An addition to Falmouth Outlook's sports section was a popular column focusing in the many categories of racing on the varied professional circuit by Scott Collins. He as named second place by KPA in Best Sports Columnists. His three entries are below.
NASCAR waves the green flag on season
The absence of sports for the last two months has left a longing for some type of competition in many of our lives. The office discussion of who is the best player or team as well as the constant banter back and forth helps pass the work day.
NASCAR is about to change all that and return to real live-action racing, minus the fans of course. On May 17 at Darlington, the drivers will jump from the simulator back to sitting behind the real steering wheel. Besides no fans in attendance, the race will be unique in that there will be no practices or qualifyers. Teams will roll their cars off the hauler straight to the pit box and then to the starting line.
Many drivers have been off for near two months now, so the action going into “The Lady in Black” could end up being hairy.
A lot of drivers have spent the time off participating in the iRacing visual simulator Pro-Invitational Series. This is as close as you can get right now to the real thing although virtual iRacing is not just a video game, but a driving simulator. All the NASCAR tracks are scanned to the minute detail; for example, the bump coming out of turn four at Kentucky Speedway is the same bump you will see on iRacing’s Kentucky Speedway. Tire wear and gas consumption are just as a big concern as in real life since weather is programmed into the simulation and affects performance.
The one aspect you will quickly notice is the varying degree of skill among the NASCAR drivers. Kyle Bush can drive any vehicles with wheels, but put him in competition on the simulator and he becomes just a middle of the pack driver.
Richard Petty is known as the King of NASCAR, but if you’re betting virtual dollars on the race better put them on William Byron. Byron is the king of iRacing winning three out of five races. Byron is the one driver on the NASCAR circuit that does not have a background driving race cars. He solely learned his driving skills on iRacing and his expertise is easy to see.
While NASCAR, iRacing, and Fox Sports have teamed up with no money or contracts involved in the broadcast for fans, there is a serious side to the business such as Bubba Wallace throwing a temper tantrum and quitting halfway through the race. That move cost him a couple of sponsors and a lot of real cash his team needs to be competitive. On a more serious note, Kyle Larson was released from Chip Gnassi Racing and was replaced with retired former champion Matt Kenseth, for using derogatory language during a race.
Retired driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is just as popular on iRacing as he was on track. Jeff Gordon came out of retirement to run at Darlington and ended up hanging upside down in the catch fence after spinning seven times through the air.
The series will be racing at North Wilkesboro this weekend, a track that was discarded as NASCAR expanded to bigger tracks and larger population locations. Jeff Gordon won the last race held at the track in 1996 and said he will race again this week at the track.
Even if you don’t like the virtual racing as well as the real thing, following Clint Bowyer and his commentary is worth the time. His inrace dialogue and tweets will keep you entertained throughout the event.
Lanigan picks up career win 74 at Red River Valley as Hamlin blows through Kansas for the win
NASCAR blew into Kansas for a first--Thursday night racing. Early last week, NASCAR announced there will be no qualifying or practice at any event this season. The loud groan you just heard was from Kyle Busch who is a big believer in practicing and making changes to the car before race time.
The track was as green as you could get it with no prior race or rubber being put into the track. Towards the end of the first stage, a lot of chatter over cars being loose, but as the sun went down many teams such as the #14 Clint Bowyer found they had overcorrected for the cooler track and ended up tight pushing into the turns.
It looked as though #18 Kyle Busch had finally been granted answers as to why he was running so poorly this season as he won the first stage. However that would be the only stage he was a factor.
#10 Aric Almirola had another strong race if he gets over the hump and picks up a win watchout.
A surprise in the top five was the #20 car of Erik Jones who avoided trouble and quietly was there at the end.
The final laps, however, came down to the old guard as #11 Denny Hamlin held off at first a pesky #4 Kevin Harvick and then one last charge from #2 Brad Keselowski. #19 Martin Truex Jr. came in third as he passed the used up #4 Harvick car. #11 Hamlin, who has never won the championship outright, but has finished runner up, held off the three previous champion drivers for a thrilling ending.
The Gander Outdoor Truck Series ran the first of their doubleheader weekend on Friday before the ARCA race. #99 Ben Rhodes finished in fifth place as #88 Matt Crafton edhed out #18 Christian Eckes for the win.
The Xfinity Series race went into overtime in which #19 Brandon Jones went from starting seven back to the win denying #22 Austin Cindric a record fourth straight win.
