Friday, June 24, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Time to Turn Left and Right

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Jun. 24, 2016
Volume X, Edition CII


What to Watch: Friday

- With on-track action now complete, it is time to rest.  However, there's plenty of on-track action tomorrow that is sure to satisfy.

Also, don't forget to follow our Twitter page, @Frontstretch as well for updates!

This weekend's TV Schedule can be found

Top News
by The Frontstretch Staff

Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Fastest In Cup Practices At Sonoma

At Sonoma Raceway Friday, Sprint Cup teams had over three hours of practice on the 1.99-mile road course.  Kyle Larson was fastest in the first session, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. turned in the fastest lap of the day to top the Happy Hour chart.  Read more

Andrew Palmer Still Hospitalized, Showing Improvement

On Thursday, Andrew Palmer's family released an official statement on Palmer's condition.  It is the first real update since he was injured in a crash at Lime Rock Park on May 28.  Palmer is still hospitalized, but showing some improvement.  Read more

The Critic's Annex: Thompson 125
by Phil Allaway

Welcome back, race fans.  Hope you enjoyed all the action last weekend.  It was rather exhausting for me, but fun.  Last Wednesday, the Whelen Modified Tour returned to Thompson Speedway in Connecticut for their second visit of the season.  The result was a very popular victor in Bobby Santos, III.  How was NBCSN's broadcast of the action?

NBCSN brought out the trio of Ralph Sheheen, Ray Evernham and Derek Pernesiglio to commentate on the race.  This is a trio that generally knows their stuff about Modified racing and has a great appreciation for it.  Probably the best possible group that NBCSN could put together.

Evernham is a former Modified racer in his own right and has a great love for the division.  Prior to the race, Evernham hosted a "Roots of Racing" in which he talked about the different eras of race cars that competed in what is now the Whelen Modified Tour.  Admittedly, the machinery was relatively similar to what was being used at Northeastern dirt tracks until you got into the 1980's.  We saw old Ford coupes, a Pinto, no Gremlins that I could see (although Evernham did mention that the Gremlin body style was popular), and some other cars.  Aside from the cool machinery, much of which will probably find a home at the new North East Motor Sports Museum, which is apparently on schedule to open in September, you could just see the legitimate joy in Evernham when he was doing this.  That's the kind of behavior that I want to see.

The race itself was quite competitive with lots of racing for position.  There was a fair amount of discussion of the draft during the race, which seems a little weird for a race on a 0.625 mile oval.  Then again, they're not running restrictor plates at Thompson like they do at Loudon, so 140-150 mph speeds at the end of the straights is not out of the question, given the 26 degree banks in the turns.

An ongoing problem that I notice with the delayed broadcasts is that NBCSN's lap counter seems to always be off by a lap or two.  For those you watching for the heck of it, it might not matter to you.  It's a legitimate nit pick, but it does throw me a little.  Yes, I take notes on these broadcasts just like the live Sprint Cup races on Sundays.  It can cause real problems when you have something strange happen.  You guys remember the K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway earlier this year, right?  Ridiculousness went down there.

During the race, there was also a quick profile of Santos.  He's generally been successful in everything he's ever driven, but he chose here to talk about racing at Loudon, where he's a past winner.  He seems happy to be a regular on the Whelen Modified Tour.  It's nice to get to know the various drivers in the series.  In Santos' case, he's probably best known in NASCAR for his huge crash in practice at Daytona back in 2011 when he was driving for Jimmy Means, then being able to race a backup car from JR Motorsports to 12th.  Given previous NBCSN broadcasts of regional NASCAR races, this will not be the only one of the year. 

The placement was not great, though.  Please don't put that in the middle of green flag racing.  I'd prefer it before the race, like with most of the K&N Pro Series broadcasts.  Heck, you could air it after the race like TNN did with their piece about the Dragons that I talked about in here a few weeks ago.  Just don't do it during the race itself.

The coverage of racing for position was not necessarily limited to the very front of the field.  Contenders were sprinkled all over the order and we saw fierce racing for position for most of the race that we actually saw...outside of the wrecks.  And there were quite a few of those.  In regards to those wrecks, the booth wasn't afraid to apportion blame to the appropriate parties.  Jeff Goodale, in particular, was rather aggressive last Wednesday and caused at least one incident.

Post-race coverage was fairly typical for Modified broadcasts.  We got interviews with the top 3 finishers (Santos, Max Zachem and Matt Swanson), along with checks of the unofficial results and point standings.  The broadcast finished up with some post-race analysis before wrapping up.  In all honesty, that is as complete as some of the National-level races we've seen on FOX Sports 1 this year.  It works great here.  Loved the emotion from Santos in Victory Lane after winning what's tantamount to his home race.

I enjoyed the action from Thompson.  There was a lot of good racing and NBCSN did a good job bringing it to the viewers.  Evernham and Sheheen were pretty good in the booth, while Pernesiglio was right at home in the pits with the Modifieds, despite the fact that he really wasn't used all that much.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at

Frontstretch Folio: Toyota/Save Mart 350k
by Phil Allaway

This weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to the West Coast for their first of two road races this season.  Coverage of the Toyota/Save Mart 350k can be seen on FOX Sports 1 starting at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday while the green flag is scheduled to fly around 3:20.  The race can also be heard on PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).

