Home cooking: Paul Menard wins Xfinity race at Road America

Leave a comment

Wisconsin native Paul Menard held off a surge by Ryan Blaney in the closing laps to win Saturday’s Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Menard didn’t let a last lap tap by runnerup Blaney to get past shake him and then pulled away to beat his opponent by about a five-car length margin.

Brian Scott finished third, followed by Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Boris Said finished sixth, followed by Justin Marks, Regan Smith, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon.

Menard becomes the sixth different winner in as many Xfinity races at Road America. It adds to his biggest career wins, including the Brickyard 400, at Milwaukee and now, Road America.

There have now been different winners in the last eight road course races in the Xfinity Series.

MORE: Results and winnings from Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville Xfinity Series race

MORE: Chris Buescher remains atop tight Xfinity standings after Road America race

How Menard won: Menard led just nine laps over two separate times. He took the lead for good on Lap 40 and held on to the checkered flag despite a strong last-lap run by Ryan Blaney. Blaney tried to move Menard out of the way on the last lap, but the Wisconsin native would not let Blaney past and motored to a .572 second winning margin.

Who else had a good race: Chase Elliott dominated the first half of the race, leading 23 laps, but struggled in the second half of the event. That included making an uncharacteristic mistake on Lap 28 by running off the track and into the grass, costing him several seconds and dropping him to seventh place and eventually to 17th before rallying back to fourth in the final nine laps. Elliott also closed in to just 16 points behind Chris Buescher in the Xfinity driver standings. … Brian Scott had a strong race, finishing third. … In a pre-race interview, Boris Said indicated that Saturday’s race may be his last in NASCAR. Said finished sixth.

Who had a bad race: The race wasn’t even one lap old when the first caution flag came out when Tommy Drisi slid off turn five and became stuck in a gravel pit. Drissi had another issue on Lap 24 when he ran out of fuel at the furthest point from pit road. The caution came out again and Drissi had to have his car pushed all the way back to the pits. He finished 36th. … Pole-sitter Ben Rhodes had to head to the pits on Lap 7 when he flat-spotted a tire. Rhodes then spun out and got stuck in the gravel on Lap 35, bringing out the caution. Rhodes finished 32nd in his seventh career Xfinity start. … Regan Smith’s championship hopes took a hit when the battery in his car quit with eight laps to go due to a dead battery and he had to be pushed by a wrecker to pit road. But it could have been worse: Smith finished eighth. Still, he’s just 50 points behind Buescher in the standings.

Notable: Rain washed out qualifying, but other than a few minor sprinkles, the race was rain-free. … This was the sixth straight year that the Xfinity Series has raced at Road America. NASCAR’s top series has raced just once at the track, back in 1956 when Tim Flock won in what was then known as the NASCAR Grand National Series (now Sprint Cup Series).

Quote of the day: “Not at all. Zero percent. I absolutely failed today. Way too many mistakes on my part. I screwed it up for my guys. Absolutely unacceptable, cannot have that. I apologize to them. I had a great car. I just 100 percent screwed it up. I just fell out of sync, didn’t drive right. You name it, I did it.” – Chase Elliott, when asked how satisfying it was to rally back to finish fourth.

What’s next: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, Saturday, Sept. 5, 3:30 pm ET at Darlington Raceway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.