Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Chris Buescher Claims Upset Victory in Fog-Shortened Pennsylvania 400

Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Aug. 2, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXXIX

What to Watch: Tuesday

- We have a shortened week of preparations after Monday's rain-delayed Pennsylvania 400.  Teams are back at their shops putting the finishing touches on their Watkins Glen cars for this weekend.  If anything of note breaks today, we'll have it for you here at Frontstretch.


Tuesday's TV Schedule can be found here.
Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Chris Buescher Shocks with Rain-Shortened Pocono Victory

Monday's rain-delayed Pennsylvania 400 got underway shortly after Noon and dodged rain and fog throughout.  Chris Buescher put himself in position to be in the lead when fog blanketed the 2.5-mile tri-oval and forced a caution.  Buescher stayed up front until the race was stopped.  Roughly an hour later, the race was called with 22 laps to go, giving Buescher his first career victory.  Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Regan Smith, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.  Read more

Martin Truex, Jr., Paul Menard with Early Issues in Pocono

On Monday, Martin Truex, Jr. and Paul Menard were potential favorites at Pocono.  Their chances at any kind of contention were done by lap 22 as Truex smacked the wall in turn 2 with the first of multiple right-front tire failures.  Menard lost third gear on the restart from the competition caution and had to spend time in the garage getting that fixed.  Read more

Regan Smith Plays the Strategy Game to Give Tommy Baldwin Racing a Top 5

In addition to race winner Chris Buescher's victory, Regan Smith earned the best-ever finish for Tommy Baldwin Racing on Monday by using pit strategy to bring home a third-place finish.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch?  Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at phil.allaway@frontstretch.com with a promising lead or tip.

Chasing the Chase: Harvick Continues to Lead, Loses Part of Advantage to Teammate
by Phil Allaway

Kevin Harvick had a pretty good day on Monday at Pocono.  Harvick led seven laps and had one of the best cars on track.  Had the race run to its full 400 mile distance, there was a good chance that Harvick could have won it.  However, he had to settle for fourth.  As a result, he lost two points of his lead to Brad Keselowski, who finished second. Kurt Busch was reasonably solid en route to a tenth-place finish on Monday.  That was enough to hold onto third.  Kyle Busch moved up one place to fourth in points after finishing ninth on Sunday.

Carl Edwards also moved up one place to fifth after having a decent run to an eighth-place finish.  The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates' gains in points came at the expense of Joey Logano.  Logano may have been one of the best drivers on Monday, but he got caught up in a crash with Chase Elliott and finished 37th, dropping two places in points to sixth.  From Logano, its a full 35 points back to a tie for seventh between Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex, Jr.  Johnson had to deal with a hole in his nose within the first couple of the laps on his way to a 16th-place finish.  Meanwhile, Truex had no less than three cut right front tires and finished 38th.

One point behind Johnson and Truex is Denny Hamlin in ninth.  Unlike those two drivers, Hamlin had a near trouble-free run to seventh.  Matt Kenseth maintained the tenth spot, but ran better than his 17th-place finish would show.  Austin Dillon moved up to 11th after finishing 13th, but clearly had a better car than that given his battles with Kyle Larson.  Ryan Newman also gained a spot to 12th after finishing 12th on Monday.

Chase Elliott's free-fall continues as he finished 33rd after crashing with Joey Logano on Monday.  That run dropped him down to 13th.  Jamie McMurray is still in 14th, 16 points behind Elliott.  Kyle Larson maintains the final spot in the Chase as of right now after finishing a strong sixth on Sunday.  Kasey Kahne is the first driver out of the Chase, 20 points behind Larson.

Outside the top 16, but Chase-eligible: 27) Tony Stewart -356

Outside the top 30 with a win: 31) Chris Buescher -428, six points out of 30th

Point Standings (1-16): 1) Kevin Harvick 709, 2) Brad Keselowski -22, 3) Kurt Busch -51, 4) Kyle Busch -75, 5) Carl Edwards -83, 6) Joey Logano -97, t-7) Jimmie Johnson -132, t-7) Martin Truex, Jr. -132, 9) Denny Hamlin -133, 10) Matt Kenseth -140, 11) Austin Dillon -160, 12) Ryan Newman -172, 13) Chase Elliott -176, 14) Jamie McMurray -192, 15) Kyle Larson -201, 16) Kasey Kahne -221.

Race Winners: Denny Hamlin (Daytona-1), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta, Auto Club), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas, Talladega, Daytona-2, Kentucky), Kevin Harvick (Phoenix), Kyle Busch (Martinsville, Texas, Kansas, Indianapolis), Carl Edwards (Bristol, Richmond), Matt Kenseth (Dover, Loudon), Martin Truex, Jr. (Charlotte), Kurt Busch (Pocono-1), Joey Logano (Michigan), Tony Stewart (Sonoma), Chris Buescher (Pocono-2)
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com.  He can be reached via e-mail at ashland10@mail.com.