Records and facts

In last year's race, the Busch brothers were the dominant force, leading more than half of the laps.  However, pit strategy put Jimmie Johnson in the lead late.  Kyle Busch was able to run Johnson down and pass him with five laps to go.  Kyle then held on to claim his first victory of the year.  Kurt Busch was second, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.

Only two active drivers have more than one win at Sonoma.  They are Tony Stewart and defending champion Kyle Busch, who each have two.  Everyone else that's active and has won there has only done it once (Kurt Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, etc.).

All-time, only one man has more than two wins at Sonoma.  That man is Jeff Gordon, who has five wins.  He swept the three races run on the 1.949 mile short course (1998-2000), then won two more once the track was reconfigured into the current design in 2001.  In addition to Stewart and Kyle Busch, Ernie Irvan, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd all have two wins at Sonoma.  Rudd is the only one of that group to win on both the short course and the long course.

Track Facts
Track / Race Length: 1.99-mile road course, 110 laps (218.9 miles)

Grandstand Seating: 47,000
Pit Road Speed: 40 mph
Pace Car Speed: 45 mph
Opened: 1968 (as), first Cup race in 1989




Say What?!

"Sonoma is so tricky. Track position is so, so important there. It's a quirky race and the last two times there we have been one of the better cars but just haven't had it work out, so I'm optimistic that we can get everything right over the course of the event. If you can save fuel it usually creates more opportunities. Last year it came down to tires and I was the only guy on old tires and it cost us the race. As a California native, I'm always happy to get back there." -  Jimmie Johnson

"I love it out there. It's probably a close second on favorite tracks behind Richmond. It's just a challenging racetrack. It's a track where you just have to get into a rhythm. A lap around there, you just don't get much time to relax so when you get in the race, you have to be spot on the whole time.

"When I started, I think there were probably two legitimate contenders to win road-course races. Now you can look at it and say there are 15 or 16 guys who could put together a good day if they don't get wrecked and have a shot at winning. It is much like Martinsville. Sonoma becomes a demolition derby at the end. If you can get a long run to get to the end of it, it makes it nice. If you get a restart with 10 laps or less, it is an absolute demolition derby. There are a lot of places two cars don't fit very well, side-by-side, and somebody always gets the short end of the stick. There are a lot of areas where guys can dive down there and take your line away and put guys in a bad spot. That always seems to bite somebody. There are a lot of drivers who have their feelings hurt and are upset when they leave there. I have been in that situation a lot of times." - Tony Stewart

"We used to test really hard to figure out how to get better at road courses. Now we just show up and race, and that's really been refreshing … and it's made the race weekends a lot more enjoyable. We've had great race cars at the road courses – we've gotten better as a company, which has helped me a lot and helped carry me. Sonoma is the most challenging track that I race at. We've just got to take care of our car and make it through to the end." - Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

"I thought last year we could have had a top-15 finish so I'm looking forward to Sonoma this weekend. Last year we struggled in qualifying so we will focus on that on Friday to make sure we earn a good starting spot. Seat time is very valuable to me at these road courses and making sure I hit all my marks and don't make any mistakes. With not many races before the Chase, we need to make sure we capitalize and get the best finish we can to stay close to 16th in the point standings." - Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at

by Zach Catanzareti
by Mike Neff

by Sean Fesko

Q: As previously noted, Sonoma Raceway has a history of big crashes.  The late Bob Wollek is just one more example of a great driver who got it wrong on the twisty road course back in 1987.  What happened?

Check back Monday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Thursday's Answer:
Q: The 1991 Banquet Frozen Foods 300k is best known for the controversial finish where Ricky Rudd crossed the line first, but was given the black flag for spinning out Davey Allison coming to the white flag (Allison ended up winning).  Before the controversial ending, Richard Petty behind them was having a middling day, still on the lead lap but it came to an abrupt end.  What happened to end Petty's day?

A: Richard Petty was running a lap down late in the race when he locked up his brakes in turn 1a.  The STP Pontiac slid off-course and hit a wall nearly head-on.  This is the same wall that Steve Park ended up on top of in 1999 after he spun there and hit the hillside.  Richard walked to the ambulance under his own power, but was out for the day.  The crash can be seen here.

Note that ESPN's Benny Parsons was right at the crash site and technically moves into the hot zone while the rescue crews were working with Richard.  Also, Kyle Petty, who was recovering from a broken leg suffered at Talladega, came over on crutches to check on his father.  Parsons interviewed Kyle, who gave viewers his impression on his father's condition.

Bonus: Here's a couple of pictures of Rich Woodland, Jr.'s crash in turn 10 that was referenced in Wednesday's trivia question, courtesy of Brock Beard.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have recaps of the Sprint Cup race from Sonoma, the Truck race at Gateway and the Verizon IndyCar Series from Elkhart Lake.  We will also cover any news that breaks.

We'll have a series of post-race commentaries analyzing this weekend's action in Sonoma.

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