This MNR Review is presented by Monday Night Racing.
The second race of the Interstate Batteries Monday Night Racing Pro Series season was held on Monday, Nov. 14, and Chase Cabre claimed his first series victory at Twin Ring Motegi in an ARCA Menards Series car.
Pit strategy was the name of the game Monday evening, as early cautions allowed several drivers to switch up their plans. However, no matter what anyone tried, Cabre still had the best car all race. Let’s run through these strategies and more key notes from the Tufco 250k.
1. Chase Cabre’s Labor Pays Off
Cabre was the class of the field all night long, darting out ahead of polesitter James Bickford in the first segment and holding it until green flag pit stops later in the race. Collin Fern, who tried to stay in front while saving fuel, ended up losing the lead to Leighton Sibille with about 10 laps to go. Cabre then got by Fern and inherited the lead when Sibille pitted with six laps left.
25-year-old Cabre will race in the playoffs in January thanks to this win in only his second career start. It’s quite an accomplishment for the rookie, who didn’t realize he was running at Motegi until later in the week, he told the broadcast and our Frontstretch reporters post-race.
He also shared some insight on how he was able to maintain a strong lead for much of the event. Part of it was because he shifted in turns 3 and 4, whereas other drivers didn’t shift. Cabre added that David Schildhouse offered some tips on adjusting his brake bias, which he thinks helped out in this race.
Cabre’s past iRacing experience should help him when he enters the playoffs on Jan. 9 at Richmond Raceway. Based on his speed these first two events, I expect him to go far, perhaps even to the Championship 4.
2. No Shifting, No Passing?
Cabre’s shifting during the race helped him maintain a good speed and get out into the lead, while others noted it was very hard to pass on this track. Was it really because they weren’t shifting in turns 3 and 4?
It could be part of it. However, Twin Ring Motegi is a flat racetrack, and the cars used there were the older ARCA cars, with less power than some other vehicles. So drivers couldn’t get much of a run coming off of a turn, leading to less passing.
This is why many racers in the back half of the field opted to go on different pit strategies than the leaders — to give themselves a chance to earn a better finish. The early cautions allowed some to pit for either fuel only or fuel and tires. Then about midway through the race, under the final caution of the night, some drivers topped off on fuel and a few even took tires while most of the field stayed out. Those that pitted under the final yellow then began their fuel-saving mode, eventually getting to the front when the leaders made their green-flag pit stops.
Though there were a lot of crashes, the varying pit strategies made for a classic race, similar to some past Coca-Cola 600s. But in this case, the best car won anyway. Still, those who stretched their fuel and made it seemed to net about five-10 positions.
3. Where’s the Beef? It’s Right Here.
Speaking of pit strategies, Fern nearly had this race in the bag thanks to his off-sequence stops. He was in front late, but had to save a lot of fuel in order to even finish the race. This, combined with Cabre’s stronger car passing him with about five or six to go, resulted in a fourth-place finish for Fern, who began in 11th.
Fern’s top-five finish did not come without any battles though. He and defending MNR champion Presley Sorah had a bit of a disagreement with how Fern was raced in the closing laps.
Sorah explained that his rivalry with Fern began last week at Talladega Superspeedway while on pit lane. Sorah needed to go to his box, but there were some cars on the inside lane, so he slowed down to let them go by. The sudden slowing down caused Fern to run into the back of him.
“He seemed a little bit more defensive with me than he was the guys around me, just because he was still mad over seven days ago that ultimately cost him nothing, and he wanted to make that clear,” Sorah told Frontstretch. “I cleared him a couple of times just fine. Then we got to the end where it went green, and he was on this strategy call and he was running long. So once we got to him, it was me and Corey [Heim]. He blocked Corey once or twice, kind of desperate blocks, but then he finally pretty much just let him go.
“Then he just parked it in front of me, I mean like stopped in turn 1 and 2. … On the white flag, he did it again, and I cut down below him off of [turn] 2, and I had maybe just a little bit under him, just an inch or two, and he was just blocking me. He probably blocked me three separate times on the backstretch on the white-flag lap.”
Sorah got under Fern entering turn 3, and their two cars collided shortly after. That’s where the two drivers have differing opinions of what happened. Sorah believes Fern gave him no room, so he was destined to slide up the track. Fern believes Sorah needed to slow down more to make the corner. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless, Fern was adamant after the race that he will divebomb Sorah every chance he gets going forward.
You pinched my entry after desperately blocking me like 3 times down the back 🤷♂️
— Presley Sorah (@PresleyRacing) November 15, 2022
It will be interesting to see how long this rivalry continues, and how far Fern or Sorah will go to pay back their competitor. Will they just race each other harder, blocking and fighting for positions? Or will it go further? They do need to be cautious, as drivers are only allowed eight incident points this season. After all, 2000 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Jeff Green was parked for causing two incidents Monday night.
4. Sorah’s Strong Runs Continue
Fern and Sorah both earned top fives, with the latter scoring his second-straight. It’s a good start for the defending champ, who appears to be riding the wave of momentum carried over from season five.
It’s a testament to how strong Sorah is, with both races run at very different racetracks (a superspeedway and a flat egg-shaped oval) and in two different vehicles (Cars of Tomorrow vs. ARCA cars). Though a win would lock him into the playoffs, he could still get in on points, providing that he keeps earning good results.
Next week, the series heads to the Daytona International Speedway road course in the Mazda MX-5 cars, a track where many drivers have more experience at. Will Sorah’s consistency remain?
5. Does the ‘No Caution for Single-Car Incidents’ Rule Need Adjusting?
This is not a harp or criticism of the series moderators, but rather a suggestion based off of an observation. I noticed a couple of incidents, one in particular, where a car got turned either off of another car’s nose or just from getting loose while racing in the field. The rule is that there are no cautions thrown for only one car being involved in an incident.
However, later in the race, Talladega Superspeedway winner Garrett Smithley spun off the nose of someone else and hit the wall. His car was damaged, and he slowed down in the middle of the racing line. As MNR season three champion Robby Lyons came off of the turn and onto the straightaway, his right rear tagged Smithley, causing Lyons to also incur damage. Lyons ended up two laps down in 40th, while Smithley bounced back to earn a 22nd place.
On one hand, I understood why there was no caution for this and was thankful that the race finished out under green-flag conditions. On the other hand, this was a multi-car incident in my point of view. Including the initial driver that tagged Smithley from behind, there were three cars involved. Plus, Smithley was not up to speed in the middle of the track. Yes, the track is wide, but where the crash occurred appeared to be just off of a turn, when drivers are pretty much committed to the line they are in.
In future races or seasons, a rule change should be considered at certain racetracks like Twin Ring Motegi to warn other drivers of a slower car in front of them. Perhaps a local yellow? Or just send out a warning, so those without a spotter can help them see the trouble ahead. Just something to think about. I mean after all, in real-life NASCAR races, officials will often wave the yellow flag for a single-car incident, depending on where the car is on the track.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.