Late pass lands Hirst in victory lane
Kyle Hirst won the King of the West sprint car main at Reno-Tahoe-Fernley Speedway last Saturday with a late-race pass on Willie Croft in traffic. Hirst also set fast qualifying time. Doug Martin brought home the win in the Dwarf Car main ahead of Cody Gibson and Tate Morehead, while Shawn Natenstedt took the IMCA modified victory, holding off challengers through several restarts in the caution-plagued main. Robert Miller finished second in a borrowed car, while Melissa Natenstedt came home third. The Friday races were canceled due to flooding. The Fernley 95A series will be on track next Saturday night for the seventh points race of the season.
Jimmie Johnson scored the Daytona double last Saturday, a feat last accomplished by Bobby Allison in 1982. Johnson now has a 51-point lead over second place Clint Bowyer, and the win puts him on a par with Matt Kenseth at four apiece. But the big story at Daytona was the flap over roof flaps. Sixteen Sprint Cup cars and 15 Nationwide cars were found to have lightened spacers in the roof flaps, which are used to keep cars from getting airborne when they spin. The tactical advantage is that the flaps are mounted on the roof, and any weight removed from high on the car can help lower the center of gravity. The advantage is miniscule, and having the driver lose five pounds would probably be more effective. In any event, NASCAR confiscated the roof flaps and inspected them, but determined that there was no safety issue and did not issue any penalties. The roof flaps are manufactured as a kit by a division of Roush Industries, and NASCAR said they would work with the manufacturer and the teams to evaluate the parts and the process. The Roush Fenway, Michael Waltrip, Penske, Petty, and Ganassi teams all had the modified spacers, while the Hendrick and Childress teams did not. This led some conspiracy theorists to conclude that somebody from the latter two teams “dropped a dime” to the NASCAR inspectors. Hey, it’s a cutthroat business.
After his Iowa triumph, James Hinchcliffe’s Pocono outing was a disaster. The Andretti Autosport driver crashed on the first lap, and his teammates fared only slightly better. Ryan Hunter-Reay was run over in the pit lane by a late-braking Takuma Sato, and Marco Andretti’s dominant car didn’t make enough fuel mileage to get the win. It’s the old racing syndrome of hero to zero from one week to the next. The Andretti team’s troubles helped Target Ganassi driver Scott Dixon come from deep in the field to take the win, with teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti finishing second and third. It was a huge turnaround for the usually dominant team that has been struggling this season. All 24 drivers gave the track high marks for being fast and fun, and the fans saw a dramatic race. I think Pocono will be back on the schedule for next year.
Sebastian Vettel didn’t get the pole for the German Grand Prix, but he shot into the lead at the start and went on to win his home race, much to the delight of the crowd. It was Vettel’s fourth win of the season, and bolstered his point lead in what is very likely his fourth consecutive championship run. Kimi Raikkonen, who is being bandied about as Vettel’s teammate for 2014, finished second, with fellow Lotus driver Romain Grosjean in third. When asked on the podium about his feelings about Kimi as a possible teammate, Vettel was diplomatic, but less than wildly enthusiastic.
This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series are at the flat one-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while the Camping World Trucks will race at the fast 7/8 mile Iowa oval. The IndyCar series visits Toronto for a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader, provided the flooding has subsided.