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September 30th, 2012
Volume VI, Edition CXCVI
Hey Race Fans! Do you think you can predict the finishing order of this year's Chase? If you can, we'll give you our shirt! If you want a chance to win a Frontstretch T-Shirt and a free FanVision rental for a race weekend in 2013, now is your chance. Simply submit a list of the 12 Chase drivers in the order you think they will finish. You have until the end of today's race to make your picks - but after the checkered flag flies on that race, we will not accept any more submissions. Then, we'll hang on to all of your predictions until after the final race in Homestead and tally them up. If you can correctly place all 12, you win the T-Shirt and the FanVision rental! If nobody places all 12 correctly, we'll give the prize to whomever can get the most drivers in their correct points positions at the end of the year. Please submit your entries to FrontstretchEditors@googlegroups.com by the moment of the checkered flag this afternoon! We will accept only one entry per person (if you submit more than one list, we will only take the FIRST one you submitted!) Good luck!
What to Watch Today: Today, the Sprint Cup Series is back in action at Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400, Race No. 29 of the season and No. 3 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Coverage starts this afternoon at 1pm EDT with NASCAR Countdown on ESPN. Race coverage is scheduled to start at 2:00, with the Green Flag flying a little before 2:20pm.
Rolex Sports Car Series Recap: SunTrust Racing Just Squeaks Out Victory; Pruett and Rojas Win DP Title
by Phil Allaway
At Lime Rock Park this weekend, the headlining Rolex Sports Car Series didn't have anywhere near the amount of championship excitement as the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge's two classes did. The Grand Touring (GT) class championship had already been clinched three weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca by AIM Autosport Team FXDD's Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal. However, behind the AIM Autosport duo, there was a substantial race for position. Meanwhile, the Daytona Prototype (DP) championship was all but a foregone conclusion. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas had to finish ninth or better to win the title.
Also of note, Saturday was the final race in the Rolex Sports Car Series for the Mazda RX-8. The RX-8 with its rotary engine has retired, mainly because the street model has been discontinued. Mazda will continue in the Rolex Sports Car Series in 2013 in the new GX class. The model they will be using is TBA. An announcement is scheduled for November 30th at the LA Auto Show, though.
The action started very early on Saturday. Sylvain Tremblay spun his Mazda RX-8 out on the pace lap and hit the tires, resulting in the race spending the first seven laps under yellow. The crash may have been traceable back to a similar incident in qualifying which put the No. 70 at the rear of the field for the start. When the green finally came out, pole sitter Richard Westbrook in the Spirit of Daytona No. 90 was able to successfully pull out to a decent advantage over Pruett.
Another spin brought out another yellow after 20 minutes, resulting in pit stops. Max Angelelli in the SunTrust Racing No. 10 took over the lead for the restart. However, that green flag run was short lived due to the third incident of the race. GT class champion Emil Assentato was effectively run over from behind by Boris Said and spun entering the chicane. Said then cut across the grass and shot across the track, narrowing avoiding the No. 41 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 of Charles Putman. Said was penalized for this incident under Grand-Am's rules of "avoidable contact."
Shortly after the restart, another crash brought out the fourth caution. Andrew Davis had contact with Dr. Jim Norman in the lone Audi R8, spinning both cars out. Bill Auberlen in the Turner Motorsport No. 94 BMW M3 had nowhere to go and ran into Norman. Norman's car lost a side mirror in the crash, but continued. Norman's APR Motorsport team then pitted for regular service and to put hotshoe Dion von Moltke in the seat. Auberlen and Davis were out of the race with crash damage.
Once the green came back out, the event finally settled down and turned into a race of strategy. Drivers would take over the point for a brief amount of time before having to come into the pits for their final stops in both classes. In this portion of the race, SunTrust Racing with Ricky Taylor at the wheel of their Chevrolet Corvette DP was the class of the field. The No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP driven by Joao Barbosa was also in the hunt and briefly passed Taylor for the lead.
In GT, it was the Magnus Racing Porsche driven by Andy Lally was on top. The No. 73 Horton Autosport Porsche was also in the hunt until a radiator hose came loose. Robin Liddell in the Stevenson Camaro was also up there.
A caution for debris with 35 minutes to go changed the whole complexion of the race. Teams could cool their tires for one last assault for the win.
Taylor still appeared to have the fastest car in DP, but he had a significant amount of trouble dealing with slower traffic. This allowed the Spirit of Daytona No. 90 of Antonio Garcia to pressure Taylor. In the last few minutes of the race, Taylor's tires went away and it became an all-out duel for the win. However, Taylor was able to hold on to take his third win of the year and third in a row at Lime Rock. The margin of victory was just a third of a second over Garcia.
After the race, Taylor was very happy with his team's performance.
"We really transformed the car after qualifying," Taylor said. "I was sitting their at the beginning of the race, just hoping for a podium, to be honest. As soon as I saw Max [Angelelli] flying on the start, I knew at that point that I had a car that could possibly win the race. Towards the end, the strategy worked out absolutely perfect for us. When the yellow came out, I was nervous, but in hindsight, it was a bit lucky since I could save some fuel and allow us a little less wear on the tires."
