Pace Laps: From Dragsters to Dover, Close Finishes; Wow Verstappen

Sprint Cup: A Monster Show at Dover

Honestly, it’s been a while since there’s been a stimulating race at Dover International Speedway.

In making it one of the best races seen on the 1-mile concrete oval, Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive For Autism, however, saw frantic restarts, fabulous usage of the racing grooves and a number of rousing fights for the top spot.

In the end, the latter stood supreme as Matt Kenseth, the elder Sprint Cup champion out for redemption following a stale 2016 season to date, battled nose to tail the two of the freshest faces in the world of racing, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, for the victory.

Kenseth, who led but one lap in the opening 353 laps, hadn’t shown potential to hold off the No. 42 of Larson, who on the other hand led three times for a total of 85 laps.

Despite the lack of speed, Kenseth pounced when it counted. A 16-car crash on a restart with 45 laps to go set Kenseth with a shot at the win; And he did not let it slip.

Larson fought tooth and nail for his first win, as he even rubbed the No. 20 in the last five laps. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was still no match.

Right in their wake was Chase Elliott. Though still blooming in his Hendrick Motorsports No. 24, the 20-year-old rookie stood strong during the intense action as he came home in a career-high third place.

Years from now, Sunday’s race could be compared to battles of the late-1990’s where the Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Sr. scrubbed a young Jeff Gordon while a talented future champion Tony Stewart was right in their trails. – Zach Catanzareti

CATANZARETI: How Kenseth Held Off Larson

WOLKIN: Larson Turns Into Surprise Contender

WOLKIN: Dillon’s Day Hits The Skids With Brake Problems

WOLKIN: Stenhouse Sneaking Back Up Prospect Ladder

XFINITY: Will not leading laps matter for Allgaier?

Some say that in racing, the only lap that matters is the last one.  Most of the XFINITY Series regulars no doubt hope that that adage holds true.  Through the first ten races of the season, only Erik Jones has eclipsed 100 laps led.  Blame a lack of NXS regulars pacing the field on the dominance of the Sprint Cup drivers.

Justin Allgaier is among the group of drivers who have struggled to lead.  He is putting together a solid season.  Allgaier’s only finish outside the top 12 was due to a crash at Richmond, a race that he had a chance to win before disaster struck.  Yet Allgaier has led only 16 laps this season, 15 of which came back at Atlanta in February.

In Allgaier’s case, it may not matter how frequently he leads.  In the three XFINITY races that Allgaier has won in his career, he has led only one lap in two of them.  With a record like that, and with JR Motorsports appearing to be on the upswing, do not be shocked if the No. 7 car pops up in victory lane in the coming weeks. – Bryan Gable

NHRA: Can’t See That Margin With The Naked Eye

Top Fuel fans were treated to a Kalitta Motorsports mosh pit, something they were guaranteed when teammates Doug Kalitta and J.R. Todd faced off in the final. What a final it was too. Kalitta got the advantage off the starting line, but Todd chased him down and the two finished in a dead heat, with the margin of victory reading 0.000 and the photos showing them even. Timing computers were able to carry the fractions out a little further to determine Kalitta as the winner in what is the closest Top Fuel finish ever.

Kalitta ran 3.801 seconds, 323.19 mph to Todd’s 3.780 seconds, 320.66 mph for the holeshot win.

Kalitta also got by Terry Haddock, Tony Schumacher, and Antron Brown to advance to the matchup with Todd. It was the second consecutive victory for Kalitta, who also leads Top Fuel points, the first time he’s scored back-to-back wins since 2006.

“What an incredible race. It just shows how much effort and time goes into these race cars at Kalitta Motorsports,” said Kalitta. “I could not be more proud to be a part of this team and part of what the Mac Tools guys are doing. To win two in a row is stellar and I could not be more excited.”

Perhaps the turnaround has started for Don Schumacher Racing after a slow start to the season. It was an all DSR Funny Car final as Matt Hagan took on teammate Fast Jack Beckman. Beckman was also top qualifier for the weekend.

Hagan had trouble getting past the first round at the start of the year, dropping in the first round in three of the first four events, so making it all the way to the finals was a big deal. Hagan capitalized, breaking a 19 race winless streak and scoring his first win of the season with a 3.965 second, 314.90 mph pass after Beckman spun the tires off the starting line. Hagan also got by Chad Head, Del Worsham, and Courtney Force en route to his matchup with Beckman.

“Honestly, these cars are so humbling and we’ve been trying to dig out of a hole that we’ve dug ourselves in from the first of the year when we were trying a new chassis and some parts,” said Hagan. “We went back to what we know. It really puts it in perspective how hard these things are to win, how hard it is to get round wins sometimes. We’ve been working hard and it’s not for a lack of effort and now we’re starting to turn the corner.”

