’s just the way it goes,” Truex said. “We just kept getting yellows and caution laps and the tires kept getting more air in them. It’s frustrating but it’s racing. That’s the way it goes sometimes.” – Zach Catanzareti

Whelen Modified Tour: Timmy Solomito Breaks Through for First Victory  – A victory had been so close to Timmy Solomito’s hands so many times. Since leading 176 laps at his home track of Riverhead Raceway in 2013, he never led more than eight laps in a race. However, on Sunday at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, that all changed.

Holding off 2014 Whelen Modified Tour champion and current XFINITY Series driver Ryan Preece, Solomito drove the gray and orange No. 16 car — the same one that Preece piloted en route to his title — into Victory Lane for the first time in his career. The 24-year-old entered Sunday’s Icebreaker 150 with 35 starts, highlighted by a sixth-place finish in last year’s championship standings.

WOLKIN: 2016 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Preview

But heading into Thompson, Solomito did the unthinkable. Reigning back-to-back champion Doug Coby swept last year’s four events at the Connecticut short track, and entered as the obvious favorite for the Icebreaker. However, after starting on the pole, he failed to lead any laps after leading 439 of the 575 markers at the track last year, finishing fourth on the day behind Preece and Justin Bonsignore.

Solomito’s victory marks the first for Flamingo Motorsports since Preece went to Victory Lane for the team at Thompson in the 2014 season-finale.

The Whelen Modified Tour will be back in action on April 24 at Stafford Motor Speedway for the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200. – Joseph Wolkin

XFINITY: Will Short Track Races Bring New Winners? – This week, the XFINITY Series will prepare for its first short track stop of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway. With another short track race coming up the following weekend at Richmond, fans should be in for some great racing. Many are no doubt wondering if these short track races could live up to their reputation as equalizers and break up the stranglehold that Sprint Cup drivers have on the XFINITY Series.

Prospects for a victory by an XFINITY Series regular are not too great at Bristol. Throughout the last five years, only Elliott Sadler and Ryan Blaney have defeated the Sprint Cup regulars at the high-banked half-mile.

It has been even tougher for XFINITY Series drivers to win at Richmond. Chase Elliott’s victory there last September is the only win by an NXS regular in the last ten years. It is more likely that a championship contender will snatch that elusive victory at Iowa later this season.  However, with the debut of the new heat race format this weekend, the door is open a little more than usual for a surprise winner. – Bryan Gable

Sports Cars: The Blancpain GT Sprint Series Gets Underway – This past weekend, the Blancpain GT Sprint Series got underway at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Italy for two one-hour races. As compared to 2015, car count was up significantly from the teens to 38. This is due to a new rule that gives entry preference to teams that compete in both the Blancpain GT Sprint Series and the Blancpain GT Endurance Series when it comes time for the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July, the marquee event on the calendar.
Saturday night’s qualifying race saw teams have to face a tough decision on tires due to rain. Bentley Team M-Sport’s No. 8 for Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet gambled on dry tires. It may not the best way to go as they struggled early on while the all-powerful Laurens Vanthoor drove away from the pack on rain tires.
However, luck decided the race. Soulet stretched his time in the car nearly as far as the pit window allowed, then lucked out with a full course caution for debris. Full course yellows in the Blancpain GT Series generally don’t work like they do here in the United States. They work more like the yellow lights that were used at Indianapolis in the 1970s, reducing speed and holding positions and gaps. This allowed Soulet to pit, hand over to Soucek, and keep the lead. From there, the No. 8 Bentley held on to take a somewhat surprising win.
In Sunday’s main race, the lead Belgain Audi Club Team WRT pairing fought back. Frederic Vervisch moved up from the fourth starting spot to take the lead from the ROWE No. 99 Mercedes AMG-GT3 of Philipp Eng 15 minutes into the race.  Once Vanthoor got in during the mandatory pit stop, the No. 1 Audi R8 LMS GT3 could not be beat.

Sure, HTP Motorsport’s Maximillan Buhk tried to move in on the past champion, but he could not prevent Vanthoor from taking the main race victory and €30,000 to split with Vervisch. Buhk and teammate Dominik Baumann held on for second, while Felix Rosenqvist and former IndyCar Series driver Tristan Vautier were third in another Mercedes AMG-GT for AKKA-ASP.

CBS Sports Network aired tape-delayed coverage of both races on Sunday afternoon.We will have a critique of the broadcast in this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex. That will run Thursday in the Frontstretch Newsletter. – Phil Allaway

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