Letter of the Race: Monday's Pennsylvania 400 was brought to you by the letter "U," for Urgency. The constant threat of rain and/or fog meant that no one really knew when the race was going to end.  As a result, drivers were a bit anxious.  Chances that ordinarily would not have been taken were taken on Monday. - Phil Allaway

Quotes to Remember: Pennsylvania 400
compiled by Phil Allaway

"That's pretty awesome. Wild circumstances here at Pocono.  This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day.  It was a lot of fun.  The guys really toughed it out.  We got a flat tire, but we're headed in the right direction now, so that will help in points.  We got a win here, so we'll take it any way we can get it.

"We've been definitely headed in the right direction.  The last six or seven weeks have been really good for us.  Kentucky was gonna be excellent for us, but is just didn't play out.  It's pretty awesome to be here right now.  I don't know what to do right now.  We don't have any of the team here right now.  The car is out on pit road. This is a little different way to celebrate." - Chris Buescher, race winner

"Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape, but that's the way it goes.  We had really good speed on the green flag pit stop cycle, which got us in a position to take over the lead and hopefully control the race, but there's nothing you can do about the fog rolling in.  That's just part of it and either way I'm really kind of pumped up for Chris.  That's big to win a race and get in the Chase.  It's been an interesting weekend here in Pocono.  It's been a lot of fun.  I'm really proud of everybody on this Alliance Truck Parts Fusion team." - Brad Keselowski, finished second

"It's been a strange weekend really weather wise.  There were times yesterday I thought we were going to get to race and the track had like a pond underneath it apparently.  I'm just proud of Tommy (Baldwin) and then the guys on the box for kind of realizing there was opportunity for a strategy play there.  We have had a decent run today. We were a lot better than we were last time here.  We have made a lot of gains with our race car and with our team.  When you are a small team you've got to take those opportunities when you can.  Fortunately, we were getting good enough fuel mileage to just keep trying to stretch it and have enough left for when the caution did come out.  I don't know that we could have predicted it would have been from fog.  I think we were just trying to do what we could do to make sure we maintained as far up as we could and maybe lead a lap or something like that.  That is what you've got to do sometimes." - Regan Smith, finished third

"I don't think you ever want to expect contact, but obviously we were racing really hard.  I was doing all I could to stay in front of him and he was doing all he could to get by me.  We battled hard down the front stretch one time and then he got back to my inside into Turn 3.  I left him plenty of room I was just going to try and run side-by-side with him again and try and slow him down on the front stretch.  I guess he got loose underneath me and got into our door.  That was pretty frustrating at the time, but it happens to not even really matter.  That part of the race doesn't matter at all.  It doesn't mean one thing to me." - Kyle Larson, finished sixth, on his battle with Austin Dillon

"Our car was okay. We were really, really fast when we were by ourselves but anytime we got to within five lengths of the guys in front of us, we just couldn't do anything with it. Just got really aero tight this time. We weren't that bad when we were here last time. I'm not sure what's different for us. We just didn't quite figure it out." - Kyle Busch, finished ninth

"It's been very awesome.  Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the guys did a great job going into today to make the right adjustments.  Turn 3 has been our strong suit. We could really get a run down the front stretch on guys.  It's was fun racing with the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) today.  It was a heck of a race.  It's a shame.  Hopefully, we get this thing finished off and we can get a better finish.  We've just got to keep working.  We proved today that we've got the speed to win we've just got to work on all the other aspects." - Austin Dillon, finished 13th

"We started off a little tight there.  I thought we made good adjustments throughout the course of the day.  I could kind of use the trackbar to help kind of guide the car the way I needed to.  I feel like we had an eighth to 12th place car when were at our best.  I think we still just need a little bit more to get to that next level of cars, but I felt like we just made good changes.  Strategy kind of never worked out.  I felt like we kind of always kind of got in the back of the field when the strategy kind of happened.  We were able to pass cars and got what we got." - AJ Allmendinger, finished 14th

"Yeah, we came off of Turn 1 and those guys were three-wide. I thought Denny (Hamlin) had the best run, so I elected to push him down the back, down there at the exit of Turn 1; I thought that would be a good move to kind of get him passed, that hopefully he'd drag me by; and I was just still next to him and got in there. I thought I slowed down enough to not get loose, but got loose and collected Joey. So, I apologize to those guys. It was completely my fault. And I apologize to my guys. Man, they gave me a good car. I need to re-think my evaluation of how I'm going to approach these races because it's not working out right now." - Chase Elliott, finished 33rd

"It was good for a while. The team did a great job. The Shell Pennzoil Ford was fast and really good on restarts. We were able to drive up to the lead a few times. Only if it had rained a little earlier we would have had a lot different outcome. We had a new rear carrier today and he came out of the gate swinging which is awesome. I am super proud of that. There were a lot of positives today. We just ended on a negative note racing hard and trying to get back up there after that caution. We all had to pit because we tried to win the race when it rained and we lost our track position and then the 24 got loose under me. It is just part of racing. It stinks to be on this end of it. It is just part of it." - Joey Logano, finished 37th

"Just blew a right front (tire). A lug nut bounced off the ground, fell in behind the wheel behind a pit stop. It's just bad luck honestly. I knew something wasn't right in (turn) one and two and I got real tight off of (turn) two on that restart and went down the back and was like, 'Ah, it feels okay.' And, as I got closer to the tunnel turn I felt it start to go down and by the time I let off and tried to slow down it was just going straight for the fence.