The KB Racing romp continued in Pro Stock as the blue Summit car and the red Summit car squared off in the finals at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals. It was the blue car of Jason Line with a 6.611 second, 209.75 mph run who captured the win on a holeshot over the red car of Greg Anderson and his faster but losing 6.593 second, 210.50 mph run. This is Line’s fourth win of the season.

Line has been to the finals in every event so far and has only lost to his own teammate, Anderson, each time on a holeshot. He also defeated John Gaydosh, Jeg Coughlin, and Allen Johnson in earlier rounds.

It was Eddie Krawiec versus Jerry Savoie for the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. Savoie had the advantage off the starting line, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Harley Davidson of Krawiec, who won with a 6.824 second, 196.56 mph pass to Savoie’s 6.851 second, 195.79 mph. This was the 33rd career win for Krawiec, and it took place at the same place where he scored his first.

Krawiec also beat Matt Smith, Melissa Surber, and Karen Stoffer to advance to the final round. – Toni Montgomery

IndyCar: A Good Day for Honda on the IMS Road Course

Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis may not have provided a a victory for Honda, but it still served as a much-needed step in the right direction for the Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturer.

In all, Honda claimed three of the top six finishing positions on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including a third-place result for James Hinchcliffe in his return to the track that nearly took his life one year ago.

Hondas led 16 of the race’s 82 laps, including 14 laps from hometown favorite Conor Daly, and took five of the top 10 at the end of the day. Whether Honda’s good fortune will translate to more success in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 remains to be seen, but the group has some much-needed momentum going into IndyCar’s biggest race. – Aaron Bearden

Sports Cars: Porsche Unveils 2017 GTE Challenger, but Questions Remain
Last week, Porsche released the first testing photos of the upcoming replacement for the Porsche 911 RSR that currently competes in a variety of championships around the world (Here in North America, they’re fielded by the factory-backed Porsche North America team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT-Le Mans class). From the photos released by the factory, it looks like an evolution of the current car.  For instance, there’s a new splitter with visible braces, much like the new Ferrari 488 GTE.
However, it is what was not shown that is more news than anything else.  All the photos shown display the new Porsche 911 challenger (it’s currently unclear if it will still be called the Porsche 911 RSR, or if another designation will be used) from the front only.  There are no side views or rear views of the car, taken at the manufacturer’s Weissach test track, available as of this writing.  Naturally, that’s led to a number of rumors about what direction Porsche is going with the new car.
Today, many of the manufacturers are moving towards mid-engined entries at the GTE/GT-Le Mans level.  Ford’s new GT and the aforementioned Ferrari 488 GTE are both turbocharged, mid-engined entries.  The scuttlebutt seems to indicate that Porsche may be moving away from an engine behind the rear wheels in the 911 GTE car in favor of a mid-engine design in order to better compete with Ford and Ferrari.  Moving to a mid-engine design would seemingly take away their advantage in the wet (see last year’s Petit Le Mans overall victory and this year’s overall fastest lap in qualifying at the Rolex 24), but would give the car better balance.
The new 911 is currently scheduled to make its world racing debut at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.  We’re sure to hear some more about the new car in the coming months. Phil Allaway
Formula 1: No Stopping Verstappen – Max Verstappen, aged a wily 18 years old, proceeded to make the most of his move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull and earn his first career victory in F1 at the Spanish Grand Prix.  Promoted to the Red Bull ride just over a week ago, in essence a swap between he and Daniil Kvayt, Verstappen took the lead on a tyre strategy decision and held off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen for the win.
Sebastian Vettel, also of Ferrari earned his third-place finish by holding off Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.  The two waged a close-quarters fight in the late stages of the race but Ricciardo succumbed to a flat rear tyre, holding on to his spot.  A couple of weeks ago Slipstream Saturday noted that Red Bull were on the rise and then the organization whiffed at the Russian Grand Prix.  This result indicates that Red Bull may not be so far off from Ferrari as imaged – even with that Tag Heuer (Renault, wink wink) engine powering the car.
If there are names conspicuous by their absence that would be the championship leader and follower, both of Mercedes, who removed themselves from the race with an astonishing incident on the first lap.  Pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton lost the lead to Nico Rosberg in turn one but made a strong move out of turn three  which led to collision between the two drivers before turn four.  The result, both Hamilton and Rosberg never made it to turn four and Mercedes, and their drivers, scored no points on the day.
This race is a conjunction of youthful exuberance, Verstappen, shining and teammates wound up by a championship fight and breaking a steadfast rule in motorsport: don’t make contact with a teammate.  All of these circumstances help prove that this season in F1 has been one of the better ones in years.  Huston Ladner
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Frontstretch Staff
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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    As Jimmie Johnson tweeted: “I sure would like to be a fly on the wall in the Mercedes post race discussion between Rosberg and Hamilton”