By John Gardner
Racing got back to normal this past weekend, with all the hoopla of Memorial Day weekend fading in the rear-view mirror. NASCAR had all three of its top classes at Dover Downs’ Monster Mile, while Champ Car conducted one of its two oval races of the season at the historic Milwaukee Mile. The World Rally Championship returned to Turkey for a second year, while the big sportscar teams were at Le Mans for the annual test day in advance of the big 24-hour race in two weeks’ time.
Round and round and round they go, where do they stop? Read on and you’ll know:
NASCAR: Biffle Masters the Monster Mile
Roush Racing’s Greg Biffle won his fourth NASCAR Nextel Cup victory of the season with a strong performance at Dover Downs on Sunday, posting a 4.281sec margin of victory over currently-hot rookie Kurt Busch. Biffle credited his Doug Richert-led crew with making significant adjustments to his car throughout the 400-lap race that enabled him to dominate the second half.
Biffle took the lead on Lap 241 and led all but ten of those remaining, giving Ford and the Roush squadron their sixth victory of the year and cutting further into championship leader Jimmie Johnson’s points lead, which is now down to 46 points.
Biffle’s senior teammate Mark Martin, always strong at Dover, finished third ahead of Johnson and Rusty Wallace, vaulting himself up six positions to sixth in points. Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top ten, giving Roush four of the ten (and five if your count Sadler, whose Robert Yates Racing Taurus runs a Roush/Yates powerplant).
Trouble befell some popular competitors, most notably Jeff Gordon, who was tapped by Tony Stewart and crashed out in an incident that also collected Ricky Rudd. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett finished 22nd and 23rd, putting both beyond the 400-point cutoff for those eligible for the Nextel Chase for the Championship that goes into effect after the 26th race of the season.
For Biffle, the only trouble of the day occurred after the checkered flag, when he over-exuberantly backed into the front stretch wall while doing celebratory doughnuts. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The series moves on to the 2.5-mile triangle that is Pocono Raceway next weekend.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Greg Biffle, No. 16 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 400 laps
2) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
3) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, 400 laps
4) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 400 laps
5) Rusty Wallace, No. 2 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 400 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 1912; 2) Greg Biffle, 1866; 3) Elliott Sadler, 1681; 4) Ryan Newman, 1672; 3) Tony Stewart, 1606.
Busch Series: Truex Plays it Smart at
Defending Busch Series champ Martin Truex Jr. claimed his third victory of the season at Dover Downs on Saturday, playing a waiting game and letting the race come to him. Kevin Harvick had the dominant car for the first two-third of the race, but when his handling went away, Truex was ready to take up the mantle.
Truex passed Harvick with 70 of the 200 laps remaining and led all but four of the remaining laps to claim his second consecutive victory at Dover. Harvick tried to hang on to get a good finish, but crashed with Kyle Busch with 54 laps to go.
Rookie standout Reed Sorenson inherited second place upon the demise of Harvick and Busch and led Jamie McMurrary, Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson to the finish. Tony Raines, Jason Keller, Greg Biffle, Kenny Wallace, and Joe Nemechek completed the top ten.
Point leader Carl Edwards had a bad day. He lost the lead to Harvick on the second lap and eventually retiring with mechanical problems, which diminished his lead in the championship standings to 74 points over Sorenson, who along with Truex passed Clint Bowyer in the standings to take over second and third.
The big Busch Series news of the week was that Shane Hmiel failed a drug test at Charlotte, and was escorted from the track and indefinitely suspended from the series at Dover on Friday. Hmiel had tested positive for a banned substance in late 2003 and worked his way back into the sport last year. He had shown flashes of brilliance since, despite creating some controversy with crashes and ill-timed comments. The final disposition of his case will not be known until later in the week, but the son of longtime crew chief Steve Hmiel (currently working as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) may be facing a permanent ban from the sport.
The series will be back in action next week at Nashville, where everyone will be gunning for one of those coveted Les Paul guitar trophies.
