Truex Jr Sensational In Napa Valley

Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

 

6/23/2013

By: Billy Tewes

The Toyota SaveMart 350 was conquered by a second consecutive Michael Waltrip Racing driver as Martin Truex Jr won his second career Sprint Cup race in dominating fashion. Truex made it look effortless as he weaved in and out of the eleven turns of Infineon Raceway.

Truex Jr snapped a 218 win-less streak at Sonoma and this should come as no surprise to anyone as he has been successful on road courses before. In the Busch Series (now Nationwide), Truex Jr. won his first career road course race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez course in Mexico City.

This race is extremely important to Truex Jr’s chase chances. He is now sitting in 10th, with an eight point lead over 11th place Paul Menard and this win could play into a potential wild card scenario if Truex is not able to stay in the top 10.

It appeared as if only three or four drivers had a serious handle on their cars all day. Kurt Busch looked poised to win and dominated early until he set himself up to be off pit sequence to try to make it on only two stops. Busch fumbled the race away by speeding on pit road not once, but twice! In a miraculous comeback, Busch would wind up finishing 4th. I’m still convinced that Kurt Busch will be in victory lane this year with the completely underrated Furniture Row race team.

Jeff Gordon’s team made the right adjustments throughout the race and got his car to sail through the turns like a hot knife through butter. But Truex Jr’s car was so good down the stretch that once he pulled away from Juan Pablo Montoya, he was able to take care of his tires and save enough fuel to make it to the end. This was not the case for Montoya as he ran out of fuel, coasting to a disappointing 34th place finish.

Also disappointing were the runs of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. The only driver that possibly saw some light at the end of the tunnel was Matt Kenseth in the 20. Kenseth stayed upfront for majority of the race except for when most of the field was off pit sequence with the few leaders that stayed out for strategy purposes. Kenseth’s day took a dive when crew chief Jason Ratcliffe decided to keep him out and try to stretch him on fuel. This gave Kenseth track position but put him at an extreme disadvantage as he had to go over 40 laps on a run. Kenseth was able to save enough fuel to finish but slipped from 3rd to 19th where he would finish. It was a rough day for Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin as well as both were involved in accidents and finished

The three drivers I had picked to look out for at Sonoma were Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers. All three were at one point in the top five but the only one who looked like he could have mounted a serious challenge was Ambrose who finished 7th. I will tip my hat to Vickers though who started 40th due to racing the Nationwide race at Road America and missing qualifying. Vickers raced his way to a 13th place finish.

Nascar will go east to the Kentucky Speedway for some Saturday night action! Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have won the only two races here and Keselowski could definitely use a win to turnaround his season. It will be interesting to see how important qualifying will be as the two races at Kentucky have been won from the pole and 8th place. Will there be a repeat winner, or will we see a first time winner at Kentucky this weekend? Tune in Saturday night as Kentucky has yet to disappoint!

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Stewart Runs Down Montoya To Conquer The Monster

Race winner Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet celebrates
6/2/2013
By: Billy Tewes

Tony Stewart mounted a charge in the closing laps to beat Juan Pablo Montoya and end a 30 race winless streak, by conquering the Monster Mile at Dover. Stewart came out of nowhere after the final caution and ran down Montoya, passing him with three to go to win the FedEx 400.  This win at the Monster Mile is Tony Stewart’s 48th career Sprint Cup victory and first of the 2013 campaign.

The race began with early domination by the Joe Gibbs drivers of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Even Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr appeared incredibly strong early on. Hamlin, Kenseth and Busch led majority of the first 250 laps. Kenseth’s day would be ruined by a blown engine, which has plagued Toyota Racing Development all season. Kenseth was chasing down leader Kyle Busch and came over the radio saying he had blown up. Another Toyota driver, Martin Truex Jr, suffered a similar fate to Kenseth as his day was cut short due to engine failure.

The final caution of the race came out when Denny Hamlin cut a tire and grazed the wall. Juan Pablo Montoya came out of the pits in front of Jimmie Johnson, who looked poised to run away from the field after leading 143 laps prior to the pit stop. Montoya starting first as opposed to second was crucial because coming to the green flag, Johnson jumped Montoya on the restart. Johnson was in front of Montoya in the restart box and was black flagged and called to pit road. Johnson’s had the responsibility of giving back the lead to Montoya and he failed to do so. Johnson would finish 17th a lap down.

Montoya would end up finishing second after valiantly fighting off Stewart up until the final three miles. Montoya was discouraged yet again, as he would lose his second race of the season in the closing laps (Richmond was the other). Stewart’s win marks his third career win at Dover. Today’s race could very well play into Tony Stewart making the chase as he currently sits 16th in the standings and is on the outside looking in for the chase.

Nascar heads to the Pocono Raceway where drivers prepare for long straights and only three turns as opposed to four. The race is 400 miles instead of 500 like it was for many years. Last year was the first year they tried a 400 miler and in my opinion the racing has been much better. The extra 100 miles is very hard on engines and sometimes drivers end up stretched out and the action is MIA. Last years race was rain shortened and awarded to Jeff Gordon. Pocono is rich in history as it has been known for many close quarter finishes. One that comes to mind was the 1998 Pocono 500 where Jeremy Mayfield bumped legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. out of the way in the final corner to win.

Mayfield quoted Earnhardt in that he was “just trying to rattle his cage a bit”, something that Earnhardt did to many drivers over his storied career. For next weekends race, I am going to go with Denny Hamlin to win. He looks as if he is fully healed from his crash earlier this year and is a four time winner at Pocono. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the Gibbs drivers (barring engine failure) end up competing for the trophy next week.


