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Toni Montgomery

Toni Montgomery
A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

IndyCar Breakdown: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

In A Nutshell: It is fitting perhaps that the Verizon car with Will Power at the wheel won the season opener in St. Petersburg, the first race of Verizon’s shiny new IndyCar Series sponsorship. Power did it in dominating fashion, too, taking the lead from Takuma Sato on lap 31, …

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IndyCar In-Depth: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300

*What’s News?* Longtime series participants Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have announced the No. 22 car driven by Oriol Servia will continue to run through the Indianapolis 500; then, the team will be shutting down with hopes of regrouping for a return in 2014. Servia finished sixth in Long Beach and will be running in Sao Paulo this weekend; however, his plans beyond this month are unknown. DRR formed a strategic alliance with Panther Racing prior to the Indy 500 last season and notes that Panther’s operations will be unaffected by this decision.

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Open Wheel Wednesday: Score One For The Little Guys … Or Two Or Three

Takuma Sato's win last week in Long Beach was a real feel good story for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. A.J. Foyt's long-struggling team hadn't won a race since July of 2002, when the team went to Victory Lane with Brazilian driver Airton Dare at Kansas Speedway. For the last road / street course victory for the operation, you have to go all the way back to October of 1978, when Foyt himself won at Silverstone in England. It was also the first IndyCar Series win ever for a Japanese driver. Before I go any further, those are all wonderful things and I don't mean to decrease the significance of any of them in the least. It really was a win that was a long time coming, for both team and driver and it was great to see. (Although I really wish A.J. had been present for the moment; instead, he was at home preparing for back surgery.) It was a David slew Goliath kind of day.

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The Offseason Might Never Be The Same

The offseason. That time when we at first breathe a collective sigh of relief and take a break from devoting our Saturdays or Sundays to races. We all plan things around races on occasion, don’t we? Especially on a certain Sunday in May. No, the winter months are for getting away from that and spending time with our families and friends, especially those poor souls who don’t get the attraction of fast cars and non-stop action. At least the early part of the offseason is like that; toward the end we all get a little bit antsy–just a little anxious. For pity’s sake, can’t we start racing yet? NASCAR types don’t have to endure quite the wait the IndyCar crowd does. They race until mid-November and they are back on track in earnest by February. Well, we last saw cars turn laps in anger in September and we won’t see it again for another three weeks. That’s the end of March, for crying out loud! I’m going to forget what the drivers look like by then! <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14308.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Who wouldn't want to see this guy (Will Power) chair racing to help waste away the INDYCAR offseason? Photo courtesy INDYCAR LAT USA.</p></div> Ah, but INDYCAR had your back on that front this year. No, there isn’t any racing, but thanks to _The Offseason_, there was a chance to enjoy some of our favorite drivers this year. For those who have not been following, INDYCAR has been running a series of short videos called _The Offseason_ featuring Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden that depicts the quartet of bored drivers running amok around INDYCAR headquarters. Sure, it’s fluff, but it’s just the right amount of fluff to give us a “fix” when we don’t have racing to enjoy. It’s also a great move on the part of INDYCAR. The clips range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes long. They probably filmed these in a day or two, but they’ve gotten several months of fresh content to keep their drivers in front of fans. They dole them out one by one each week, right in that period of winter doldrums when fans start itching for the season to start. I’d call that a great return on a minimum investment. They are \"posted on YouTube\":http://www.youtube.com/user/indycars so fans can find any clips they missed simply by searching \"The Offseason IndyCar\" and can enjoy their favorites as many times as they want. And I don’t know about anyone else – maybe I’m just some sort of geek – but I’ve lately found myself eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the newest clip every week. A minimum of effort was needed to keep fans engaged and showcase driver personalities, but it gave them something to follow all winter. Why doesn’t NASCAR do something like this concept? Maybe they just haven’t thought of it. Maybe they don’t think the offseason is long enough to need something fluffy to engage fans, especially since they are back on TV by mid-January with preseason testing. I can think of one other reason but I don’t think putting it out there is going to make me very popular in stock car circles. NASCAR fans would hate it. They don’t want fluff. They don’t want drivers doing silly skits or engaging in staged antics. They make that clear every time one of the networks airs something of this variety. It’s undignified. NASCAR drivers are not clowns, they are here for business and we don’t want silly stuff going on instead. To put it bluntly, they can be sticks in the mud and sometimes take this whole racing thing too seriously. Whatever. Do I really think Will Power \"chair races in the halls\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_KIVEdU2HU of INDYCAR headquarters? OK, scratch that one. That might be a bad example because he might do that if given a chance. Do I really think Will Power \"listens to Justin Bieber on his computer\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8olE3ERiHg in his cubicle at headquarters? Good Lord, I hope not. My point is, I realize these guys are just goofing around and I don’t think they really spend the winter months running around the office doing silly things while wearing their driver suits. I realize someone put these skits together solely for publicity purposes. I also think it was a great idea because when I can’t watch real racing and be serious, it’s just fun to cut up and watch them act silly when there’s nothing better to do. And it gets fans to engage and look for content when they might not normally even be thinking about INDYCAR. Additionally, serious news is also beginning to flow again. The league has announced a few rule changes for this year aimed at allowing team strategies to become a bigger part of the game. Teams will be able to start the race with any amount of fuel in the tank they choose instead of being required to have it full. Distances in a handful of races have also been changed, and it's all in an effort to allow for more varied fuel strategy and take mileage races out of the equation. Teams will also have more tire strategy at their disposal. Previously, only one set of new tires was allowed during each of the three segments of road/street course qualifying, but now teams will be limited only by their allotment of tires. That means they can decide if they want to use fresh rubber to get a better starting spot, or choose to save it for the race. They will still be required to use both the primary and the alternate tires for at least two laps during each road/street course. For the double-headers, one set of each must be used during each of the two races. Teams have been testing, although \"Hildebrand’s pink Caddy\":http://www.frontstretch.com/tbowles/42488/ provided some light moments there. Driver and car combos have been coming together, some of them harmoniously, some of them dubiously, and some of them contentious on at least some fronts. Katherine Legge isn’t done having her say about Dragon Racing releasing her in favor of Sebastian Saavedra and keeping her sponsor True Car. Either way, the long offseason is almost over with one perk, perhaps; the offseason next year won't be quite as long because we'll be racing until October this year. In the meantime, thanks INDYCAR for coming up with an idea to keep some of our favorite drivers in front of us until the real action begins. I think fluff is fun. Racing is supposed to be a sport. It's supposed to be fun and I think sometimes fans and participants forget that. _The Offseason_ was a good reminder. And if we're honest, who doesn't want to have chair races in the hallway? *Connect with Toni!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/ToniLMontgomery\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Toni Montgomery\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14351/

