Engine failures allow Hamlin to win at Kansas | NevadaAppeal.com

Engine failures allow Hamlin to win at Kansas

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

The big story in the Sprint Cup Kansas race last weekend was engine failures. NASCAR allowed the teams a lower gear, and the resulting higher revolutions per minute took its toll on engines. Denny Hamlin, who had his share of engine woes last year, took his second win of the season. It was a particularly sweet win for crew chief Darien Grubb. Hamlin and Grubb’s former driver Tony Stewart are the only multiple winners so far this season with two victories each. The Hendrick boys had three of their four cars in the top 10 again, but that 200th victory still eludes the team. Jeff Gordon was poised to join his teammates up front until he fell victim to engine problems in the late going.

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Formula One is still looking for its first repeat winner after four races. The Bahrain race went off without falling victim to any political unrest, at least in the vicinity of the race track. Sebastian Vettel was back on his 2011 form, taking both the pole and the race win. However, the usual suspects did not join him on the podium. Rather it was the two Lotus drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finishing second and third, much to the chagrin of McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes. All of the top three cars had Renault power. Does this signal a return to domination of Red Bull and Vettel? The way this season has gone so far, I wouldn’t put money on it.

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While Lotus had a terrific result in Bahrain, the Lotus IndyCar engine program suffered some setbacks last week. Both Brian Herta Autosport and Dreyer-Reinbold Racing have negotiated out of their engine lease contracts with Lotus, hoping to land a deal with Honda or Chevy. BHA has withdrawn from the race in Brazil this weekend, but the DRR cars were already en route, so they will run one last race with the Lotus powerplant. The good news is that the remaining Lotus teams will have a bigger pool of engines to draw from now. In other IndyCar news, Graham Rahal has been put on a six-race probation for his blocking move that put Marco Andretti airborne and into a tire wall at Long Beach. And Chevy is protesting the series’ decision to allow Honda to replace their turbocharger housing with an uprated model. Chevy engines, with dual turbochargers, have dominated the early part of the season. However, the Honda single turbo will probably be superior at Indy and other ovals; hence the outcry from the Chevy teams over the change.

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On their way from Kansas, a few NASCAR Sprint Cup teams stopped at Pocono to test the new pavement. Corner speeds were up considerably, so look for a new qualifying record when the series races there in June. Pocono is the latest in a series of repaving projects in recent years, including Daytona and Talladega. Kansas is next on the repaving schedule.

And Bruton Smith has made the decision to remove the progressive banking that was installed at Bristol a few years back and return the track to its original one-groove configuration. Smith believes that the change in the style of racing (more side-by-side but fewer crashes) has led to the steep decline in attendance. He feels that changing the track back will produce a sellout crowd in August.

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The NASCAR Sprint Cup series runs tonight at Richmond. It is unfortunate that NASCAR has added so many Saturday night races in the past 10 years or so, because it has tended to hurt attendance at local tracks. Hopefully that won’t be the case at Fernley 95A Speedway tonight, when the track runs its second race of the season under new management. So if you want to see live racing action, smell the oil and rubber, and get dirt in your beer, head to Fernley tonight. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m., racing starts at 6 p.m.