June 24th, 2013
Road Course Racing
“Johnsonville Sausage 200”
ELKHART LAKE, WI- Road America was the site for this week’s NNS race. A Four mile long twisted race track, with fourteen turns and an 830 foot long pit road, was scheduled to have 50 laps run. The drivers must go 40 mph or less while traveling on pit road. Roger Penske gave recently suspended driver AJ Almandinger a second chance in the sport, behind the wheel of his 22 Ford Mustang. AJ was able to take the pole position ahead of Owen Kelly (54). Elliott Sadler (11) has had a terrible weekend in WI, as he has broken the transmission in his race car two times, while incorrectly shifting the car from gear to gear. He would be forced to start at the rear of the field, and he was only able to get one lap of practice for the race, and that was his one lap of qualifying he accomplished before breaking a second transmission.
NASCAR has made a change to their qualifying rules for road courses this weekend. There will be five groups of eight cars sent out on track at a time. They will have seven minutes to post a fast lap as their qualifying attempt. The cars are released about eight seconds apart to keep them in clean air while making their qualifying runs. The fastest cars will be in the last group, while the slowest cars from practice will be sent out in the starting groups. This appeared to work pretty well, and it saved approximately 75% worth of televised airtime to complete qualifying. Five groups ran in seven minute increments, getting qualifying completed in just over 35 minutes. Normally it takes approx. three minutes per car for road course qualifying, which would make it over two hours time needed to get all 40 cars through.
In other racing news, 34 year old Allan Simonsen passed away after crashing on the fourth lap of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In opening ceremonies, Lonnie Clouse provided the Invocation. Christi Sadlg sang the National Anthem. Ryan Clefke was the Grand Marshall, and the In-Race Reporter was Nelson Piquet Jr. (Last year’s winner). Three YAK 52’s flew over the race track during the ceremonies.
On lap 2, many drivers began making their pit stops in an attempt to make three stops for the race on fuel. The rest of the field will attempt to make only two stops for the entire 200 mile race. Those that made the early stop were: Bayne (6), Bowman (99), Gaughn (21), Annett (43), Ranger (53), Sadler (11) and Pastrana (60).
The first caution came out on lap 4, when Michael McDowell (18) stalled on the race track. A distributor breaking was the cause of his issues. He was running in second place at the time he broke down. Justin Allgaier (31) and Brian Vickers (20) made stops during this caution. Dexter Stacey (92) was replaced as driver in his car, due to still suffering affects from last week’s accident he had at Michigan.
On lap 14, many drivers began making their green flag stops. Austin Dillon (3) made his stop then he received a drive through penalty, for speeding on pit road exit.
The second caution came out on lap 15, when Andrew Ranger (53) broke down on track. During the pit stops, Billy Johnson (16) was in the wrong gear, and left pit road at 70 mph instead of the regulated 40 mph, sending him from second to thirty-second spot. Brian Vickers (20) also received a penalty for leaving his pit box without a lug on his front tire. This was captured easily with the camera being on the head gear of Mark “Hollywood” Armstrong. He was the unfortunate person that did not get the lug tightened before the car left the pit box. In the replay, he never even touched one lug with the air gun.
On lap 21, last year’s winner Nelson Piquet Jr. (30) ran into the back of Brian Scott’s (2) race car, damaging the front of his own car.
The third caution flew on lap 29, when Owen Kelly (54) intentionally stopped his car on track after running out of fuel. Instead of getting the car off track somewhere, his crew chief told him to stop on track. The tow truck then went out and pushed his car to pit road. This was a massive error on behalf of NASCAR. Kelly should have lost at least one lap for intentionally stopping on track, yet they allowed him to stay on the lead lap after doing this. Then the commentators told the viewers that he would be the last car on the lead lap in thirty-second position, yet he restarted in twenty-first. As a race fan, I felt this was a great failure by NASCAR allowing this driver to create the caution and get awarded for doing it. During the pit stops, Sam Hornish Jr. (12) was nailed for speeding on pit road exit.
The fourth caution came out on lap 36, when Kyle Larson (32) got into the back end of Johnny O’Connell (5), spinning him out. Owen Kelly (54) spun out Brandon Gaughn (21) to bring out the caution flag.
Another caution came out on lap 39, when a piece of a sign became lodged on the front of a race can, then was dropped off on the track at the start finish line during the restart. NASCAR did not throw the caution until three quarters of a lap later. When the caution was thrown, a few cars were damaged when other drivers checked up and they did not. Travis Pastrana (60) and Jeremy Clements (51) both damaged the front end of their race cars while running into the back of other cars. Clements ran into Austin Dillon (3) and Pastrana ran into teammate Trevor Bayne (6). Again, NASCAR failed to throw the caution at the proper time, and because they waited so long, it created damages to cars that should not have been involved in an incident, nearly three miles after the caution issue occurred.
On lap 42, the aggressive driving began to show up in many of the “ringers” brought into the race. Johnson (16) simply dumped Max Papis (33) to get past him. There was no caution thrown for this.
The sixth caution came out on lap 44, when Jeremy Clements (51) crashed into a tire boundary. After the restart, teammates Kligerman (77) and Kelly (54) tangled a second time in the race, causing Regan Smith (7) and Johnson (16) to be spun as well. Smith ran a great race, staying up front until other drivers took him out with their poor driving. Smith lost almost half of his 58 point lead in the series. The last ten laps, drivers started using their cars to ram others out of their way, instead of trying to race around and past them.
