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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Pace Laps: Busy But Sad Week for Racing

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Joey Logano Finds Way Back to Victory Lane – It’s hard to believe that it took Joey Logano over one calendar year to earn another win … yet here we are.

Caught in the middle between the young guns and veterans categories used to label drivers, especially this season, Logano punched his ticket to the 2018 playoffs thanks to another win at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon. Leading most of the final stage and avoiding the two Big Ones, the driver of the No. 22 now has a big monkey off his back.

“After waiting a full year since our last win, it feels so good to get back in Victory Lane and get our (No.) 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford into the playoffs,” Logano said in Victory Lane. “It feels really good to get those playoff points and now we will make a run at a championship.”

His Team Penske teammates of Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney weren’t too shabby either. Keselowski won the first stage with Paul Menard, who might as well be considered a Penske teammate, won the second stage. You could say that the patented white shirts and black slacks dominated Talladega, even if the trio all got caught up in a late-race Big One that took them out of contention. – Davey Segal

XFINITY Series: Day of Firsts for Spencer Gallagher – 2017 was a year Spencer Gallagher has put in the rearview mirror, just like he did to the XFINITY competition over the final two laps in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega.

Gallagher started the race in a career-best of third but fell to 11th after the opening stage. In stage two, the No. 23 surged to the front, picking up eight stage points, by finishing third. Meanwhile, his pit crew struggled on the yellow flag pit stop following the second stage, dropping him well outside the top 10, where he would remain for much of the afternoon.

In a rather unusual Talladega race, pit strategy came into play and Justin Allgaier had built up a lead of nearly 25 seconds on the field. However, Daniel Hemric put the No. 7 team’s strategy to rest when he blew a right front tire with eight laps to go, though Allgaier and Austin Cindric remained on the track.

During the caution, Allgaier ran out of gas, while Cindric’s fuel cell tanked coming to get the green. Over the final laps, Gallagher went from fifth to first, to pick up his first career NASCAR victory, while also leading his first career lap of XFINITY competition.

Heading to Dover International Speedway, Elliott Sadler is the points leader with JR Motorsports teammates Tyler Reddick and Allgaier right behind. Christopher Bell and Cole Custer round out the top five. – Dustin Albino

Sports Cars: VIR Touring Car Classes Wrap-up – While the GT and GTS classes had four interesting races this past weekend at VIRginia International Raceway, they weren’t the only classes in town.  There were four more Pirelli World Challenge events on VIR’s challenging 3.27-mile road course.

In the TCR class, RealTime Racing’s Ryan Eversley led flag-to-flag from the pole to earn his first win in the new Honda Civic Type R TCR.  A second-place finish on Sunday gives him the TCR points lead heading to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.  Bryan Herta Autosport’s Hyundais were fast but fragile.  Mark Wilkins won Sunday’s Race No. 2 but broke in the closing laps of Race No. 1. Michael Lewis finished second on Saturday but broke a half shaft early on Sunday that put him out.

The TC class saw Johan Schwartz, Guinness World Record holder for the world’s longest drift in eight hours (232.5 miles, complete with mid-drift refueling), claim his first TC victory on Saturday.  Sunday saw Schwartz drop out after contact with Vesko Kozarov.  TechSport Racing’s Steve Streimer held off the Hyundai Genesis Coupe of Jeff Ricca to take his first career TC win.

Finally, TCA saw TOMO Racing’s Tom O’Gorman win on Saturday in his Honda Civic Si over Eric Powell and former K&N Pro Series East racer Bryan Ortiz.  On Sunday, Powell spent most of the race in a duel with Indian Summer Racing’s Travis Washay.  He held on to take the win in his Subaru BRZ tS and take the points lead. – Phil Allaway

ARCA: A Legend Passes Away – James Harvey Hylton, the ageless ARCA team owner, was killed along with his son early Saturday morning north of Atlanta, after the team hauler they were riding in crashed into an embankment on I-85. Hylton, the 1966 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, was 83. Presumably, the Hyltons and their driver were returning home from ARCA’s race in Talladega the day prior; the driver of the truck was seriously injured in the accident.

His untimely passing comes after a horrible showing for his stalwart No. 48 operation Friday afternoon in Talladega, where the team failed to start the General Tire 200 after completing a handful of pace laps.

It’s certainly not the finish Hylton deserved. Though Hylton’s team has been a backmarker for years, the No. 48 car has been an almost iconic presence on the ARCA tour, be it visiting Victory Lane in 2003 with Kirk Shelmerdine at Charlotte or painted in “Pop Kola” colors when Hylton completed his final full-time season as a driver in 2013.

For those that have spent time over the last decade following ARCA competition, Hylton has been a living piece of history, an old-school owner that was always seen in the garage turning wrenches on his race cars, whether he was driving or fielding cars for some of ARCA’s most notable journeymen, including Shelmerdine and most recently for Brad Smith, one of the hardest-working men the ARCA garage has seen. As a team owner, Hylton fielded over 1,000 entries between the Cup Series and the ARCA Series in his time as an owner. Racing owes him a tremendous gratitude for that alone.