NASCAR Busch Series Top Five:
1) Martin Truex Jr., No. 8 Chance 2 Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 200 laps
2) Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Charger, 200 laps
3) Jamie McMurray, No. 64 Rusty Wallace Inc. Dodge Charger, 200 laps
4) Dale Jarrett, No. 90 Robert Yates Racing Ford Taurus, 200 laps
5) Jimmie Johnson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 200 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Carl Edwards, 1930; 2) Reed Sorenson, 1856; 3) Martin Truex Jr., 1810; 4) Clint Bowyer, 1790; 5) Kenny Wallace, 1700.
Craftsman Truck Series: Two in a Row for Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch won the Craftsman Truck Series race at Dover Downs on Saturday, holding off Tony Stewart to claim his second consecutive victory in the series, all the more impressive since he’s only made two Truck starts this year.
The race looked like it belonged to two-time former series champ Ron Hornaday, who led 134 laps but was forced to pit after his crew missed a lug nut during a caution stop with 50 laps to go in the 200-lap contest.
David Reutimann inherited the lead from Hornaday, but his tires weren’t as fresh as those of Busch and Stewart, who passed him on the outside like he was standing still following a restart with 19 laps remaining and ran in tandem to the checkers. Reutimann fell to fifth at the finish, behind Terry Cook and Hornaday. Timothy Peters, Ricky Craven, polesitter David Starr, Matt Crafton and Mike Skinner filled out the top ten.
The series moves on to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend as a companion event to the Indy Racing League.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Top Five:
1) Kyle Busch, No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado, 200 laps
2) Tony Stewart, No. 47 Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado, 200 laps
3) Terry Cook, No. 10 ppc Racing Ford F-150, 136
4) Ron Hornaday, No. 6 Kevin Harvick Racing Chevrolet Silverado, 200 laps
5) David Reutimann, No. 17 Darrell Waltrip Racing Toyota Tundra, 200 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Ted Musgrave, 1200; 2) Ricky Craven, 1180; 3) Bobby Hamilton, 1147; 4) Ron Hornaday, 1100; 5) Jimmy Spencer, 1084.
Champ Car: Tracy Dominates at Milwaukee
The Champ Car World Series visited the Milwaukee Mile this past weekend, and the country’s oldest oval track (dating back to 1906) served as a showcase for the series’ veterans.
Former series champ Jimmy Vasser surprised everyone on Friday by winning the pole and led the first 18 laps of the race on Saturday, but 2003 champ Paul Tracy passed him on the outside on a restart and never looked back, leading 192 of the race’s 221 circuits around the flat mile oval.
Putting a significant dent in the old-timers’ show was future superstar A.J. Allmendinger, who achieved his best series result with a second-place finish. He challenged Tracy in the second half of the race, but could never get close enough to attempt a pass.
Another series vet, Oriol Servia, substituting for the injured points leader Bruno Junqueira (who suffered broken vertebrae in a crash during last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 and will be out an estimated six months), finished third in his first outing with the Newman-Haas squad, ahead of former Formula One driver Justin Wilson and Vasser.
Servia’s new teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, took over the championship lead with a sixth-place finish. Mario Dominguez, Ronnie Bremer, Timo Glock and Alex Tagliani rounding out the top 10.
The series travels across the country for its next outing, at Portland on June 19.
Champ Car World Series Top Five:
1) Paul Tracy, No. 3 Forsythe Championship Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola, 221 laps
2) A.J. Allmendinger, No. 10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola, -3-369 sec.
3) Oriol Servia, No. 2 Newman-Haas Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola, -6.120 sec.
4) Justin Wilson, No. 9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola, -8.233 sec.
5) Jimmy Vasser, No. 12 PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola, -8.331 sec.
Driver’s Championship: 1) Sebastien Bourdais, 77; 2) Justin Wilson, 70; 3) Paul Tracy, 69; 4) Bruno Junqueira, 59; 5) A.J. Allmendinger, 53.
ACO: Pescarolo Squad Leads Le Mans Test Day
The 24 Hours of
The results may look a little surprising to seasoned fans, because the all-dominant Audi R8s weren’t the fastest. That honor went to the Pescarolo Sport team, headed by French legend Henri Pescarolo, whose bespoke chassis are powered by 5.0-liter Judd V-10 engines. The two Pescarolo entries took the top two spots on the speed charts, followed by the factory Courage team (also Judd-powered) and the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Champion Racing Audi. The Japanese-built Dome/Mugen of Jim Gainer International rounded out the top five.