The seventh caution on lap 47, was for J. Young (26) stalling on track. The race would go into overtime. A Green-White-Checkered finish would be required to complete the race.
Another caution flew on lap 52, for Kelly (54) spinning out Michael Annett (43) sending him hard into the inside wall. Kelly and Johnson were both overly aggressive in this race and they simply punted people out of their way throughout the race. NASCAR could have done something, but they did nothing and a lot of cars lost plenty of points due to the poor driving habits by these two hired road course ringers. On the final restart, Trevor Bayne (6) had a transmission issue end his day on track.
AJ Almandinger (22) was the dominant car in the race, and was able to take the checkered flag ahead of Justin Allgaier (31). Almandinger led the majority of the laps, while winning the race for Roger Penske.
The rest of the top ten were: Parker Kligerman (77), Owen Kelly (54), Sam Hornish Jr. (12), Brian Vickers (20), Kyle Larson (32), Cole Whitt (44), Elliott Sadler (11) and Austin Dillon (3).
The next race is at Kentucky on Friday night at 7 PM EST on ESPN.
“Toyota SaveMart 350”
SONOMA, CA- The Sprint Cup Series ran this weekend’s race on a road course as well, but a few thousand miles away from Elkhart Lake, WI. Jamie McMurray (1) was able to beat Marcus Ambrose (9) for the pole position. The race was scheduled for 110 laps, equaling 219 miles on the 1.99 mile track. Danica Patrick (10) will be taking to the track, just as Patty Moise (89) did, back in 1987. She was the first female to drive on a NASCAR road course. Sonoma use to be called “Sears Point & Infineon” in the past. There are eleven turns to make on this course.
In other NASCAR news, NASCAR driver Mike Harmon has turned himself into authorities in Shelby, North Carolina, after warrants were put out on his business partner and Harmon both. The two men are charged with breaking and entering, and larceny after the fact. The men stole at least seven vehicles from racer Jennifer Jo Cobb last year. Harmon was Cobb’s team manager in the Nationwide Series. These vehicles were found after a search warrant was executed at Harmon’s shop in Mooresville on May 28, 2013. This story came from the Associated Press this past week.
In opening ceremonies, Tim Boeve provided the Invocation. James Burbin, from American Idol sang the National Anthem. (In my opinion, he really did a poor job trying to screech it out like it was a rock song.) Darryl Waltrip and Amber Spence, were the Grand Marshall’s. (2) Patriot Jet Demonstration Team did a fly-over of the track.
Before the “Green Flag” could fly, a crash on pit road happened when Paulie Harraka (52) ran into the rear end of Alex Kennedy (19). Bobby Labonte (47) also had issues, when his radiator over heated on pit road. He was forced to go to the garage to get repairs completed. Jacque Villeneuve (51) had radio issues and spent time on pit road also.
On lap 2, Labonte was off track with engine issues again troubling his race car.
On lap 3, David Ragan was spun out in turn eleven. On lap 4, Kyle Busch (18) was spun out by Juan Montoya (42). Busch fell from 8th to 27th.
The first caution came out on lap 6, when Paulie Harraka (52) broke down on track. The second caution came out on lap 25, for RAIN. The top nine cars stayed on track. Keselowski (2), Burton (31) and Almirola (43) pitted on lap 23 before the caution came out.
On lap 31, David Reutimann (83) was spun out after being tagged by Joey Lagono (22). Travis Kvapil (93) also received rear end damage in the incident.
On lap 32, Alex Kennedy (19) brought out the caution, being dead on track. During the pit stops, Denny Hamlin (11) and Kyle Busch (18) both were penalized for speeding on entry to pit road. Kurt Busch (78) did not make a pit stop as of yet. On lap 36, Busch was tagged for speeding on entry to pit road as well. While doing his drive through penalty, Busch was tagged speeding again on entry to pit road. He was forced to make a stop and go penalty for the second infraction on pit road. This put him one lap down in the race after leading fifteen laps.
By lap 47, Kurt Busch (78) had raced himself back onto the lead lap. At the half-way mark of the race on lap 55, Martin Truex Jr. (56) was the race leader.
Caution came out on lap 63, for Danica Patrick (10) spinning out. A tire failure caused her spin. Five cars stayed on track while the rest of the field made pit stops. (Truex Jr. (56), Kahne (5), Edwards (99), McMurray (1), and Burton (31).
On lap 68, Denny Hamlin (11) spun out after being tagged by Tony Stewart (14). During the restart, a few cars were damaged, as some did not get going as they needed to. Victor Gonzalez Jr. (36) crashed at the start/finish line.
On lap 83, Kyle Busch brought out another caution as he spun out after being tagged by Carl Edwards (99). The top fifteen cars stayed on track. A few laps later, Busch would spin out again.
On lap 90, Tony Stewart (14) and Jeff Burton (31) spun out after Stewart ran into the tires in turn eleven.
Martin Truex Jr. (56) was able to easily outrun Jeff Gordon (24) for his first road course victory. Juan Montoya was running second until the final lap, when he ran out of fuel and had to coast back to the finish line. Martin Truex Jr. led 51 laps. This was his first win since June 2007. That was 218 races without a victory in a point’s race.
The rest of the top ten were: Carl Edwards (99), Kurt Busch (78), Clint Bowyer (15), Kasey Kahne (5), Marcus Ambrose (9), Greg Biffle (16), Jimmie Johnson (48) and Kevin Harvick (29).
The next race is at Kentucky on TNT at 6:30 PM EST on Saturday night.