Sprint Cup: The Day the Chasers Fell – Though that may sound a bit severe, Sunday’s Bank of America 500 from Charlotte Motor Speedway did seem repetitious with Chaser after Chaser falling out of contention.
Starting early with Kevin Harvick, who suffered a mechanical issue on Lap 155, five Chasers found significant issues throughout the 334-lap race. Joey Logano had two right-front tires go flat, with the second bringing the No. 22 Team Penske Ford to the garage while Denny Hamlin blew a motor with 25 laps to go and Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon were swallowed up in a multi-car crash with 74 laps remaining.
To compound their problems, Chasers Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth came home 1-2, cushioning their gap over the cutoff spot of ninth.
So, in a round that features Talladega Superspeedway, was Charlotte the wild-card race after all or have we just witnessed the beginning of a nutty round?
Carl Edwards got away pretty well on Sunday, finishing 12th. However, he said the craziness has only begun to decide the Round of 8 in just two weeks. The feeling must run true throughout the garage, as Charlotte gave birth to a heap of desperation and anxiety for the 12 Chase drivers come Kansas next week. – Zach Catanzareti
XFINITY Series: One point makes the difference for Bubba Wallace – Darrell Wallace, Jr. was having a rough night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Damage from an early incident put the No. 6 car multiple laps down. As Wallace struggled to run fast laps, it looked like his championship hopes were over.
However, Wallace was able to pick up several spots in the closing laps. That late charge saved Wallace’s Chase. In fact, he avoided elimination by finishing with one point more than Ty Dillon in the Round of 12. Wallace will advance to the next round of the Chase. Dillon will not.
Dillon’s points deficit from a crash at Kentucky Speedway proved too big to overcome. The No. 3 team has performed well since Kentucky, but now Brendan Gaughan will be the only Richard Childress Racing driver competing for the title. On the other hand, both Wallace and teammate Ryan Reed will represents Roush Fenway racing in the inaugural XFINITY Chase Round of 8. – Bryan Gable
Sports Cars: Champions Crowned in Salinas – This past weekend, Pirelli World Challenge settled their 2016 championship chases at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The most interesting news of the weekend came Sunday morning when Pirelli World Challenge officials admitted that they screwed up the GT points. Back in May, Andrew Palmer turned in the fastest lap in Race No. 1 at Lime Rock, which technically gave him the pole for Race No. 2. Unfortunately, Palmer was injured in a horrible crash in the morning warm-up and was unable to take part in Race No. 2. Alvaro Parente moved up to the pole and then won the race. Officials originally gave Parente the full 117 points for winning from pole. He shouldn’t have gotten the maximum points. So, just a few hours before the final race of the season, officials stripped Parente of seven points and gave those points to Palmer.
The point shift resulted in a near dead heat between Parente and Wright Motorsports‘ Patrick Long. In the final 50-minute race, the two fought hard for the title. It appeared that the race would end under yellow after Drew Regitz crashed his Audi, but the green flew for a one-lap shootout. On the final lap, Long tried to pass Johnny O’Connell for the win, only to have contact that put Long’s No. 58 Porsche in the dirt. That allowed Parente to pass and win the title. O’Connell was originally flagged as the winner, but he was penalized 2.1 seconds for the contact with Long. That gave the win to Parente and dropped O’Connell to fifth. Martin Fuentes had already clinched the GTA title in Sonoma. In GT Cup, Alec Udell also clinched in Sonoma and stepped out of the car in order to focus on Sprint-X.
GTS saw Brett Sandberg clinch the championship in his No. 13 KTM X-Bow GT4 on Saturday when Lawson Aschenbach‘s car suddenly slowed coming to the finish of Race No. 1. The Touring Car ranks saw Toby Grahovec clinch the Touring Car championship, but only just barely after Patrick Gallagher (who missed Lime Rock and was thus eligible for double points since the Touring Car classes were added to the weekend last minute) won both races from pole. Touring Car A saw Elivan Goulart claim the title provisionally with a pair of second-place finishes while Tom O’Gorman won the TCB title in a Honda Fit that also won a SCCA National Championship at the recent Runoffs.
Sprint-X saw Mills Racing win all the titles in GT. Kuno Wittmer won the Pro Drivers’ Championship despite missing this past weekend due to competing in the VLN race at the Nordschleife, the infamous original version of the Nürburgring in Germany (Wittmer plans to compete in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring in 2017). Michael Mills won the Sport championship and won Race No. 2 with BMW factory racer John Edwards on Sunday after Black Swan Racing was penalized due to violating the minimum pit time rule. In GTS, TRG teammate Kris Wilson and Max Riddle won both of the drivers’ titles on the strength of a pair of second-place finishes. – Phil Allaway