Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Auto Club 400 at Fontana

This is a tough call this week. Although it was easy to focus on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s third-place run that propelled him to third in driver points, Earnhardt wasn’t the only choice and, in the end, wasn’t even the best choice. Although his finish was six spots below Earnhardt’s, Kurt Busch did it a car that never finished better than 12th all year in 2011.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Royal Purple 300

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and it finally did Saturday. The Nationwide Series regulars’ streak of wins to start 2012 ended at four in southern California, with polesitter Joey Logano pulling away from the field after a late restart to score Joe Gibbs Racing’s eighth consecutive victory at Auto Club Speedway. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Brian Scott, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.

Old Bristol Threatens New Problems for Nationwide Series Racing

Bruton Smith has spoken. Embarrassed by a second consecutive springtime of seeing his motorsports coliseum in Bristol, Tennessee dogged by attendance that made the grandstands look comparable to an XFL game, the man responsible for effectively killing North Wilkesboro, levigating Charlotte and effectively starting a war with the Kentucky Department of Transportation last summer has now announced that Bristol’s being reconfigured for the second time in five years. Come summer, Bristol will be back to being a one-grooved race track. Goodbye side-by-side racing, hello crashfest. Anyone that read 5 Points earlier this week knows full well this is not a move this writer is pleased about.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Ford EcoBoost 300

It’s been nearly 14 years since Elliott Sadler won a Nationwide Series race at Bristol.

Not anymore. A decade removed from the site of his first career Cup win, Sadler drove away from the field on a Lap 272 restart with old tires, scoring his second victory and fourth consecutive top-5 finish of the 2012 season. Sadler held off a bevy of Cup regulars behind him, with Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, polesitter Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounding out the top 5.

Elliott Sadler Wins a Not-So-Wild 2012 Ford EcoBoost 300 at Bristol

Make it four-for-four by NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, and make it history. Using the pit strategy that took him to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in 2001, Elliott Sadler stayed out on the final caution to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 by 1.159 seconds over Kasey Kahne. Brad Keselowski, polesitter Joey Logano and …

Read more

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas

The late-race focus might have been on Tony Stewart and his battle with Jimmie Johnson for the win, but Stewart has to be extra happy after this one since teammate Ryan Newman managed to quietly move through the late fracas and grab a fourth-place finish with his own Stewart-Haas Racing car. Newman flew in under the radar, weaving among the Roush Fenway triumvirate who had been fighting amongst themselves and stole the show – along with a top-five finish in the process.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Sam’s Town 300

Just one week after 2011 championship runner-up Elliott Sadler sent a message with a return to victory lane at Phoenix, the defending title holder Ricky Stenhouse Jr. returned the favor. Holding off Mark Martin on the final two restarts of the afternoon, Stenhouse’s No. 6 proved to be the class of the field, and the driver delivered with his third career Nationwide Series win. Martin, polesitter Sadler, Trevor Bayne and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 5.

Weathering asphalt and bumps growing more pronounced in the lower groove of turns 1 and 2 made the high line an active route around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, which when combined with a softer tire allowed for side-by-side racing and passing throughout much of the field. Still, even with the additional grip, the high speeds on the reconfigured high banks still proved treacherous, with a number of entries proving able to loosen cars significantly by taking air off the spoilers.

Subtraction by Addition for JR Motorsports’ No. 88 Team

For just about every organization out there, there’s a magic number of cars that just seems to work. For all its tradition and talent, Richard Childress Racing has never been able to make a four-car stable work as well as it has with three teams. Penske Racing dropped Sam Hornish’s Cup team last season, and ended up batting a thousand in terms of putting cars in the Chase.

And over in the Nationwide Series, that magic number for JR Motorsports is apparently one. Because 2012 has perpetuated a stretch going on for years now, one that has seen the de facto Hendrick Motorsports Nationwide program struggle even to be a consistent top 10 presence in NASCAR’s AAA. Ever since bringing the No. 7 car back unexpectedly to full-timer status in the spring of 2010, JR Motorsports has gone from title contender to series regular.

5 Points to Ponder: Hamlin On-Track, Sadler Off-Track? and a Big Homecoming for Kurt Busch

Two races into the season is hardly enough time to make a lasting prediction for the remainder of a long regular season that will stretch till September. But no matter how early in the season, Sunday was a very big day for the No. 11 team and driver Denny Hamlin. Two races in, Hamlin sits atop the point standings; in six previous full-time seasons, he’s averaged 20th in points by now. It was a second straight convincing showing that had the No. 11 among the class of the field, demonstrating that the learning curve between driver and new crew chief Darian Grubb may well be a short one.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Bashas’ Supermarkets 200

Track position was king at the Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, and it proved to be the nemesis of a dominant Kevin Harvick. Despite leading 107 circuits, Harvick’s decision to take four tires during the final cycle of pit stops on lap 164 left him behind too many cars. That left Elliott Sadler, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski to fight it out, with Sadler holding off Keselowski to score his first Nationwide Series win since 1999. Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Harvick rounded out the top 5.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com