Home / Beth Lunkenheimer / Pace Laps: Kasey Kahne’s Endless Pursuit of… What? & Exciting NASCAR Racing In Iowa
(Photo: Russell LaBounty/NKP)

Pace Laps: Kasey Kahne’s Endless Pursuit of… What? & Exciting NASCAR Racing In Iowa

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: The Latest Push To Fix Kasey Kahne

June’s off week came with a crew chief change in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Travis Mack was replaced as Kasey Kahne‘s head wrench after just 15 races as the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing team remains mired in midpack. Jon Leonard will replace Mack on an interim basis as the Hendrick Motorsports transplant never gelled with Kahne from the start. However, it was just Mack’s first full-time role on top of the pit box in the MENCS. The talented car chief will likely get another chance down the road.

I’m just not sure how many more chances Kahne’s gonna get. 2018 has been a rough road for him, replacing Michael McDowell after a disappointing six-year tenure at HMS. The 38-year-old has a lower average finish than McDowell in the ride (24.0 to 22.2) and sits mired a distant 28th in the standings. During a year where seemingly everyone with a full-time ride is in playoff contention, Kahne’s a whopping 130 points behind Alex Bowman for the final spot.

What the driver has done is bring more sponsorship to the ride; roughly half of the races have been backed by companies like Procore, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Thorne Camo. Money was indeed one of the reasons owner Bob Leavine chose to make the switch last summer.

“This deals partially with performance because obviously, Kasey is a playoff-caliber driver,” Leavine said in September 2017. “He has a wealth of information being with a larger organization like Hendrick Motorsports, and we think that will help us. [But] we also look at this as an opportunity for marketing to be able to sell sponsorship.”

What’s that old saying about money not always buying happiness? With McDowell also having an up-and-down season in his new ride at Front Row Motorsports it’s fair to question if this divorce should have never happened in the first place.

You also wonder what the future holds for Kahne. A full season of disappointing performances and… what next? Derrike Cope has shown us a former Cup winner with marketing savvy can stick around as long as one likes. But can Kahne, once a title contender truly be happy at this point running 25th every week? – Tom Bowles

XFINITY Series: Iowa Standalone Championship Preview?

Justin Allgaier wanted an Iowa breakthrough badly. His agricultural sponsor, Brandt, is located in nearby Illinois and developed a corn-themed paint scheme for this standalone event. A total of eight top-10 finishes in 12 career Iowa starts had yet to result in a victory despite several close calls. Just last summer, he led 106 laps before Ryan Preece turned the race into his coming-out party at NASCAR’s top levels.

So from the start, Allgaier was itching to get up front, getting aggressive in one of the best NASCAR XFINITY Series races we’ve seen this year. A daring three-wide move up the middle slid him past Austin Cindric, earning him a stage one victory. Once up front, the veteran was hard to beat, leading 182 of 250 laps to become the first two-time winner among XFINITY full-time drivers this year.

But the finish was closer than the stat sheet made it appear. Christopher Bell spent much of the final stage running side-by-side for the lead with Allgaier. A fantastic drive from the rear of the field saw Bell’s No. 20 Toyota in the top 10 by the end of stage one, top five by the end of stage two and the only car with speed to match the No. 7. Lap after lap, Bell would be stuck on the low line, Allgaier would go high and the duo would dice it up for the win.

Was their battle a sign of things to come? Those two may be fifth and sixth in the standings, victims of bad luck but they’re 1-2 in laps led among XFINITY full-time regulars. They’ve both won on tracks featured in the postseason (Dover, Richmond) and have Championship 4 experience (Bell is the reigning Truck Series champion). JR Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, their organizations have won the last two XFINITY titles.

Sure, Elliott Sadler has been consistent this year but he’s stumbled the past two weeks, hitting the outside wall early in Iowa and limping to 28th. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with NASCAR’s new playoff format, his consistency doesn’t get the job done anymore. Winning does. If anything, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer have outclassed the point leader Sadler as of late; they were both solid top-five runners at Iowa Sunday. Each of them hasn’t run outside the top five since Charlotte, in fact.

