NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Hot Streaks, First-Time Winners and Unfinished Business

Sprint Cup: A Streak Ends on 22 for Kurt Busch: It was Sunday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway where a NASCAR record came to an end.

That record, being owned by Kurt Busch, was the run of lead-lap finishes to start a Sprint Cup Series season. Coming into Bristol, Busch had completed every lap of the 22 races of 2016, surpassing Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s previous mark of 20 from 2012.

Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart Share Frontstretch Celebration at Bristol

The streak has come to a halt at 22 straight races, as a Lap 309 crash with Brad Keselowski turned Busch into the third turn and out of the race. The No. 41 car will benefit from a win at Pocono, and a comfortable points position, to stay safe for a Chase spot come Richmond in three weeks.

Kevin Harvick Reigns Supreme in Rain-Postponed Bristol Night Race

Though the record is over for at least another year, it’s safe to say a streak involving Talladega, Daytona, Martinsville and 19 other races will stand for years to come. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Will Ganassi’s Hot Streak Carry Over to Poole? – Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 XFINITY Series team is on a roll.  Thanks to the combined efforts of Kyle Larson and Justin Marks, the No. 42 car has posted four top-5 finishes in the last five races.  That includes the two most recent events, which resulted in Marks winning at Mid-Ohio and a strong third place effort from Larson at Bristol.

However, the No. 42 team’s hot streak will do little for Ganassi’s championship hopes unless the momentum carries over to Brennan Poole and the No. 48 team.  Poole was an innocent victim in the crash triggered by Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez on Friday night, but it led to a 28th place finish for Poole, his worst result of the season.

The good news for Poole is that he is still 159 points above the Chase cutoff.  His place in the postseason has been locked up for all practical purposes for weeks.  A bad finish at Bristol, or in any of the next four races, does not hurt Poole very much.
However, the jury is still out on whether or not Poole will be a serious championship contender.  If the No. 48 team gets hot in the Chase, Poole will have a shot.  Yet right now, Ganassi remains an overall step or more behind Joe Gibbs Racing.  As a case in point, Poole only has two top fives this season.  Picking up a little momentum from the No. 42 team could go a long way towards improving Poole’s championship hopes. – Bryan Gable
NHRA: Finishing Unfinished Business: Extra Wally trophies were handed out in Brainerd at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals as the two Nitro class finals that were rained out in Seattle two weeks ago were completed during qualifying rounds. Ron Capps defeated Del Worsham for the Funny Car win while Antron Brown bested Steve Torrence. With two wins up for grabs, though, Brown tried to double up and score them both.

He faced off in the Top Fuel final with Brittany Force, but Force broke her winless streak against Brown in final rounds and beat him with a 4.169 second, 180.21 mph effort to his 6.566 second, 103.47 mph tire-spinning run. This marks Force’s third win of the year and of her career. She also defeated Terry Haddock, Doug Kalitta, and Shawn Langdon before facing off against Brown in the final.

“It’s just awesome to be able to win here. I felt good coming in here this weekend just because we had some success (runner-up finish) last year. We had been struggling a little bit and to come out here and get the win is exactly where we want to be going to the Countdown and the biggest race of our season in Indy (the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals), so we’re exactly where we want to be,” said Force. The winning pass was not without some excitement though, as the car blew up before it reached the finish line.

“It was definitely a crazy one. If we’re going to blow everything up, at least turn on a win light and we did that. I didn’t see Antron (Brown) next to me. I had no clue where he was, what he was doing. But I just had to keep my foot into it and I just felt it blow up and felt the tug and as long as I could hang on until I got to that 1,000-foot stripe and get the win light, and it did. I jumped out of the car and saw that it was on fire, but we’re in the winner’s circle,” added Force.

Worsham came up short on the Seattle win but did not walk away from Brainerd empty-handed as he scored the Funny Car win with a 3.908 second, 327.27 mph run to best Matt Hagan who smoked the tires and had to get out of it. This is the defending Funny Car world champion’s first win of 2016. Worsham got by Bob Bode, Tim Wilkerson, and Courtney Force to advance to the finals.

