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Race Weekend Review - May 21, 2017

MENCS Busch AllStar

Monster Energy NASCAR Series All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kyle Busch steals the million in the final stage of the All-Star race

Saturday, May 20, 2017: Kyle Larson had dominated most of the first 60 laps of the 70-lap All -Star race but a fumbled pit stop saw him starting from fifth place for the start of the final 10-lap stage. At the green, Kyle Busch shot ahead past Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski (who had not pitted) into the lead from the second row. Larson made it up to third and then he got past Johnson for second but that was all he could do. The charging Busch hung on to take the checkered flag – and with it, the million dollar prize – 1.2 seconds ahead of an obviously disappointed Larson. While Larson had led most of the laps before that in the race, both Busch and Johnson had been strong contenders right behind him.

For this race, Goodyear had brought softer ‘option’ tires which the teams could use once only – in effect, given that they only had three sets of the normal or ‘prime’ ties available, each team was forced to use these option tires in one of the three 20-lap stages. It would make no sense to save them to the final 10-lap shoot-out because, by choosing the softer tires, the rules would force them to give up track position and start behind the others on the prime tires with too few laps to gain the advantage of the better grip.

Many of the drivers took on the option tires for the second stage and gained a short-term advantage. Larson chose to use them in the third stage and this cost him track position to Johnson and Kevin Harvick but he was still ahead of Kyle Busch who took this 60-lap yellow in sixth place. But, after these pit stops, Busch was right behind Johnson for the restart and this set him up for the race win. Larson made a strong recovery but not quite strong enough to give him the win in the final ten green-flag lap run.

Prior to the All-Star race there was an “Open” qualifying race for every Cup driver who had not qualified for the All-Star race. It was a 50-lap race with two 20-lap stages and a 10-lap final. The winners of each of the three stages earned a starting position at the back of the All-Star field. The three stage winners were Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez, who held off a charging Chase Elliott to win the final 10-lap stage – in fact, Elliot slid back to third behind Austin Dillon on the final lap of the race.

Not to worry, Elliott had won the fan ballot to put him into the All-Star race anyway.

The MENCS series returns to ‘serious’ stuff next week with the Coca-Cola 600 which will run from daylight into darkness on May 28 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.


NASCAR Camping World Trucks North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kyle Busch takes a dominant truck series win for a second week in a row

Friday, May 19, 2017: Christopher Bell won the pole for the Charlotte truck race but his team owner, Kyle Busch, came away the winner by a one-second margin over last year’s champion Johnny Sauter. No matter how many times he wins – and he has more truck series wins than any other driver – he cannot be a factor in this championship given that he had to chose just one NASCAR series in which to contend for championship points and, of course, he has chosen the Cup series. So, in this undercard series, Busch is something of a spoiler, his dominant performances, while catching the attention of the fans, tends to distract from what is supposed to be the main event, the competition for the series championship.

Young Bell is KBM’s chosen contender for the championship and his weekend started off well with him winning the pole while his teammate Busch was fourth quickest. In the race Bell continued to show his command by charging off into the lead with Busch right behind him. Unfortunately, some kind of tire problem sent him to the pits on the third lap. The tire was replaced, his truck had no damage but he was now down a lap on the rest of the field. The way things worked out, he had trouble getting back on the lead lap on this 1.-5-mile track and it was not until the fourth caution, which came on lap 61 of the 134-lap race, that he regained a place at the tail of the lead lap – behind 22 other trucks. After that, Bell drove well and began passing truck after truck on his way back to the front. By lap 91 and a few more cautions, he found himself up into third place behind Busch and Ben Rhodes.

After that he was fighting with Sauter and Matt Crafton for position. On the final restart, with just three laps to the checker, he lined up on the front row alongside Busch but an equally-determined Sauter kept pace with him and he edged ahead to beat Bell to the line to claim second place behind the all-conquering Busch. Busch had led 90 laps, including the final 45 laps of the race.

Ryan Truex, Martin Truex’s younger brother was fourth while Timothy Peters was fifth and Crafton sixth. The Canadian runner, Stewart Friesen, finished in 23rd place.

The next NCWTS race is at Dover International Speedway on June 2.