So we may not have seen the last of this Allgaier-Bell duo. In fact, Sunday’s battle may just be the beginning, one not fully settled until the final laps of the championship race this November down at Homestead-Miami Speedway. – Tom Bowles

KOELLE: FULL IOWA 250 RACE RECAP & RESULTS

BOWLES: LAPPED TRAFFIC TRICKY AT IOWA… BUT WELCOMED

KOELLE: ALLGAIER DOMINATES BUT HERBST, MAJESKI PROVE THEIR WORTH WITH SOLID RUNS

Camping World Truck Series: Ben Rhodes’ Tough 2018 Continues

The 2018 Camping World Truck Series season hasn’t exactly been kind to Ben Rhodes. In nine races, Rhodes has just six top 10s in equipment that could easily have been more competitive. He’s struggled with motor issues in a few races that have baffled the team, but that’s not the only problem.

Iowa Speedway was the latest example of a race that was downhill from the start. Rhodes found himself involved in two different incidents Saturday night (June 16). One of them did not bring out the caution, setting him even further back. In the end, he was left to settle for a disappointing 17th-place finish, four laps off the pace.

“We really struggled at Iowa Speedway from the time we unloaded, and I never felt like we really made any gains in practice,” Rhodes explained. “We qualified 11th, and we were back there in some iffy situations, around some crazy traffic. One thing led to another, and we got caught up in two wrecks. Unfortunately, that ended our night with a brand-new truck, and we had to putt around for the rest of the race.

“I think there were some big learning takeaways from this. You always learn every time you hit the racetrack, so we know how to better prepare going forward.”

The problem for Rhodes is that he currently sits in a precarious position in the standings. He holds a slim 13-point advantage over Justin Haley, who is in the eighth and final spot to set the playoff field. Another bad race, coupled with a win by a driver who has yet to visit Victory Lane this season, could put the No. 41 on the outside looking in on NASCAR’s postseason. – Beth Lunkenheimer

LUNKENHEIMER: MOFFITT MAKES BIG IOWA IMPRESSION

KOELLE: MOFFITT EARNS FIELD OF DREAMS VICTORY AT IOWA

NHRA: Good Day for DSR

Don Schumacher’s Nitro teams have not been in a lot of headlines this year. But the organization finally broke through for a Nitro category sweep at the Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals from Bristol.
In Top Fuel, it was the Sarge, Tony Schumacher, notching his first win of the year. Schumacher faced off against Mike Salinas and got the win with a 3.946-second, 313.58-mph effort to Salinas’ 5.251 seconds at 152.18 mph. Schumacher had to race his way past Terry McMillen, Pat Dakin, and Steve Torrence on his way to the finals.
“We have had little things bite us this season, but we knew we had to overcome adversity and we knew we had a great car that was capable of winning,” Schumacher said. “I’m proud of my team for sticking to our plan, and I know our team is going to be a factor for the rest of the season.”
Completing the DSR sweep in Nitro was Ron Capps in Funny Car, who also grabbed his first victory of the season. Capps faced off against Bob Tasca III and put down a run at 4.234 seconds at 296.37 mph to defeat Tasca, who ran 4.300 seconds at 286.98 mph. Capps defeated John Force, Robert Hight and J.R. Todd in earlier rounds.
Bristol had a very veteran sort of look on the winner’s stage, completed by Jeg Coughlin Jr., winner in the Pro Stock category. Coughlin took on another veteran, Greg Anderson, in the finals and made a pass of 6.709 seconds, 205.10 mph to best Anderson’s 6.741 seconds at 205.07 mph.
“My team has made some transitions this season and now we are running much faster. It feels pretty great to be on the right track now this season,” Coughlin said. “Winning at Thunder Valley is historic and it feels fantastic, so to be crowned a champion here is really special.”
Coughlin had a bye in the first round after Tommy Lee crashed in qualifying and failed to make the call on Sunday. He then got by Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman on his way to the matchup with Anderson. – Toni Montgomery

ARCA Racing Series: Chandler Smith Scores 1st Career Victory

Venturini Motorsports’ No. 15 called it a “serious ass-whuppin” when the checkered flag flew Friday night at Madison International Speedway, and that’s exactly what it was.

After winning his fourth ARCA Racing Series pole in as many starts, besting the field by three-tenths of a second, 15-year-old Chandler Smith finally scored his first career win. Smith led the last 74 laps and won by more than a full straightaway over second-place finisher Zane Smith. Points leader Sheldon Creed, Chase Purdy and Gus Dean rounded out the top-five finishers. Toni Breidinger, the all-time winningest female driver in USAC racing history, finished two laps down in 10th in her ARCA debut.