Things have evened out a bit in the Pro Stock category after the total domination of the KB Racing team throughout the year so far. While local favorite and Minnesota native Jason Line did make it to the final, it was his opponent Drew Skillman who earned his first win of the year with a 6.648 second run at 208.97 mph to Line’s 6.681 second, 206.64 try.

Skillman also beat Dave River, Bo Butner, and Vincent Nobile before taking on Line.

Pro Stock Motorcycle was back in action this week and Andrew Hines gave it everything he had, posting a perfect .000 reaction time. He needed that perfect start to make his 6.866 seconds at 194.94 good enough to beat Jerry Savoie’s 6.863 seconds at 194.88 on a holeshot. It’s the fourth win of 2016 for Hines. He also beat Steve Johnson, Cory Reed, and Hector Arana in earlier rounds. Toni Montgomery

Camping World Truck Series: Ben Kennedy Mixes up Chase Grid with Shocking Win – Ben Kennedy started out 2016 unsure of his plans. All he knew was he would return to Red Horse Racing for the first three races of the season.

Evidently, the member of NASCAR’s royal family signed a deal to compete with GMS Racing, one of the sport’s newer, larger teams. With no expectations entering his deal, he has steadily put up respectable results, splitting time between the Nos. 24 and 33 trucks.

Come Bristol, Kennedy was having another solid run, but he capitalized on clean air late in the race. With the victory, he is now in the Chase with several other young talents, including Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Cameron Hayley and Ben Rhodes are now on the outside looking in.
Picking up his first career win just over two months after making his XFINITY Series debut at Iowa Speedway for Richard Childress Racing, he will certainly slap this triumph at the top of his resume as he looks to secure his future. – Joseph Wolkin

Sports Cars: Is Everyone Really OK with IMSA Balance of Performance? – Balance of Performance has been a big issue in IMSA ever since the merger between Grand-AM and ALMS was completed at the beginning of 2014. At first, the main issue was the rules package so that P2 cars and Daytona Prototypes could race together. Ultimately, the elimination of open-top P2’s such as the ORECA 03R helped slightly, but car count has fluctuated a fair amount.

Now, the main battleground for BoP appears to be the GT Daytona class, a class where GT3 cars race against each other. Last week saw two separate Porsche teams pull out of this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway, citing the current balance rules. Alex Job Racing and Park Place Motorsports believe that the rules have rendered the Porsche 911 GT3-R uncompetitive and that they have to get lucky to run well. Park Place Motorsports was even in with the IMSA officials to discuss the BoP process and openly voiced their concerns multiple times, yet no changes were made to benefit the Porsche.

This is a problem that IMSA needs to address in some way or form. Why? As you can see above, if teams believe that they cannot be competitive no matter what, they’re not going to bother. GT Daytona teams could easily defect to Pirelli World Challenge’s GT class, which runs near-identical equipment. Its a similar issue in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s Street Tuner class, where the rules are such that certain cars are competitive at certain tracks. For instance, Lime Rock Park is paradise for the Mazda MX-5. The first non-Mazda in ST at Lime Rock (the No. 17 Porsche Cayman for Rennsport One) was a lap and a quarter behind the winners. On the other hand, MX-5’s are woefully uncompetitive at tracks like Daytona. They have to tandem draft in order to do much of anything there.

The balance issues have sadly led to a lack of diversity in car models in the CTSC. Six years ago, car count was much higher and the season opening race had 22 models duking it out between the two classes. Now, car count is down significantly (especially in Grand Sport) and Street Tuner has a couple of models that dominate car count (the MX-5 and Cayman comprised 15 of the 27 cars last time out at Road America). Next year with full GT4 rules being introduced in Grand Sport will likely see more of the same. As a race fan, it is frustrating to watch at times. It appears that IMSA may be guarding against sandbagging by not making constant changes, but they do need to listen to their teams. – Phil Allaway

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