Lots of racing this weekend, and lots of rain, too. Wet weather put a crimp in qualifying for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Watkins Glen (but not the Busch Series) and in the IRL’s qualifying at Kentucky Speedway, and also delayed the start of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Nashville Superspeedway and postponed the Knoxville Nationals from Saturday to Sunday. Otherwise everything went smoothly, with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series at The Glen, the Champ Car World Series (joined by Trans-Am, Toyota Atlantic and the Speed World Challenge series) at Denver and the NHRA at Brainerd.
Rain, rain, go away! Let’s go racing:
NASCAR: Stewart’s Streak Continues at Watkins Glen
There is that old saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” It applied at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, where Tony “Smoke” Stewart was figuratively on fire as he totally dominated this week’s NASCAR Nextel Cup race, just a week after winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sunday’s victory was Stewart’s fifth in the past seven races, his second road course win of the year (of two), his second consecutive win at The Glen, his eighth straight top-10 finish and the 24th win of his career.
There are those who are convinced that Stewart is the best all-around driver on the planet, and he hasn’t done much to dissuade that line of thinking lately. He also had the fastest lap in Friday night’s Grand-Am Rolex Series race in a Daytona Prototype and finished second in Saturday’s Busch Series race. He also managed to squeeze in a couple of non-winged sprint car races earlier in the week.
Stewart was just untouchable on Sunday, relinquishing the lead only for pit stops. Qualifying was rained out, but he had posted the fastest time of the 37 cars of 46 cars that ran before the rain began. He got to start first anyway, since he’s leading the points.
Behind Stewart, the road racing cream rose to the top. Robby Gordon, who won Saturday’s Busch race, finished second after starting 39th and coming from the back twice. Boris Said, who started 41st, finished third after rebounding from an early-race collision with P.J. Jones. Scott Pruett, subbing for Sterling Marlin (who left the track on Friday to be with his ailing father, NASCAR pioneer Coo Coo Marlin, who died early Sunday) finished fourth. Jimmie Johnson, rebounding from a miserable race at Indy, finished fifth. Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Joe Nemechek and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.
Misfortune befell some big names during the race. Jeff Gordon ran among the leaders until a cut tire forced him to pit on lap 46, then fought back from deep in the field to finish 14th. Michael Waltrip was running in the top five before being tapped into a spin and vicious crash by Kasey Kahne, finishing 41st. Kurt Busch, who stunned the sport earlier this week by announcing he would leave Roush Racing for Penske Racing South in 2007, had a suspension breakage and came back, only to spin off into the gravel with two laps remaining, finishing 39th and falling from fifth to sixth in the championship. Busch’s teammate Greg Biffle had shift linkage trouble and finished 38th. Both Bobby and Terry (replacing fired Jason Leffler) Labonte, Stewart’s teammates, failed to finish, being scored 36th and 37th, respectively.
Stewart extended his points lead over Johnson to 105, and Mark Martin replaced Kurt Busch in fifth in the standings.
The series heads for the Irish Hills of
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 160 laps
2) Robby Gordon, No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 92 laps
3) Boris Said, No. 36 MB Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 92 laps
4) Scott Pruett, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 92 laps
5) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 92 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Tony Stewart, 3113; 2) Jimmie Johnson, 3008; 3) Greg Biffle, 2861; 4) Rusty Wallace, 2855; 5) Mark Martin, 2782.
NASCAR Busch Series: Newman Wins at The Glen
It’s been four years since the NASCAR Busch Series went road racing, and this year they added two road-course events to their schedule, at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodrigues in Mexico City and Watkins Glen. Saturday’s race at The Glen attracted a bunch of Winston Cup regulars, and one of them – Ryan Newman – took home the win.
Newman worked his way past Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers in the late going, then had to hold off a hard-charging Robby Gordon over the final lap to pick up his first road course victory. Gordon finished second, ahead of Vickers, polesitter Tony Stewart and defending champ and current points leader Martin Truex Jr. Burton, Joe Nemechek, Paul Menard, Mexican road-racing ace Jorge Goeters and J.J. Yeley rounded out the top 10.
The race start was delayed two hours by rain, and then the first 18 laps were run under a combined green-and-yellow condition, adding even more confusion to the jumble of pit-stop strategies in play. A number of teams, including Stewart, pitted immediately after the race went green, but were caught out by later cautions that trapped them back in the pack. Gordon, who qualified third and led after Stewart’s early pit stop, fell back to 25th after his stop and had to fight back ferociously to get second at the finish. Had the race lasted another lap, he would have won.
Truex was able to increase his championship lead, as second-in-points Clint Bowyer finished 15th, and third-in-points Reed Sorenson blew an engine to finish 41st.
The series will head for the wide-open spaces of Michigan International Speedway next weekend, where they will once again race as a supporting event to the Nextel Cup Series.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Ryan Newman, No. 39 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 82 laps
2) Robby Gordon, No. 55 Robby Gordon Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 82 laps
3) Brian Vickers, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 82 laps
4) Tony Stewart, No. 33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet
5) Martin Truex Jr., No. 8 Chance2 Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 82 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Martin Truex Jr., 3441; 2) Clint Bowyer, 3319; 3) Reed Sorenson, 3222; 4) Carl Edwards, 3085; 5) Kenny Wallace, 2969.
Craftsman Truck Series: Reutimann Gets First Series Win at
One of the nicest traditions in NASCAR racing is that when you win a race in