As untimely a death as this is, it’s perhaps fitting that Hylton’s final race weekend came at Talladega. It was here on the high banks that he scored his last career win, in a Cup race in 1972. And it was here this weekend that the announcement came that NASCAR was acquiring the ARCA Racing Series. Instant reaction to that announcement was hesitant from many fans, as the ARCA Racing Series has long provided stock car racing that was special because it wasn’t NASCAR racing, avoiding many controversial changes such as stage racing, playoff chases and overly intrusive officiating with yellow flags.

Only history will tell whether Friday’s announcement proves a rejuvenation or a requiem for the ARCA Racing Series we know as love. What’s for certain is James Harvey Hylton won’t be there to take part in it. And whether one falls on the ARCA or NASCAR side of the garage, that’s nothing short of a tragedy.

Farewell and Godspeed Mr. Hylton. You will be missed. – Bryan Keith

NHRA: Long Time Coming – The NGK Spark Plug 4-Wide Nationals from zMAX Dragway in Charlotte turned out to be a much needed shot in the arm for a couple of teams. Cruz Pedregon broke a 92-race winless streak, taking home his first win since 2014 in the Funny Car class. In Pro Stock, Erica Enders-Stevens grabbed her first win of the season while in Pro Stock Motorcycle it was Jerry Savoie. Meanwhile, Top Fuel pilot Steve Torrence got his third win of the season.

Cruz Pedregon and his single-car operation took on the giants of the sport in Funny Car, facing off against John and Courtney Force, along with Don Schumacher Racing’s Tommy Johnson Jr. Pedregon scored the win with a run of 4.059 seconds at 310.84 mph, while John Force finished runner-up.

“I knew we had our work cut out for us when I pulled up to the starting line in the finals, and I actually didn’t believe my ears when my team manager told me that I won,” Pedregon said. “It was surreal, and I cannot believe that I won this race.”

Torrence took on Terry McMillen, Clay Millican and Doug Kalitta in his final round and came out on top with a lap of 3.813 seconds at 326.56 mph. Doug Kalitta came in as the runner-up. The win puts Torrence atop the Top Fuel points standings as well.

Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team have been working hard to get back to the winner’s stage after a couple of off-seasons, and they prevailed at the 4-Wides, facing off against top qualifier Drew Skillman, Chris McGaha, and Vincent Nobile in the final round. Enders-Stevens put down a time of 6.535 seconds, 212.73 mph. Vincent Nobile ran runner-up.

Jerry Savoie faced off against Andrew Hines, Scotty Pollacheck, and Matt Smith in the final quad for Pro Stock Motorcycle and earned the Wally with a 6.784 second, 195.73 mph run while Andrew Hines came up short and finished second. – Toni Montgomery

Formula One: Lewis Hamilton’s Win in Baku the Result of Everyone Else’s Misfortunes – Lewis Hamilton went into this weekend’s event in Baku hoping that he could have a good chance to defeat Sebastian Vettel and limit his lead in the world championship. The Briton changed his hairstyle and stood on the front row on race day; right next to the German.

What Hamilton would not know, is that familiar saying, “it is never over until it is over.”

Whether that thought was in his mind or not is unknown, but going into the halfway point of the race, second or third might have been reasonable. On lap 40 that all changed. Everything that would possibly happen, did.

The two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who had been at each other all race, collided when the Australian did not brake in time, striking Verstappen on the main straight and throwing debris all over the track, sending both cars into a runoff area with both front ends of their machines missing.

Technical Director Adrian Newey folded up his notebook, and Team Manager Christian Horner shook his head, knowing that the upcoming meeting would be devastating. The safety car came out for a few laps, but even before the race could resume, Haas driver Romain Grosjean swung his car into the barriers. This took more time, and before you knew it, Hamilton found himself in second.

The race resumed, and Vettel shot out in front, only to oversteer his car right off the track. Race leader Valtteri Bottas, led for one lap, before striking Red Bull debris, puncturing his right rear tire. Hamilton took the lead and held it for the rest of the race.

Hamilton afterward was not impressed, feeling that Bottas should have won, not him. But the crazy race on the streets of Baku was very lucky for Hamilton. Even more luck for the Briton; going into the next round in Spain, he leads Vettel by four points in the championship.

Now that is a great weekend. – Mark Gero

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4 comments

  1. Avatar

    He came from an era where guys beat the crap out of their car (Frasson), for missing in qualifying, when guys who were stars (Robbins) moonlighted in NASCAR, and when the most talented driver “only” won three championships. I sure miss those guys…

  2. Avatar

    I met James Hylton and Rex White at an event about 10 years ago. I loved hearing them talk racing and re-live stories from the 60’s. Definitely sad to lose this star from the golden era of NASCAR. And even at 83, it was still before his time to go. God Speed James.

  3. Avatar

    James Hylton was a true independent hero. He is one of the guys Richard Petty was beating when Petty was racking up many of his 200 wins on dirt tracks back in the Sixties. For James Hylton to finish second in the points during this period was a bigger accomplishment than Petty finishing first in superior equipment.

  4. Avatar

    I met Mr. Hylton several times over the years, when I’d attend ARCA races. I loved his passion for the sport. Sympathies to the family. Very sad.