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty rounded out the podium. The Action Express Racing Corvette DP's (No. 5 of Terry Borcheller, David Donohue and Brian Frisselle; No. 9 for Barbosa and Darren Law) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Pruett and Rojas ended up seventh, but that was good enough to earn the pair their third consecutive title. Afterwards, Pruett talked a little about his non-dominant (for a change) championship charge.
"[This season] brought us to a new level," Pruett said. "We were all challenged, the engineers, all the guys back at Ganassi at the shop, all the mechanics, for me and Memo. We really had to dig deep in our experience, and knowing that we didn't have the best car at a lot of the races. We were taking a fifth or sixth-place car and finishing on the podium, which we did several times this year. I really liked that challenge."
In GT, Lally seemed to have another win for Magnus Racing on lockdown with the Scuderia Corsa No. 63 of Alessandro Balzan a few seconds behind until the last ten minutes of the race. However, it was here that Robin Liddell in the Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R went on a tear. Liddell quickly moved up to second-place and put himself within striking distance of Lally. Slower traffic cost Lally time and let Liddell catch up. Liddell then pushed Lally until Lally's Porsche starved for fuel with three minutes to go. The APR Motorsport No. 51 of von Moltke had pushed up into the top-5 late and moved up to second when Lally was forced to pit for a splash-and-go with two laps to go. However, von Moltke could do nothing with Liddell as the Stevenson Motorsports team claimed their third win of the year.
After the race, Liddell was quite pleased with the team's performance.
"We had limited dry running [Friday], so to be honest, [I] didn't really feel in good control of the car or the race for most of the race," Liddell said. "Towards the end, it just turned into a big fight. We knew that Lally was probably a wee bit short on fuel, but we didn't really know how much that he could do, so we tried to keep the pressure on him and see if we could force him to make a mistake. Fortunately, that's what happened at the end."
Balzan and Johannes van Overbeek were third for Scuderia Corsa. The Dempsey Racing No. 41 of Putman and Charles Espenlaub was fourth in GT, while Spencer Pumpelly and Bob Doyle in the No. 66 Porsche for TRG rounded out the top-5.
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CTSCC Grand Sport Race Recap: Plumb Wins Grand Sport Finale, but Loses Title on Obscure Rule
by Phil Allaway
For the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge's (CTSCC) Grand Sport class, Saturday brought a similar scenario that the Street Tuner race on Friday did. David Empringham and John Farano for BGB Motorsports entered the race with just a seven point lead over the Rum Bum Racing duo of Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb. Under normal circumstances, that meant that Empringham and Farano had to finish third or better to win the title. However, that ultimately didn't matter.
Since the Grand Sport teams had not run in the dry all weekend, Grand-Am quietly announced their decision to cancel qualifying Friday night. As a result, the field was set on team points, putting the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911 started by Nick Longhi on pole. This ended up being very important.
There were two early cautions that split up the field. On Lap 14 (15 minutes into the race), Tim Bell spun his Mitchum Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in Turn 1, and managed to keep it out of the tire barrier. However, Friday's rains meant that he could not get any traction in the wet grass and couldn't extricate himself and needed the hook.
The second caution occurred about 26 minutes in when Roger Miller spun into the tires in his Dempsey Racing Ford Mustang. In a strategy move, the Rum Bum team chose to pit the No. 13 here and put Plumb into the car despite Longhi not reaching the required 30 minute mark to get points. If Plumb had gotten out of the car at some point later in the race so that Longhi could have reached 30 minutes of time in the seat, then he would have received the points. However, Plumb drove the rest of the race from here. Therefore, Longhi did not earn driver's points.
The stops gave the lead over to Matt Bell in the Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Bell was able to hold on until the third full-course caution flew when Lawson Aschenbach appeared to put a wheel onto the very wet grass exiting the Climbing turn. At that point, the car became light going over the hill and upon landing, hooked left into the wall.
Another round of stops put Joey Atterbury in the Roush Performance No. 51 into the lead, but additional stops under green kept the field in flux. The sequence finally ended with Plumb in the lead just as the yellow flew once again. This time, it was for an incident on the No Name Straight when Tim Fox's Aston Martin spun into the wall after contact from Charles Espenlaub (Espenlaub was penalized for this move). Fox was able to resume, but suffered a mechanical failure half a lap later and stalled on track.
Another team that was eliminated after a great run was the Subaru Impreza of Bret Spaude and Andrew Aquilante. The No. 35 Subaru had come back to fifth after a pit infraction before being punted into the tires by Auberlen. Auberlen was given a stop-and-go penalty for this move as well.
With Plumb in front, the battle for the championship behind was hot and heavy. Empringham was still in position to claim the title outright, but John Edwards caught him late in the race. A hard battle for third resulted with Edwards' Camaro having contact with Empringham's Porsche multiple times. With a mere two minutes to go, the two came together again and got in the wet grass.