In the LMP2 class for smaller prototypes, the American-based Intersport Racing team took top honors with their AER-powered Lola, while the hotly contested GT1 class was led by the Sebring-winning factory Aston Martin team, ahead of the Ferrari 550 Maranellos and works Corvette C6-Rs. The GT2 class, mostly populated by Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, was topped by the American White Lightning team, with the Panoz Esperante showing promise by posting the second-fastest time in class.
The teams will reassemble at Le Sarthe in two weeks for the annual twice-around-the-clock classic. The Audis may not have topped the timesheets today, but don’t be fooled: they were probably working on race set-ups and not going for fast times. Look for them to be at the front come racetime.
Le Mans Test Day Top Five:
1) Emmanuel Collard/Jean-Christophe Boullion/Erik Comas, No. 16 LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo/Judd, 3:32.468
2) Eric Helary/Soheil Ayari, No. 17 LMP1 Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo/Judd, -3.425 sec.
3) Jonathan Cochet/Shinji Nakano/Bruce Jouanny, No. 13 LMP1 Courage Competition Courage/Judd, -5.206 sec.
4) JJ Lehto/Marco Werner, No. 3 LMP1 Champion Racing Audi R8, -6.251 sec.
5) Ryo Michigami/Seija Ara/Katsutomo Kaneishi, No. 18 Jim Gainer International Dome/Mugen, -6.407 sec.
WRC: Loeb Dominates Again in Turkey
Sebastien Loeb made a little history in Turkey on Sunday, winning the Rally of Turkey to claim his fourth consecutive win and his fifth of the season. No one has won four straight since Timo Salonen did it in 1985, so the Citroen driver has a lot of which to be proud.
Loeb’s victory looked much like his others in recent weeks, showing dominant form after carving out a lead on the first day. This time, the defending WRC champ had over a minute after the first stage on Friday, and maintained it to the finish, with Subaru’s Petter Solberg, the 2003 series titlist, finishing 59.6 sec. behind.
Three-time champ Marcus Gronholm finished third in his Peugeot, ahead of Loeb’s new teammate, two-time champion Carlos Sainz, who was coaxed out of retirement to drive in this event. Whether the beloved Spaniard will continue in the rallys to come has yet to be determined.
Gronholm’s teammate Markko Martin finished fifth, followed by Ford teammates Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta, with Mitsubishi’s Gigi Galli claiming the final championship point.
The championship will continue in Greece in three weeks.
WRC Rally of Turkey Top Five:
1) Sebastien Loeb, No. 1 Citroen Xsara WRC, 4h21:48.0
2) Petter Solberg, No. 5 Subaru Impreza WRC 05, -59.6 sec.
3) Marcus Gronholm, No. 7 Peugeot 307 WRC, -1:15.3 sec.
4) Carlos Sainz, No. 2 Citroen Xsara WRC, -4:17.9 sec.
5) Markko Martin, No. 8 Peugeot 307 WRC, -5:57.2 sec.
Driver’s Championship: 1) Sebastien Loeb, 55; 2) Petter Solberg, 42; 2) Markko Martin, 38; 4) Marcus Gronholm, 32; 5) Toni Gardemeister, 31.
Racing on TV This Week (all times ET):
9:00 p.m., Speed: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, Texas
1:00 p.m., Speed: Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada qualifying, Montreal
5:00 p.m., FX: NASCAR Nextel Cup Series qualifying, Pocono
5:00 p.m., Speed, NASCAR Busch Series qualifying, Nashville
6:00 p.m., espn2: NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series qualifying, Joliet
8:00 p.m., FX: NASCAR Busch Series race, Nashville
8:30 p.m., ESPN: IRL Indycar Series race, Texas
10:00 a.m., Speed: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race, Watkins Glen (first hour of six-hour race)
12:30 p.m., Speed: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race, Watkins Glen (conclusion)
1:00 p.m., CBS: Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada
1:40 pm, Fox: NASCAR Nextel Cup race, Pocono
3:00 p.m., espn2: NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series finals, Joliet