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Frontstretch Breakdown: 2008 Indianapolis 500

*In A Nutshell:* Scott Dixon took the pole for this race, his latest assertion that he is the driver to beat this year; and heading into the Indy 500, he gave no one any reason to think differently. Several drivers took turns at the front of the biggest event in open-wheel racing -- including teammate Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, and Marco Andretti -- but Dixon always lurked right behind them. His No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew did their job and put him out in front on the final stop of the day; and while second place Vitor Meira tried to mount a challenge, ultimately the speed Dixon showed all month carried him to the win. Meira held onto second, followed by Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, and Ed Carpenter to round out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won: Scott Dixon.* Did you get the sense that this was Dixon’s game and he just let the others play for awhile?

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Busch Series Breakdown: 2007 Telcel-Motorola 200

*In A Nutshell:* It was Juan Pablo, Juan Pablo, Juan Pablo...all the time South of The Border. Montoya may have felt the pressure to live up to the hype this weekend, as his face graced posters all over Mexico City to promote the race...in the end, he certainly pulled through. Things didn't start off well, though, as Montoya locked up the brakes in qualifying and cost himself just enough precious time to lose the pole position he was favored to capture. No matter...come Sunday, he asserted himself in the race and stationed his No. 42 Dodge up front early and often. Everything seemed to be going according to plan for the team after that, until a fuel malfunction on a lap 45 pit stop left Montoya short on gas and facing another stop. Forced to pit again, the Colombian found himself 19th with the laps winding down, but a series of textbook perfect passes found him marching to the front. All signs pointed to an easy win as Montoya closed in on Scott Pruett to regain the lead...but then, he committed a cardinal sin.

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Frontstretch Breakdown: 2007 Stater Bros. 300 at Fontana

*In A Nutshell:* When it comes to the Busch Series, California Speedway could just as well be known as the House of Roush. Matt Kenseth gave Roush his sixth victory in the last seven Busch Series races at California when he drove off to a five car length win over Casey Mears in the Stater Bros. 300.

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Frontstretch Breakdown: 2007 Orbitz 300 at Daytona

*In A Nutshell:* Was there even an offseason? You'd never know it to look at Kevin Harvick, who demonstrated once again why he is the reigning Busch Series champ. The rest of the series should probably give a sigh of relief that Harvick is not running full time this year as he made it look easy in Daytona. Most times the lead is a bad place to be toward the end of a race at Daytona with a huge pack of cars breathing down your neck. Most times the guy leading at the white flag gets inhaled on the last lap when he's the only one not getting help from friends behind him. Not so for Harvick.

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Best of Toni Heffelfinger: Toyota Teams Really Hitting Their Stride In NASCAR

Toyota is in their fourth season in the Craftsman Truck Series, and it appears they are just hitting their stride. From day one, they have been treated with suspicion by many fans who feared they'd come in with boatloads of money and take over the series in their first season. Of course, it didn't exactly happen that way. It may have taken Toyota four years, but it doesn't matter to those same fans, who are still right there saying, "See? We told you so." That bothers me.

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Best of Toni Heffelfinger: Jason Keller’s Future Looks Bleak, And So Does Support For Busch Series Rookies

I gave the Buschwhackers a rest the last time I took my turn for Second Fiddle, but it looks like I need to revisit the subject again. This time around, though, I have a few other observations on things going on in the Busch Series, specifically concerning Jason Keller, Busch Series veterans, Busch Series rookies, and the fans.

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