Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ryan Blaney takes advantage of "situation", scores inaugural Roval win

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

By Lisa Janine Cloud

Ryan Blaney won the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, but his first trip to victory lane this season took a bit of a back seat to the drama surrounding the final transfer spot into the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. 

Remember 2011 when Tony Stewart took the championship from Carl Edwards with a tiebreaker? Sunday’s race was similar in that Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, and Jimmie Johnson tied for the transfer spot. Two would advance, one would not, and every position counted.

Remember that Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora where Kyle Larson kept smacking the wall but staggered to the win? That’s essentially how Larson scored his transfer spot. Caught up in a huge wreck on Lap 104 that red-flagged the race, Larson pushed his wrecked car to the limit, blowing a tire, smacking the wall and yet still passing Jeffrey Earnhardt’s stopped machine to take the checkered flag and tie Almirola and Johnson in points. His second-place finish at Las Vegas this round gave him the nod over Johnson.

“I knew I was in bad shape, so I kind of, I guess you could say, giving up, but I couldn't even drive my car, it was so bad destroyed,” Larson explained, describing his finish. “But then they said they were all crashed and they were coming to the checkered. I was over here getting on the oval, and they said they were starting to crash, so I ran hard. We had, I guess, so much camber and tow in our car they said if I ran fast I would blow a right front. But I was like, ‘You've got to go.’

So, I ran hard through, whatever, [Turns] 1 and 2 over there and through the Bus Stop, and then blew a right front center of [Turns] 3 and 4 and plowed the wall, I was like, ‘Crap, I don't know if I'm going to be able to get down to make the chicane’, but luckily it came down off the banking and I could turn right okay,” Larson said.

“I got through the 16th corner, and then 17. I hit the wall again on the front stretch, and the 96 [Earnhardt] was stalled the whole time. I think they told me the 96 was stalled when I was like at the backstretch over there, and he wasn't able to get his car re-fired. He was like 100 feet from the start‑finish line. I could start to see him creeping when I was getting to [Turn] 16. I was like, ‘Gosh, don't go, don't go’, and we were able to make it. Hey, I was pretty lucky.”

Johnson, locked in on points during the last lap, was in reach of a win for the first time in 50 races. He went all-in to try to pass Martin Truex Jr. instead of playing it safe and finishing second. The seven-time champ overdrove the chicane and spun out, coming back across the track in front of Truex, who tried to avoid him but ended up being punted across the oval in sight of the finish line. Blaney surged through the opening between Truex and Johnson, claiming the victory. Johnson came in eighth, Truex wound up 14th.

The first two stages of the of the race were fairly tame, though the racing was solid through those 51 laps. On Lap 66, Austin Dillon’s hopes of advancing ended in a tangle with Chris Buescher. A few laps later a flat tire under green put playoff contender Erik Jones a lap down, taking him out of the picture as well. Denny Hamlin came into the race needing a win but his championship hopes evaporated with his 12th-place finish.

Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer finished second and third with racecars that looked like they’d been at Martinsville or Talladega. Alex Bowman’s fourth-place finish secured his spot in the next round. Kurt Busch finished fifth with Chase Elliott behind him in sixth, both teams moving on to the Round of 12.

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
After the race, Blaney described his run.

 “We were able to kind of put ourselves in a spot to where towards the end of the day we were just racing the 88 and 14, and we were just right in front of or behind the 88 just because we didn't want to let him out of our sight, so when he pitted towards the end of the race, we pitted, just to stay on the same strategy. Same with the 14. We put ourselves in a spot to capitalize on something happening, and we did.

But really big to be able to win for Roger. Obviously, that's not the way I'd want to do it.  Obviously, I want to go out and dominate the race. Whenever you win something like this, it's a weird feeling.  I don't really want to call it an undeserved feeling, but it's just kind of an odd feeling. But we put ourselves in a good spot, and it worked out for us. When I was running third, I was just thinking about points. We were good on points, and I was cool with just riding around in third. But then that situation happened, and we happened to be there.”

The Round of 12 starts next week at Dover with the Gander Outdoors 400 featuring:

1. Kyle Busch 
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Martin Truex, Jr.
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Clint Bowyer 
6. Joey Logano 
7. Kurt Busch
8. Ryan Blaney 
9. Chase Elliott 
10. Kyle Larson
11. Aric Almirola
12. Alex Bowman

Tune in at 2:00 PM on NBCSN, MRN Radio, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to see what victims Miles the Monster claims. 




Last-Lap Pass Makes Hailie Deegan First Female Winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series History

Credit: Loren Orr/NASCAR via Getty Images

by Beth Reinke

It’s every young racer’s dream to take the lead after the white flag and earn the checkered. For 17-year-old Hailie Deegan, that dream materialized during Saturday night’s NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 at Meridian Speedway, when she passed teammate Cole Rouse on the final lap.

In the historic win, Deegan became the first woman to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race in the series’ 64-year running.

Just in case the opportunity materialized, Deegan prepared herself by mentally rehearsing the last-lap move before she went to sleep the night before the race.

“I was in bed last night thinking, ‘If it comes down, last lap, I’m in second, I’m a car length off of him, what am I going to do?'” Deegan said. “And I found that Turn 1 spot. I knew exactly what I had to do there. I was doing it to some other people, just getting right under them to get them a little light, to get them, not wrecking loose, nothing crazy, but enough to just get a little under them and make the pass happen.

“I knew exactly what I had to do the last lap. I did it, we executed, and we made it happen.”

Deegan has two runner-up finishes this year, one at Douglas County Speedway in June and another at Las Vegas on Sept. 13, where she also became the first woman in the series to start on the pole. In 12 starts this season, the Temecula, California, native posted five top fives and 10 top 10s.