Pocono’s unique configuration as seen from aerial view!

Shoot To Thrill! Kyle Busch Runs Roughshod At Texas

4/14/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Kyle Busch was back in victory lane after having a flawless night in his Interstate Batteries Camry. The NRA 500 came down to a battle off pit road between Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch. Busch’s team jumped him up one stop but that didn’t even matter because Kyle’s car was superior to Truex’s.  This win marks Busch’s first win at the Texas Motor Speedway and his second of the 2013 season.

Busch led 171 of the 334 laps and it was obvious from his new track record that he had a strong car all weekend. Busch also won the Nationwide Series race the night before in dominating fashion as well. The only other driver to come close to Busch’s level would be Martin Truex Jr who led 142 laps and was leading the race late until the final pit stop. It should be noted that Martin Truex Jr did however fail post race inspection for having the nose of his car too low which was not up to par with the inspection policies. Any penalties for this infraction will come later this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was docked some points and his crew chief might get suspended.

There weren’t a lot of drivers who could stick with Busch and Truex who combined led 313 of the 334 laps. One of the drivers that could hang with the cream of the crop was Jeff Gordon, but his day was ended on lap 306 with suspension issues.

The big story out of this weekend comes in two parts. It happened before and after the race was over. Before the race started, the Penske Racing cars of last years champion Brad Keselowski in the #2 Miller Lite Fusion and the #22 of Joey Logano failed pre race inspection for having rear end housing parts that Nascar ended up confiscating. Both ended up racing but Brad Keselowski was fired up after the race:

“The way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolute shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted in my life. My guys keep their heads on straight and they showcased why they’re a winning team and a championship team.”

I sure hope Brad is ready to open up his pocket book. Earlier this year Nascar fined Denny Hamlin for criticizing the generation six car. I would not be surprised to see them fine Keselowski for saying damaging things about the integrity of the sport. I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes, but I believe he could have handled this much better by saying nothing than opening himself up to Nascar for fines.

My prediction of Matt Kenseth winning the NRA 500 fell short so now I am 0/2 since beginning this prediction segment. Kenseth and crew could not get front grip out of the car and he seemed to be tight off the corner so he could never make significant progress toward the front and would finish 12th. Next week is first of two spots at the Kansas Speedway which is the sister track to Las Vegas. I won’t pick Matt Kenseth again even though I think he’ll be strong like he was at Vegas. My pick instead will be Greg Biffle in the #16 Fusion to get his first victory of the season. Biffle’s won at Kansas twice and the Roush cars are historically strong at 1.5 mile tracks. There is always more excitement instore so stay tuned for the STP 400 post race wrap up!

A glimpse of the potential madness at Kansas!!

Martinsville Domination Jimmie Johnson Style

4/7/2013

By: Billy Tewes

Martinsville might have to be renamed “Jimmie Johnsonville” after Jimmie Johnson took home the Grandfather clock at this afternoon’s STP Gas Booster 500.  The mayhem at Martinsville was contained due in part to a dominating performance Johnson. Johnson led 347 of the 500 laps en route to his second win of the year and his 8th career win at Martinsville.

Johnson dominated this weekend from start to finish. Johnson took the pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon with a speed of 98.4 which was good enough for a brand new track record. Very few drivers were able to challenge Johnson and it seemed as if his car was on a rail all day long.

Early on, it seemed as if the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be the dominating drivers. But after lap 363, Jimmie Johnson would prove to be too much to handle. Johnson and his #48 Lowes team were no lower than fourth position the entire 500 laps of the race. This comes as no surprise as I noted in my last blog, the Hendrick cars have always been extremely good at Martinsville.

Martinsville is generally a one lane race track. It is nearly impossible for drivers to pass and that caused trouble, especially when it came to flat tires. Drivers tried desperately to get to the bottom lane on restarts as well as when trying to pass another driver. In some instances, the cars would collide and one drivers’ fender would dig into the tire of the driver next to them. Drivers had to bump each other out of the way for position and that caused for a lot of beat up cars and dented hoods. This race was old school Martinsville at its finest!

Last week I mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr might win his first race of the year. Unfortunately for him, he would end up finishing 24th, worst of all the Hendrick cars. Johnson, Gordon and Kahne would finish first, third and fourth respectively. I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there had been five different winners this year. My thunder was completely ruined this week as Dale Earnhardt Jr did not win and Johnson became the first multi race winner.

I want to talk about one really cool thing that came out of Martinsville that I’ve never seen before. With 15 laps to go, Kurt Busch broke a brake line. The combination of the brake fluid spraying on the hot engine caused a huge engine fire. This video shows the accident and also shows that Kurt Busch reaches into his dash and pushes a button that triggers a fire extinguisher that is inside the engine compartment. This is a really neat feature that was designed with the generation six car that really shows how safety minded the engineers were when they built this car.

With Martinsville in the books, Nascar moves out West to the Texas Motor Speedway where high speeds will be the storyline. Texas Motor Speedway is a mile and a half track with high banked turns that allow drivers to hit over 200 MPH. Will Jimmie Johnson carry the momentum of winning this week into back to back victories? That is quite possible; however my pick for next week is going to be Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is coming off a disappointing finish at Martinsville after leading nearly 80 laps. Kenseth has won twice at Texas and he has truly found his way with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. He has already won at Las Vegas, a similar track and has won Texas twice in his career.

Matt Kenseth’s last victory at Texas in 2011.