Sprint Cup: The Week Approaching a Road Course – When the Sprint Cup Series starts creeping toward a road course event, it’s always one of the most unique times of the season.
The driver announcements are unpredictable, as Cody Ware and Dylan Lupton will attempt their Cup debuts, while Patrick Carpentier makes his return to NASCAR competition after nearly four years out of the spotlight.
The vocabulary also changes from talks of aero packages and drafting to curbing and gravel traps.
And of course, separate from the new additions, there are a handful of series regulars who have jumped to the top of the “must-watch” list in terms of grabbing a Chase-clinching shocker. Tony Stewart has always been regarded as one of the best road racers in the history of the sport, and is in prime position to perform on Sunday. Clint Bowyer won Sonoma in 2012 and — with help from Kurt Busch, who drove James Finch’s No. 51 car to third place that day — you can say Sonoma is a balancing act between small and big equipment. With Bowyer’s small HScott Motorsports squad, next Sunday’s could be a big day. – Zach Catanzareti
XFINITY Series: Another “Top 11” for Reed – How much can one position matter in NASCAR? Just ask Ryan Reed.
Reed kicked off the 2015 XFINITY Series season by winning at Daytona. Nearly a season and a half of NXS racing has passed since then. Not only has Reed not won a race since his Daytona triumph, but he has not even had a top ten finish since then. That streak is, currently, a stretch of 46 races.
Reed’s unfortunate drought nearly ended Sunday at Iowa Speedway. But he finished 11th, again. He has finished 11th six times since the Daytona win. In fact, that same string of 46 races includes 24 top-15 finishes, but not one of them have resulted in a top 10.
The only real consequence of all those finishes in the teens is the understanding that Reed will have to pick up the pace if he is going to be a serious championship contender. After all, the difference between 10th and 11th is the difference between any two positions.
Any one of Reed’s 11ths could have been a 10th, and none of this would matter. But when the common method of scoring a driver’s strong finishes cuts off at 10, he looks a lot farther behind the curve than he actually is. – Bryan Gable
Camping World Truck Series: Another One Bites the Dust – When the green flag flies over Gateway Motorsports Park, yet another single-truck team will no longer be eligible to make the Chase.
Just a couple races ago, Ryan Truex was sidelined due to a lack of funding, taking him out of the Chase – and championship – conversation, regardless of whether it was realistic for him to have a shot at it or not. Now you can add Parker Kligerman to the list, as he will not be running next weekend.
Had speed high up in the 3rd groove. 22 got into our left side and cut the LR tire.
Ouch, that was hard hit. We'll b back at KY @92Truck
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) June 19, 2016
Realistically, did Kligerman and the No. 92 team have a shot at making the Chase this year? Probably not, especially given the three DNFs in the last five races. But the fact of the matter is that, even if the NASCAR on NBC analyst managed to pick up multiple wins in the coming weeks, he still wouldn’t be eligible for the Chase
NASCAR continues to be increasingly slanted toward the multi-truck teams, and though the series itself appears to be growing, that growth can’t continue properly if the single-truck teams have little hope each week. – Beth Lunkenheimer
Sports Cars: Toyota Comes This Close to Winning, but Technically Drops Out – On Sunday morning, former Formula One racer Kazuki Nakajima was within one lap of claiming overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then, his No. 5 Toyota TS050 came to a halt on the pit straight. That allowed Porsche’s No. 2 919 Hybrid to breeze by and take the 18th overall victory at Le Mans for the German manufacturer. Nakajima struggled with his car, but eventually got it started and chugged back around to finish at a reduced pace.
Or, did he?
Le Mans has rather strict rules on what is required in order to be considered a finisher. The biggest requirement that often comes into play is the minimum distance covered. According to the regulations, that is at least 50 percent of the overall leaders’ distance covered at 75 percent distance, and 70 percent of the overall leaders’ distance covered at the finish. Anyone who finishes less than that distance and is still running at the end is considered “Not Classified.”
Formula One has a similar rule, but it is 90 percent of the race distance. Second, the car must cross the finish line on track and under its own power. That did happen. A third rule states that you cannot stop on the track to wait for the checkered flag. That is how Dan Gurney won the Daytona Continental in 1962 (the three-hour race is considered to be the first Rolex 24 at Daytona). It’s more of a safety rule than anything else, especially with the speeds involved at Le Mans. However, it is the fourth rule that appears to have caught out Toyota Gazoo Racing.