Rouse, who finished second in the No. 99 for Bill McAnally Racing for the third time in four races, was none too happy about his teammate’s maneuver.

“We were going into Turn 1 … and she doesn’t lift and drives into me, gets me completely sideways,” Rouse said. “We were going to win that race if it was run clean, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I’m just going to go into the next two races, not give her any slack, and we’re going to win both of those. It was a good night, but I don’t really care about second, honestly.”

The win puts Deegan in the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. She sits fourth in the K&N Pro West standings behind Derek Thorn, Ryan Partridge, Rouse and Derek Kraus.

“This has to be the best day of my life right here,” Deegan said in Victory Lane. “It doesn’t get any better than this. People don’t understand how many days, how many hours I’ve put into this, how much work I’ve done to get to this moment. It’s just amazing. This is the happiest day of my life. We did it. Woo hoo!”

Watch Deegan in action when the NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 airs on Friday Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.



Thursday, September 27, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The Roval Round One Closer

Track Length: 2.28 miles
Number of Turns: 17
Change in elevation: 35 feet
Banking in Corners: Varying from 2 to 24 degrees
Banking on Straights: Varying from 0 to 5 degrees
Race Distance: 248.52 miles (109 Laps)
Stages: Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 109)

by Carol D'Agostino

An elimination NASCAR playoff race always unfolds with lots of drama and nail biting. However, as we enter race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the buzz is at a new high as drivers face the "Roval" -- the road course/oval combo. Although some drivers had the opportunity to test at the new, one-of-a-kind, 1-turn, 2.28-mile track, most of them brought back a mangled car.

In other words fellow fantasy players, we've got another Talladega on our hands in terms of fantasy picking this week. None of us know what racing product we'll get this weekend, but I believe the our road racing elites and our top playoff drivers will perform well.

Driver's statistics and averages on road courses provide a strong foundation for my selection strategy this weekend.


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers' Statistics for the last 10 races 
(Road courses only, All track lengths)

1
Kurt Busch
10
0
3
8
0
47
14.1
7.1
2
Kyle Busch
10
1
5
8
1
81
8.7
10.1
3
Denny Hamlin
10
1
4
5
1
60
12.0
12.9
4
Kevin Harvick
10
1
4
7
0
114
12.4
10.2
5
Martin Truex, Jr.
10
2
4
5
0
121
8.6
14.8
6
Joey Logano
10
1
4
5
0
12
11.9
12.5
7
Brad Keselowski
10
0
2
3
0
92
12.5
14.9
8
Clint Bowyer
10
0
4
6
0
9
18.1
12.5
9
Kyle Larson
10
0
1
2
2
11
5.2
16.9
10
Jimmie Johnson
10
0
0
3
0
65
12.9
18.7
11
Jamie McMurray
10
0
1
4
1
10
11.0
16.2
12
Ryan Newman
10
0
0
2
0
0
15.4
18.3
13
Kasey Kahne
10
0
0
3
0
3
22.7
17.8
14
Matt Kenseth
9
0
2
4
0
2
17.4
17.4
15
A.J. Allmendinger
10
1
2
3
2
115
4.6
21.4
SOURCE: www.racing-reference.info

Driver Averages at Road Courses in Recent Races (since Feb 2016)Dr 

Driver
Avg
Finish
Races 
Wins
Top
5's
Top
10's 
Laps
Led
Poles
Avg
Rating
5.50
6
0
3
6
61
1
112.1
8.83
6
2
4
5
116
0
122.9
8.17
6
0
0
5
4
0
92.8
5.67
6
1
4
5
60
1
103.7
11.33
6
1
2
4
62
0
99.9
15.50
6
0
0
3
1
0
83.7
13.17
6
0
3
3
0
0
78.1
11.75
4
0
1
3
1
0
84.4
10.00
6
1
2
3
61
0
99.1
19.17
6
0
1
2
29
0
82.1
17.50
6
0
0
2
2
0
74.2
16.20
5
0
1
2
0
0
79.5
16.17
6
0
2
2
8
0
76.8
11.00
6
0
2
2
65
0
96.3
9.50
4
0
2
2
14
0
90.9
SOURCE: www.driveraverages.com

Recent Road Race Winners:
Kyle Larson, Sonoma Raceway (September 22, 2018)
Denny Hamlin, Watkins Glen International (August 5, 2018)
Martin Truex Jr., Watkins Glen International (August 6, 2017)
Kevin Harvick, Sonoma Raceway (June 25, 2017)

Recent Road Race Pole Winners:  
Kyle Larson, Sonoma Raceway (September 22, 2018)
Denny Hamlin, Watkins Glen International (August 5, 2018)
Kyle Busch, Watkins Glen International (August 6, 2017)
Kyle Larson, Sonoma Raceway (June 25, 2017)

The Likely Suspects: There are drivers who embrace the art of road racing. Watching them traverse a road track is a thing of beauty. I look for these drivers to adapt well to the Roval: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. Although he hasn't been driving upfront this season, AJ Allmendinger needs a ride next year and will no doubt flex his road racing prowess this weekend.

My 2 Cents:  My no-brainer pick is a tie between Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch is also a fine pick and Denny Hamlin is a good road racer with a lot of incentive this week since he needs a win. My next picks are Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Jamie McMurray. I'll round out my team with William Byron and Michael McDowell.

My Final Four: Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch and Michael McDowell.

Second-look driver: This week's second-look driver is AJ Allmendinger. In the past six road races, the Dinger has scored one top five, two top 10s and led 29 laps. Last week's second-look driver, Matt Kenseth, had a less-than-stellar performance. He finished 25th after starting in 17th place.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Friday, September 28th and your final picks by 2 p.m. EDT on race day Sunday, September 30th.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.