Both drivers ultimately lost ground, but Edwards got back onto the asphalt first. Empringham would drop back like a stone in the last couple of laps, ultimately finishing sixth. However, even with everything happening on-track, Plumb was able to drive to the victory almost unchallenged and apparently, the class title.
Afterwards, Plumb was very happy with his race.
"We had a good car through the downhill," Plumb said. "Once we were clear of traffic, we could keep a pretty good pace. When we got stuck behind somebody, I just had to be careful. For the first hour [of the race], I was just keeping the car clean and seeing how things were sorting out. Then once we saw that the No. 83 was really on the pace and charging, I started pushing a little bit harder."
After the way the race ended for him, Empringham was happy to get the championship, but a little confused.
"Championships are always hard to get and certainly John and I and our team worked really hard all year," Empringham said. "With three laps to go in the race, I knew I only had to be third and I had a bit of a wounded car and thought we could hang on, but we didn't. Through a technicality, I guess you could say we've been handed it. I'm sure down the road I'll be happy, but it's kind of a strange situation."
However, there was some controversy. In addition to being entered in his normal No. 13, Plumb was also entered in the No. 3 (he never actually drove it, but was listed as part of the driver lineup along with Johnson and Segal). In the Grand-Am Rule Book, Section 5.2 of the General Sporting Regulations (Page 13) talks about qualifying procedures in regards to driver nomination. The last sentence is key. It says "A Driver may drive 2 cars in the same class provided he qualifies and starts in 1 of the cars. This is the only car in which the Driver will earn points." This applies to both the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. As a result of this rule, Plumb would have had to start the No. 13 in order to earn any points. This did not happen. As a result, Plumb had to forfeit the 35 points he would have earned for winning the race.
As a result, Empringham and Farano, despite falling back to sixth in the last couple of laps, were able to claim the championship. Their margin of victory was a rather substantial 29 points over Matt Bell. Plumb and Longhi ended up in a joint third, 32 points behind.
Bryan Sellers and Mark Boden for Fall-Line Motorsports ran a quiet, but very strong race to finish second in their BMW M3. Meanwhile, Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster in the Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin benefited from the Edwards/Empringham battle to finish third. Bell and John Edwards in the Stevenson Camaro dropped to fourth, while the second Rum Bum Racing entry, the No. 3 BMW M3 driven by Billy Johnson and Jeff Segal rounded out the top-5.
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
Logano Sweeps Both Nationwide Races at Dover
Joey Logano led all but 16 laps on Saturday afternoon to win the OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway. It is Logano's series-leading seventh win of the season. Logano won by just under a second over Paul Menard. Michael Annett was third, followed by points-leader Elliott Sadler and Kyle Busch. Sadler's fourth-place finish allowed him to expand his points lead to nine over Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who finished ninth. Check out Frontstretch Monday for the Nationwide Series Breakdown, where we'll take a closer look at Saturday afternoon's action.
Piquet Wins at Las Vegas on Last-Lap Pass
Nelson Piquet, Jr. executed a sweeping pass on the inside of Matt Crafton on the final lap to win Saturday night's Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It is the second win of the season for the sophomore and the seventh win of the year for Turner Motorsports. Joey Coulter finished third, while Brendan Gaughan finished fourth at his hometown race. Todd Bodine rounded out the top-5. After finishing in tenth Saturday night, Ty Dillon's points lead is down to just one point over James Buescher, who finished sixth, with five races. Check out Frontstretch Monday for Beth Lunkenheimer's Tracking the Trucks article, which will fully breakdown Saturday night's action.
NASCAR announced on Saturday that organizations will be allowed four free tests at tracks currently on the Sprint Cup Series calendar, in addition to Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway in January. The number of cars and drivers that can be used at these four sessions are still to be determined. This officially ends the "Testing Ban" that has been in place since the beginning of the 2009 season. However, with the ban in place, teams could still test at short tracks not a part of NASCAR's "National" Series. Also, simulation software usage has increased substantially since the ban was in place.
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Coming Monday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- AAA 400 Race Recap by Jeff Wolfe
-- Secret Star and Stat of the Race by TBA
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Monday on the Frontstretch:
Thinkin' Out Loud: AAA 400 by Bryan Davis Keith
We'll have an excellent recap of Sunday's AAA 400 from Dover International Speedway
Commentary by TBA
A commentary about the hottest topic leaving Dover.
Bowles-Eye View by Tom Bowles
Tom brings back his weekly post-race commentary with all of the insight you need from Chase race No. 3 at Dover.
Big Six: AAA 400 by Amy Henderson
Looking for all you need to know leaving Sunday's event at Dover? Amy has your who, what, when, where, why and how from a weekend of racing.
Pace Laps: Dover by the Frontstretch Staff
In our newest column this season, we'll take a look at the biggest stories to keep an eye on in each series after a weekend at Dover, Delaware.
Nationwide Breakdown: OneMain Financial 200 by Bryan Davis Keith
All the post-race analysis you need following Saturday afternoon's Nationwide Series race from Dover.
Tracking the Trucks: Smith's 350 by Beth Lunkenheimer
Beth has all the post-race analysis you need following Saturday night's Camping World Truck Series race from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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