The fourth requirement states that competitors must “[take] the last lap in a time inferior to 6 minutes (start/finish line-start/finish line or pit exit loop-start/finish line), except in case of “force majeure” at Stewards’ discretion.” In this case, “inferior” means less than. Stewards’ discretion would likely include a Safety Car period, or if a red flag were thrown. Multiple Slow Zones being in effect (where the track has a speed limit of 80 kph due to some kind of incident) could also qualify for force majeure. Neither of those were in play on Sunday.
Nakajima’s car stopped just past the start-finish line with 3:25 to go. The clock had already started. Three minutes later, Nakajima was still on the pit straight, although he had resumed. Even if the car was at full song, he would have been unable to complete the final lap in the maximum allowable time. Nakajima eventually finished the final lap, but that lap took 12 minutes, twice as long as allowed. As a result, Nakajima’s No. 5 was not classified as a finisher. The No. 6 Toyota shared by Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi inherited second-place as a result, three laps behind the winners. Audi’s No. 8 R18 was third. – Phil Allaway
Formula 1: Rosberg Regains Form – Nico Rosberg took off from the pole position and after the first few laps never felt any pressure. He cruised to the checkered flag to earn his fifth win of the year and extend his points lead over teammate Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth. The European Grand Prix was the first held since 2012 and the first ever on the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel earned second, but crossed the line 17 seconds behind the race winner. The third spot on the podium belonged to Sergio Perez of Force India, who passed Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap. For Perez the move had to be extra sweet as he has been rumored to take Raikkonen’s place at Ferrari next year.
Both Hamilton and Raikkonen succumbed to the regulations prohibiting the pit crew from offering assistance. Hamilton suffered with an engine mapping setting that prevented him from making a better run, though it may have been difficult to do any better than he did. Raikkonen seemed to suffer a similar thing but never appeared to fall off the pace in a serious regard.
Red Bull may have had the poorest race. Having Daniel Ricciardo start second the team became overly concerned with the graining of the tyres during the early laps. The team brought him in and switched him to the medium compound tyres, which prevented him from displaying the pace to keep up and could muster only a seventh-place finish. His teammate, Max Verstappen followed. Both Red Bull and Ferrari have squandered fast cars and track position in recent races with bad strategy that fails to challenge Mercedes.
Perhaps the story of the day was that no safety car appeared. The tight confines and high speeds of the track were thought to be a combination that would fell drivers but instead there were minimal incidents. – Huston Ladner
NHRA: Two More Drivers Post First Wins of 2016 – NHRA rolled into Bristol Dragway for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this weekend and two more drivers notched their first victories of the season in Nitro class winners Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson, Jr. (Funny Car). After a somewhat slow start to 2016 for most of his teams, Don Shumacher Racing is starting to put those notches in the win column.
In Top Fuel, Langdon took on and beat teammate Tony Schumacher, running a lap of 3.838 seconds, 322.19 mph to defeat Schumacher’s 3.934 seconds at 310.70 mph. It was Langdon’s first final round appearance of the year. He also defeated Terry McMillen, Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta en route to the finals.
“We really did struggle at the beginning of the year,” Langdon said. “Everybody at Don Schumacher Racing came together and everybody there helped out; it’s a big team. I have to thank all the other crews and our Red Fuel crew. This is a big win for us and we are excited.”
Johnson Jr. also faced off against a DSR teammate in the Funny Car finals, taking on Matt Hagan. Johnson put up a 4.038 second, 317.57 pass to beat Hagan’s 4.030 seconds at 317.57 mph. He also beat Cruz Pedgregon, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria in earlier rounds.
“We’re just slow starters, but we’re strong finishers,” Johnson Jr. said. “The guys kept working hard and have kept their heads down. We got hot in Epping with a runner-up finish and we are on a roll now and we’re looking good.”
Pro Stock once again came down to KB Racing teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson, who entered the event tied at five apiece in the win column this year. Line broke the tie, putting down a 6.668-second, 207.59-mph run to beat Anderson’s 6.694 at 207.62, and scoring his sixth win of 2016.
Line ran a single in round one when his competitor Dave River’s car broke and he missed the call, had a bye in the second round due to a short field, and beat Drew Skillman in round three to advance to the finals. – Toni Montgomery