Smith’s win came over a field of 19 cars, the smallest field to start an ARCA Racing Series event since 1996. Despite the low car count, lapped traffic proved treacherous throughout the evening, as the narrow groove at Madison failed to expand over the course of 200 laps.

One storyline that didn’t pan out was the potential for tire issues. Numerous drivers including Riley Herbst and Bret Holmes had fiery brake rotors for the entire second half of the race, though no General Tire failures were experienced due to melted beads.

Due to a hard-fought third-place finish, Creed maintains a 55-point lead atop the standings over MDM Motorsports teammate Smith. ARCA now heads to St. Louis this Friday night for 150 miles at Gateway Motorsports Park. – Bryan Davis Keith

KEITH: FULL ARCA POST-RACE ANALYSIS & RACE RESULTS

Sports Cars: WEC Reveals Second Take on Proposed 2020 Top Class Regulations

While the focus in Le Mans last weekend was on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there was some big news to announce.  Friday, the ACO revealed a new set of proposed regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top class.

Replacing the current LMP1 class will be an unnamed class (at present) that is designed to be sleeker, maintain present levels of performance and significantly cut costs.  Specifically, the budgets would be cut by 75 percent from current hybrid budgets.  In addition, the new class would be designed to look something like the newest hypercars available for the street.

The new top class will still be a hybrid class, but with a fixed configuration.  There will be a KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) on the front wheels in addition to regular rear-wheel drive to produce an effective four-wheel drive system.  The systems developed in WEC will also have to be made available for street cars, but street-going versions of the cars themselves will not have to be sold like with GT1 cars in the 1990s.

Despite the lack of a public sale requirement, Toyota already appears to be going forward with such a car for the street.  On Friday, Toyota unveiled the GR Super Sport Concept.  This car will have a 1,000 horsepower engine and hybrid system directly out of the Toyota TS050 and pretty much fits the general idea behind the new rules.  Toyota has not indicated whether or not this vehicle would be the basis for their new challenger in 2020, but it is telling.

Will these rules come to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship?  That is currently unclear.  While the regulations are cheaper than the present and way cheaper than what was originally proposed last year, it still appears to be significantly more expensive than the current DPi formula. – Phil Allaway

ALLAWAY: TOYOTA DOMINATION AT 24  HOURS OF LE MANS

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6 comments

  1. I’m tired of hearing about everything being Kasey’s fault. He won 6 times at Hendrick. He made the playoffs 4 times, almost 5 in 2016. Hendrick wasted Kahne’s career, not vice versa. He took Francis from Kahne and put a guy who knew nothing about being a crew chief, plus Hendrick only payed attention to the 48 and 24, now 9. Kasey won the last HMS win. He should of won more in 2013, had it not been for JGR drivers wrecking him. He’s one of the most underrated drivers in NASCAR and probably one of the most criticized. Look at Truex and Bowyer. Both had 6 year winless droughts, now look at them. Everyone has a rough patch at points. What needs to stop is this constant criticizing of drivers. I give this article 2 thumbs down.

  2. JERRY F. MALLARD

    MoparJeff hit the larger problem … Camaro not performing acrosss the board. How many races with any Chevy in Top 8 or 9.

    Tell Kasey’s good as well … last HMS to win in last year’s Indy; won 6 races in a year when he had the equipment; how many Cup drivers have won 5 races at CLT or 18 races???

  3. Kahne had top rank equipment at Hendrick and failed to perform. His head hasn’t been in this for a long time, he’s just going through the motions because it’s expected of him. He’d be better off to step away and run his dirt track junk, he’s just embarrassing himself further now.

  4. Money buys talent, whether it be in the crew or the driver. If you dont have it then you get less talent.

  5. Re: Kahne and the 95. Have ANY Chevy teams shown improved numbers this year compared to last year? I don’t know, but I would be interested to find out. You say all the full time teams are in playoff contention? Hendrick is celebrating when they are contending for a top 10 these days. Byron is 20th in points. RCR only has one car in the top 20 in driver standings. Ryan Newman is 22nd in points. Jamie McMurray is 19th in points. And did you really compare Kahne to Cope? Wow. This is an especially weird take on the situation considering the career path and stats of Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex the last 6 years or so.

    • You are so right about the Chevy teams. It’s unfair to make comparisons to last year when it’s a totally different car. Kahne did not get the best equipment or a competent crew chief at HMS. At least with LFR, they are doing something about the crew chief situation and trying someone else to see if that is the problem.