NASCAR fined the #00 Angela Ruch truck was penalized $10,000 for breaking the Covid-19 rules. #00 Ruch was running a paint scheme honoring law enforcement called “The Wounded Blue” Apparently, after the race, two officers were allowed in to a restricted area to get pictures with the truck.
Ruch’s husband Mike Ruch later tweeted that NASCAR was not fining them and that he did not sneak them into the track.
#29v Darrell Lanigan takes the checkered flag as the Morton Buildings Late Models were in Fargo, North Dakota at Red River Valley Speedway last week. The series hasn’t raced there in over 15 years, but the unfamiliarity had no negative effects on Lanigan as he put a stop to Brandon Sheppard’s domination.
Lanigan worked his way to the front, after starting next to pole winner Ricky Weiss, of the field by lap 19 and never looked back in the 50 lap feature. By the time the night was over he had lapped over half the field and won by a 5.8 seconds margin.
This was Lanigan’s 74 career win in Late Models leaving him only three behind Josh Richards for the all time lead.
Kyle Larson continues to just own the dirt in his All Star Circuit of Champion 410 winged sprint car. He ended up winning back to back last weekend his fourth win in four races. The World of Outlaws and the Pennsylvania Posse have put their best drivers up against Larson, but they all have fallen short. I can’t think of any reason why Larson would want to go back to NASCAR at this current pace he will soon be considered a dirt racing legend.
All Star Race at Bristol and Busch stripped of win
The All Star race had a little different look this season as NASCAR took the event to Bristol and the short track. Location wasn’t the only change for the night as the numbers, as we mentioned last week, were moved from the center of the door closer to the rear wheel on the quarterpanel. How it looked really depended on the scheme the team was running; overall, I didn’t think it looked bad at all. The lights under the car I could live with or without. I think it would have looked better if the lights were under the whole car not just the rear bumper. NASCAR also experimented with drivers choosing the lane they wanted on restarts.
It was nice to see DW back on the broadcast even though he jumped the gun on the start. Jeff Gordon has improved a lot in the booth this season I like him much better there than I ever did on the track. As a viewer though I still miss the history that DW or the late Bennie Parsons could bring to the broadcast.
The All Star race has usually been held at Charlotte the only other time it was held at a different track was 1986 at Atlanta where the winner was Bill Elliott how is that for foreshadowing an event..
The Open was a good race to watch Bristol is already a crowded track, but when you have 21 drivers racing for a chance to get to the million dollar race, all bets are off. The first stage saw #10 Aric Almirola lead 25 of the 35 laps to secure the stage and move on to the big race. While in stage two no one could touch #24 William Byron, who led every lap of the stage. The third stage saw #21 Matt DiBenedetto driving for the Wood Brothers hold off a hard charge at the end from #14 Clint Bowyer, who would move on due to fan votes, to get the win.
DiBenedetto said after the race, “Oh man, I was hanging on for dear life.”
Of course no race could go on without a little controversy, and #34 Michael McDowell and #43 Bubba Wallace provided it. In what seemed a total half-brained idea early in the race, McDowell hooked Bubba’s bumper, sending him into the wall and out of the race. Afterward, Bubba commented about McDowell’s action and his faith, then proceeded to carry his torn off bumper and place it on the ground behind McDowell’s hauler.
Bubba has a right to complain; it was a terrrible move by McDowell, but Bubba should remember some of his unworthy moments wrecking people before he complains too much.
The All Star race was supposed to have #19 Martin Truex, Jr. on the pole, but because his car failed two prerace inspections, he was forced to move to the rear. The question going in from a lot of drivers centered around the PJ1 and what effect it would have on the ability to gain grip so cars could run the bottom groove. The trouble with only putting down one strip is that it makes it hard to pass during the race; look back at Indy and Kentucky, for example. Throughout the night, many drivers complained on the scanner about being loose.
The race never really had that one big wreck so many were expecting, but it was good racing. I think the only change I would have made in the format would have been longer stages since it was on a short track.
#9 Chase Elliott led 60 laps in the race and won the second and third stages. He was never really in danger of losing the last stage. #18 Kyle Busch might have changed the ending of this story if there had been a few more laps in the stage, though. He was quickly closing in on Elliott, but just didn’t have the laps to really challenge him.
#12 Ryan Blaney won the first stage, but later in the race failed to pit a move that cost him for a chance at the win during the final laps.
The Elliotts become only the second father- son duo to win the All Star race, joining Dale and Dale, Jr. in accomplishing the feat.
Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney were having a tweet battle last week over their sponsors. Blaney tweeted a shot of him drinking Body Armor with gloves on, to which Elliott tweeted that he drinks his Mountain Dew with his gloves off. Blaney replied Elliott needed to wear gloves drinking all the chemicals that are in Mountain Dew. Bubba Wallace shut them down with, “Lol kiddos...@CocaCola all day every day. You’ll learn.”
The weekend race was at Texas this weekend and it was so hot the cactus was leaning over, gasping. It was not unusual to see the temps in the cars above 140 degrees; in fact the water bags drivers put in their suits to keep cool become so hot that they can leave burns and blisters.
The Xfinity race was a good one if you take out #54 Kyle Busch who was racing for his 98th series win.
There is quite a number of good drivers in the Xfinity ranks this year and with bumping and pushing in the last few races tensions are high among numerous drivers. #9 Noah Gragson didn’t take long to bring about the first controversy in the race. On the fifth lap Gragson driving extremily aggressive for the start of a race. He hooked the #18 Riley Herbst car, sending him into the wall and out of contention. The action even forced team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was in the NBC booth, to say his driver was at fault.Gragson is finding himself alone on an island as he continues just to tear up cars and tick off the rest of the Xfinity drivers.
Busch went on to hold off a hot #22 Austin Cindric for the win, but his car was disqualified during post race inspection because the rear end was too high. That put Cindric in the winner’s circle for the third straight race. Watch for #7 Justin Allgaier to be in the winner’s circle soon.
The Gander Outdoor Truck Series raced at Texas on Saturday night was won by #51 Kyle Busch. He held off his own team driver rookie #18 Christian Eckes to get the win. In fact the Busch Team dominated the race leading 124 of 167 laps. The only mistake it seemed the Busch Team made was when Kyle forgot he was driving the new truck and about pitted in Eckes #18 pit box.
Kentucky native #99 Ben Rhodes was in the top group all day until getting caught up in a wreck by #38 Todd Gilliland. After a trip to pit road and some temporary repairs Rhodes was able to fight back and place 9th.
The Cup series race on Sunday turned out to be quite a surprise as fuel milage, green flag pit stops played havoc with a lot of team’s strategy.
Pit road penalties were being given out left and right all weekend as drivers entered the track before the blend line.
Stages 1 and 2 were both won by the #12 Ryan Blaney car, who was dominate on all the long runs.
The third stage saw a few cautions including a red flag when #00 Quinn Houff decided to try and pit from the middle groove with cars coming up around him.
The final laps saw cauition flags that put #22 Joey Logano and #18 Kyle Busch restarting in the second row behind leader #3 Austin Dillon and his teammate, #8 Tyler Reddick.
Dillon was able to hold on for his third career win win as the RCR team finished first and second in the race.
Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham are bringing back the old IROC type Series. It will now be called the SRX All Stars. Plans are for it to be back on the track in 2021 for six races and televised by CBS running on Saturday nights. Some names have been mentioned including Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., but no firm announcements have been made yet. The series will race on a mix of dirt and asphalt tracks. Ray Everham wil be a guest on Dale Jr. Download this week so I’m sure the topic will be brought up in discussion.
It is been reported by a couple of different sources that NASCAR is looking into banning all political messages on their cars. The past few weeks various messages of support have been popping up in the series from “Black Lives Matter,” “Back the Blue,“ and even “Trump 2020.”
The ARCA Menard Series raced at Iowa Speedway back on the short track. The hottest driver in the series right now has to be the grandson of Cup Owner and former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. #18 Tyler Gibbs again found himself in the winner’s circle, continuing a winning streak of three in a row.
He was challenged in the last stage by #4 Hailie Deegan going door to door until her engine blew. It looked as though Gibbs was going to then go one on one with the #21 Sam Mayer. As Mayer closed in though late he came out of the turn lost grip and slid into the wall just enough to allow Gibbs to pull away for the win.
#44 Natalie Decker has had a rough stretch recently having surgery and missing a race and then yesterday problems with her truck.
The series will have upcoming races on July 24 at Kansas Speedway on FS1 at 10 p.m. and then again at Kansas on July 31 on MavTV at 8 p.m.
Modified driver Shawn Balluzzo was killed in a racing incident last week at Langley Speedway. He was an 11- time champion driver and was well respected in the sport.Last season at Langley, Balluzzo won 16 of 17 races.
Darrell Lanigan and the Morton Buildings Late Models have been racing up in Wisconsin. He came in ninth place in the feature at Plymouth Dirt Track
On July 14, the series headed to Gondik Law Speedway. Lanigan raced to a fourth place finish in the feature that saw Brandon Sheppard continue his dominance as the top driver in the series.