NASCAR Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio Challenge, Lexington, OH
Part-timer Marks wins in the rain
August 13, 2016: When a NASCAR stock car race runs on a road course and it rains off and on throughout, expect an unusual result. The race at Mid-Ohio was just such a race. It was run in the rain for much of the distance and won by self-proclaimed rain specialist Justin Marks. Marks, who alternates in the No. 42 car with Kyle Larson, was the class of the field and scored a decisive victory.
Sam Hornish, who had won the pole in the No. 2 Childress car, had a fraught day, going off course in the wet several times, but he managed to struggle back up to second place at the finish, four seconds behind Marks. Ryan Blaney, who had started from the back of the grid after post-qualifying adjustments, was third, Ty Dillon fourth, Justin Allgaier fifth and Erik Jones sixth.
The field started on slick tires but, when the rain began on lap 2 of the 75-lap race, almost everyone piled into the pits for rain tires. Hornish came out of the pits first and retook the lead but Owen Kelly, an Australian driving the Joe Gibbs No. 18 car, showed his prowess in the wet, passing him for the lead.
But it was Marks who was the man of the day, soon after racing resumed he passed them both to take over the lead – and he led for the next 32 laps.
In the wet conditions it seemed like every driver spun off the slippery track at least once – if not many times. On the restart after the second caution on lap 19, Hornish spun off in Turn 2, then went wide off the course in Turn 5 and then, on the next lap, he slid off into the big sand trap at Turn 4. But despite this, Hornish did come close to winning the race at the end. Hornish’s troubles left Darrell Wallace and Andy Lally in pursuit of Marks. Lally is a sports car specialist who was recruited by Mario Gosselin to drive his second car here.
When the fourth caution flew on lap 29, it was still raining, so no one took on slicks when they pitted. When the green flew Lally was in second behind Marks but he got caught up in a mess of spinning cars off the first turn. Unfortunately, this knocked Nelson Piquet Jr out of the race. Piquet who was making a one-race return to NASCAR had been running up as high as sixth before this.
But now the rain was letting up and Lally’s crew chief gambled on putting him on slicks out of sequence – putting him on a long chance gamble that he could go the rest of the distance without another stop for fuel. Once back to green, Lally was able to gain about 15 seconds a lap on the dry tires over the others slicing his way back up through the field.
Within a few laps Lally was up to second behind Marks. Lally actually got to lead the race on lap 43 when the others finally gave up on waiting for another caution or for the rain to return and made their fuel stop under green. But now that it was dry and the pace had picked up, Lally’s crew chief blinked and called him in for fuel as well.
It was not long before heavy rain fell again – during the sixth caution on lap 51 – and almost everyone pitted for rain tires. Little good the rain tires did – on the restart several cars, including Hornish and Blaney went off in the first turn. Marks went straight off at Turn 4 but he kept moving through the sand trap and back onto the track, but now down in seventh place. By then the next yellow had flown.
When racing resumed, Wallace was in the lead but he went off went off the track three times in the next two laps, dropping out of contention as the race was winding down. Ty Dillon held the lead for a few laps but then it was Marks back to the front and on to the win.
Alon Day was another overseas driver in this race. The Israeli driver is a contender for the championship in the NASCAR Wellen Euro series. He made a good showing in the No. 40 Dodge and he expects to run again at Road America in two week's time. After that he will return to Europe for the playoffs which start there in September.
The next round in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is at Bristol on Friday, Aug. 19.
NASCAR Pinty’s Series Le 50 Tours Can-Am at Trois Rivières
Lacroix wins in dominant style flag-to-flag
Aug 14, 2016: Kevin Lacroix, who won here last year after passing Andrew Ranger on the final lap, dominated the race this time, winning the pole and leading every one of the 50 tours (laps) of the race. Lacroix had set a new lap record with his qualifying time.
Ranger finished second, two seconds back. Alex Tagliani was third, Alex Labbé fourth and Daniel Morad fifth. Morad, who is better known as a Porsche GT3 driver, made his Pinty’s Series debut at Toronto last month. Rookie Cayden Lapcevich was sixth. Lacroix, despite making a five starts (with two wins) in this series last year and prior experience as an Atlantic series competitor, is still counted as a rookie title contender this year.
There were two cautions in the race. The first came on the very first lap when Gary Klutt and J F Dumoulin tangled knocking Klutt out of the race. The second caution came mid-race after an incident involving Lapcevich and Simon Dion-Viens.
Dale Earnhardt Jr’s half brother Jeffrey Earnhardt made a guest appearance and finished seventh in his No. 18 Can-Am Ford.
Ranger’s second-place finish slightly extended his lead over Lapcevich in the championship points standings (331 to 326). Tagliani remains in third place with 304 points.
The next round in the Pinty’s Series will be held at Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, NS on Saturday, Aug. 20.
NASCAR Xfinity -Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
Pinty's - Matthew Manor/NASCAR