Pintys Lacroix CTMP Version 2

NASCAR Pinty’s Series Can-Am 200 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Kevin Lacroix proves to be the rain master to score a win in the wet

Sunday, May 21, 2017: Kevin Lacroix, who won here last September, took home all the marbles again this time – the pole and the race win – but he had to demonstrate his prowess in the wet to do it.

The race went to over time just as the rain, which had been falling off and on all the race, started to come down heavier than before. When the race went green for the final time, Lacroix had the lead over Andrew Ranger and he jumped out ahead but a determined Ranger chased him out of the first corner and passed him. Lacroix was back ahead coming out of two and then, as they came into five, lacroix had a slim advantage over Ranger – and he held on to this lead as the slipped and skidded around the rest of the corner to the finish line where Lacroix won by a margin of 1.9 seconds.

While Ranger was able to finish right up behind his rival, it was apparent that, when the track was wet like it was at the end of the race, Lacroix somehow had the ability to spurt ahead of the other on the restarts, so his win here was well deserved.

Gary Klutt, who had started in fourth place but who had been in danger of going a lap down a couple times, came thorough in those closing laps, taking the final green in eighth place but charging up past the others to take the checker in third place having edged past last year’s champion Cayden Lapcevich in the final corner. Alex Labbe finished in fifth place.

The rain had soaked the track before the start and NASCAR allowed every team to return to the pits to fit rain tires before the start of the race. Once underway, when the rain let up, most teams called their drivers in for dry tires – but on wildly different lap counts – and, when the rain returned and started to come down harder, most of the drivers made a return to the pits for the rain tires again.

Alex Tagliani, who had started on the front row was a front runner most of the race, leading 13 laps mid-race, but he slid off into the barriers at Turn 2 on lap 49 of the (scheduled) 51-lap race ending his race and bringing out the final caution. Anthony Simone had qualified in seventh place but he took the lead on lap eight and he led for 22 laps early on and, after that he stayed up among the front runners until he was tapped and spun off the track on lap 30. He suffered some kind of mechanical failure and retired to the garage area.

Rising NCWTS star Christopher Bell was here to drive a car entered by Scott Steckly. He was having a decent run up among the top ten until some kind of mechanical failure put him out after lap 29.

The next Pinty’s Series race is at Delaware Speedway in Delaware, Ontario (near London) on June 3.

IndyCar Dixon Indy500 pole

IndyCar Indianapolis 500 Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Dixon captures the Indy 500 pole with a Honda-powered car; Bourdais crashes and will likely miss the rest of the season

Sunday, May 21, 2017: Ganassi driver Scott Dixon won the pole today for this years’s Indy 500 with a four-lap average speed of 232.164 mph in a Honda-powered car. Last year the Indy 500 running had been dominated by the Chevy-powered engines but the Hondas seem to be matching their performance this year. This was the fastest qualifying speed since Arie Luyendyk won the pole in 1996 with a 236.986 mph average.

Ed Carpenter was second fastest in his Chevrolet-powered car while last year’s race winner Alexander Rossi competed the third row in his Honda-powered car.

Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 world champion, is trying his hand at the Indy 500 this year, skipping the Monaco GP. Some worried that he might have trouble adapting to the different situation at the Speedway – the high speeds and the unforgiving walls – especially after Sebastien Bourdais’ hard crash on Saturday but he made enough speed on Saturday to make it into the Fast Five on Sunday where he qualified fifth fastest putting him in the middle of the second row on the grid.

On Saturday, Bourdais was running at a pace which would have been faster than everyone else when, on the third lap of the four, his car went out of control and it speared the outside wall collapsing the right front corner – and flipping it over. He never lost consciousness and rescue workers carefully removed him for the car and sent him to the nearby hospital. Here he was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis and a broken right hip. Overnight doctors repaired the damage but Bourdais faces a long recovery before he can consider returning to a race car.

Given that there were only 33 cars attempting to qualify, none were bumped on Sunday. Bourdais’ car was slotted into the starting lineup in 33rd place. On race day, it will be driven by the Australian James Davison who previously raced in the 500 in 2014 and 2015.

Results Box Scores:

Results of the MENCS All-Star Race
Results of the MENCS Open race
Results of the NCWTS race
Results of the Pinty’s Can-Am 200 at CTMP
Results of the Indy 500 qualifying

Photo Credits:

MENCS: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
NCWTS: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
IndyCar: Chris Owens /IMS
NASCAR Pinty’s: Matthew Manor/NASCAR

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