(on getting the car fixed for future use later this season) "That was my initial thought after it happened is like, 'Alright, let's go to the garage and make sure we don't blow another tire and destroy the thing.' God, it was so good. I mean, unbelievable that it happened the way it happened. They told me how it happened on the pit stop. A lug nut spun off, hit the ground, bounced behind the wheel somehow and knocked the inner valve stem off. Crazy bad luck and just a shame. The car was so good. I was literally on cruise control and driving away. I don't know – frustrating but it's racing I guess." - Martin Truex, Jr., finished 38th (Crashed out)

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com.  He can be reached via e-mail at ashland10@mail.com

Today's Featured Commentary
They Lost the Track!  Where Did Pocono Go During the Fog Delay?
Sitting in the Stands: A Fan's View
by S.D. Grady

It was odd. First Turn 1  and then Turn 2 vanished in a thick pea soup-like weather phenomenon on Monday, bringing the Pennsylvania 400 to an early conclusion. Heard across social and broadcast media were explanations about what "losing the track" actually meant; a clarification needed when nobody could actually see the racing surface. So...where do you think Pocono went when it was "lost" in the fog?

1.) Long Island Sound:  Alarmed by the extreme low visibility and thought it would go study this thing called fog, how it works, and how to get rid of it.  Got lost on the Sound on a tug boat and was unable to return.

2.) Caribbean: The Tricky Triangle had his flight booked for a year. Concerned with the heavy fog it left early in case the plane was grounded.  It was not giving up the sunshine and warm temperatures!

3.) Mid-Ohio:  Often overheard references in the broadcast booth, so it went to see a real road course.

4.) Went in search of Turn 4  #WhatTurn4

5.) Felt an undeniable urge to find Antonio Bay.  (See The Fog)

6.) Went to Outer Banks of North Carolina for a Lighthouse Tour. It might be a good idea to have one installed...

7.) There was a bus tour of Trenton, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.  Simply had to cross that item off the Bucket List

8.) Panicked at sight of the fog, feared a repeat of London's Killer Fog of 1952 and left.

9.) Somebody came over the Pocono PA and announced a tornado warning, so the track sought shelter.

10.) Found Cloud Nine on the infield and gave it up for the day.  That rookie needed a break, anyway.


Timing lines on pit road have been tightened up even more in an attempt to keep the cars within speed limits for the Sprint Cup Series.  During his media availability on Saturday, Aric Almirola compared a NASCAR driver on pit road watching their tach in an attempt to avoid speeding to texting while driving.  He wondered why NASCAR doesn't have limiters, like many other racing series, that would physically prevent their cars from speeding and allow the drivers to stay focused on the road.  It's a very good question.

Editor's Note: On that note, we want to hear your thoughts on this question.  With the recent substantial increase in timing lines on pit road and attempts to subvert procedure, should NASCAR change how pit road is officiated?  The options are to continue their current method of timing sections, use GPS devices on the cars to outright monitor speeds and ditch the idea of timing lines, or introduce an electronic pit lane speed limiter.  Please send your responses to frontstretchnewsletter@gmail.com and we'll print some of the responses later this week!

S.D. Grady is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch and runs a NASCAR blog called the S-Curves. She can be reached via email at sonya.grady@frontstretch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @laregna and on her Facebook page (she's an author, too!) at https://www.facebook.com/Author.SDGrady.

Editor's Note: Numbers Game will run on Wednesday.


Thinkin' Out Loud: Pennsylvania 400

by Mike Neff

by Jeff Wolfe

by Amy Henderson


Q: In 1993, Robert Yates Racing tapped Lake Speed to drive the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford at Watkins Glen after Robby Gordon had a direct conflict (he was racing in CART's New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway at roughly the same time as the Winston Cup race). 

Speed was considered an unusual choice at the time, but he had previous road racing glory, winning the Karting World Championship in 1978.  There was a rather well-known chap that he beat to win the title.  Name him.

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

Friday's Answer:

Q:  Road courses in NASCAR tend to see some unusual crashes.  Brad Keselowski's testing crash last week is just one example.  Rick Mast had another unusual crash in at Watkins Glen 1993.  What happened?

A: Much like Keselowski, Mast appeared to lose all braking ability.  Unlike Keselowski, Mast was headed towards turn 10.  Mast spun off-course at a high rate of speed, slid across the grassy runoff and went hard into the tires.  The car spun around 450 degrees in the air before coming down on all fours.  The crash can be seen here.

Needless to say, Mast was out on the spot after this crash.  He did walk away from his stricken Thunderbird with some assistance.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have more NASCAR news to report.  Meanwhile, Mark Howell returns with the Professor of Speed column.

On Frontstretch.com:
NASCAR experts from around the country weigh in on the best drivers in the series right now as our weekly power rankings feature, The 10 takes center stage.
Talk back to the Frontstretch Newsletter!
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