Kahne nabs win from JRM teammate

Rain was the word of the weekend in Daytona as both the Nationwide and Cup Series were affected by the weather. The affect on the Nationwide series was qualifying being rained out with just minutes left in the first round. Actually, about five cars were destroyed in qualifying thanks to a downpour in the backstretch.

NASCAR saw enough and awarded starting positions by current spots that were run. That placed Dakoda Armstrong on pole for the first time in his career for the Subway Firecracker 250 from Daytona International Speedway.  While Armstrong would lead a lap, it was the February Daytona winner, Regan Smith who would pick up where he left off.  Smith would lead a race high 47 of 103 laps with the race going three laps beyond the scheduled distance.

Smith, who was battling low fuel  would see his teammate, Chase Elliot lengthen the race by losing fuel pressure and stalling out which then led to a accident on the front stretch. Smith would keep just enough fuel in the pick up to take off and get a good gap coming to the lead on the final restart. However, Kasey Kahne, also in JR Motorsports Chevy, with a big push from Ryan Sieg would just barely beat Regan to the line.

Huge props are to be given to Sieg who got a third place finish out an underfunded team! This was especially big for Sieg as the annual Nationwide Dash 4 Cash series field was set with the four highest points finisher with the winner to be determined over the next four races. Those four drivers are Regan Smith, Ryan Seig, Ryan Reed and Jeremy Clements.

The Top 5 were: 1st Kasey Kahne, 2nd Regan Smith, 3rd Ryan Seig, 4th Ryan Reed, and 5th Kyle Larson.

Regan Smith reclaimed the points lead after troubles by Elliot Sadler and Chase Elliot. He now leads by 12 points over Sadler and 15 points over Chase.

The next race is the Sta-Green 200 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It will air at 3:00 PM, Saturday July 12th on ESPN 2. The defending race winner is Kyle Busch.

Almirola wins 19 and a half hours of Coke Zero 400

The Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway was scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM on Saturday. Thanks to the buzz word of the weekend (rain) it was pushed back to 11:00 AM Sunday. Rain also affected qualifying and put David Gilliland on the pole thanks to it being washed out with eight minutes left.

 David would even lead for 5 laps of the first 19 before what was supposed to be a scheduled 20 lap competition caution. However, thanks to some not-so-patient driving, it came about 400 feet sooner than it should have.

Bobby Labonte moved up to catch the push on the top side and in an overly aggressive move Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to go below the 33 of Labonte to hang him out. Yet Tony Stewart was in the space which left Stenhouse with no place to go. The loss of momentum and speed allowed Stenhouse’s spot to be filled by Jeff Gordon.  Stenhouse came up into Gordon who then went into Tony Stewart and started The Big One.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip, Trevor Bayne, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick would all be involved the mayhem between the original three cars that caused the wreck. Some cars like Ambrose, Dale Jr., Danica and Gordon would manage to race on, while Stewart, Allmendinger, Johnson and Stenhouse would be forced to the garage.

Adding to all of this was incoming weather the made drivers even more anxious. The race became official at lap 81 which made the teams aware of the fact if it became a down pour, the race could be called official. 19 laps later, The Big One 2 happened. Casey Mears was out in the front in the middle lane and slowed down due to no immediate push from the car behind him of Kasey Kahne. Kahne in turn tried to slow but due to speeds and timing, Greg Biffle who was behind Kahne was not able to slow, sending him spinning into Joey Logano.

This chain of events sent off a massive 25 car accident that left many good cars who were contenders in nothing more but shattered heaps of sheet metal in Turn 3. This even resulted in Kyle Busch ending his day on his roof, waiting for safety crews to right his car before he could exit.

The race went green again at lap 104 and they’d run another 6 laps before the cars would be brought down pit road for rain. Aric Almirola would be leading the pack as car covers were brought out and drivers released from their vehicles. At 3:00 PM, NASCAR made the hard decision to call the race official and rewarding the win to the 43 and Aric Almirola.

Many fans, including myself, blasted race officials on Twitter for calling the race. With the lights and numerous pieces of drying equipment available I wanted to see a finished race. Adding to this was all the fans who had stuck around in Daytona along with all those watching at home for so long that wanted to see a lap 160. It’s not an enviable position for NASCAR, and I’m sure they weighed all decision and all options before calling the race. That still does not make me feel any better about this whole mess.

Oddly enough, this win by Aric would come on the 30th anniversary of the Richard Petty driving the 43 to victory lane for his record setting 200th win.

The Top 5 were: 1st Aric Almirola, 2nd Brian Vickers, 3rd Kurt Busch, 4th Casey Mears, and 5th Austin Dillon.

Winners all but guaranteed a spot in the 2014 Chase are as follows:

 Jimmie Johnson now leads all winners with three wins.

Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski are now tied at two wins per driver.

Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, and Aric Almirola all have one win a piece.

There are now eight races left for drivers to get their first win of the season or get as high in the points as possible to fill the remaining five spots for the Chase.

The next race is the Camping World RV Sales 301 coming to us from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The race will air on Sunday, July 13th at 1:00 PM on the very last race for the season and for the foreseeable future of TNT. The defending race winner is Brian Vickers.

Montoya gets first IndyCar win in 14 years at Pocono

In order to finish first, first you must finish. Starting first doesn’t hurt either and that’s exactly what Juan Pablo Montoya did on Sunday. JPM won the pole for the Pocono 500 from Pocono Raceway and would lead a total of 48 laps for the 200 lap event before the finish.

However, it’d be Tony Kanaan who started 8th and JPM’s teammate, Will Power who started second who would lead the field in laps led. Power would lead 69 laps before having to serve a pass-through penalty for what IndyCar felt was blocking of JPM. He’d finish 10th. Kanaan would have to settle for 11th after having to pit with four to go to make it to the finish on fuel after leading 78 laps.

This would be Juan’s first win in IndyCar in 14 years and first of the season. It was also the first time this year a pole sitter has won the race he or she won the pole for. Also a shout out has to be given to Briscoe who had his best run of the year in this race.

The Top 5 were: 1st Juan Pablo Montoya, 2nd Helio Castroneves, 3rd Carlos Munoz, 4th Ryan Briscoe, and 5th Scott Dixon.

Will Power is now tied with his teammate Helio Castroneves in points at 446 apiece. Will has the edge though for having one more win then Helio. In third is Simon Pagenaud who is 44 points back.

The next race is the Iowa Corn Indy 300 from Iowa Speedway. The race will air live at 8:00 PM on Saturday, July 12th on NBC Sports Network. The defending race winner is James Hinchcliffe.

Camping World Trucks

The trucks had the weekend off. They will return on Friday, July 11th at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports 1 for the American Ethanol 200 from Iowa Speedway. The defending race winner is Timothy Peters. 

Final Random Sports/Non Sports thought:

Seven times out of ten I write these columns after the final race of the weekend and then let them sit until Monday where I review them. Thankfully I repeated this and totally changed my final random sports/non sports thought. In the original I blasted Richard Petty Motorsports and to a lesser extent in an indirect way, Aric Almirola.

In the original I claimed the spot given to Almirola would be a waste of time after he was eliminated in the first round. Reality is there are going to be a number of wasted spots after that first round and to follow. Whom we believe should finish in the final four to compete at Homestead doesn’t mean that’s who it will be. I can list five drivers right now that if the regular season is anything to go off of, could be there.

Aric obviously wouldn’t make the list. Does that mean he can’t? Not at all, and now he has got eight races to prove myself and others wrong who have their doubts. I’m still not happy with how this race finished. I’m just now in a different light willing to admit that the man in victory lane may have been the man who would have won anyway.

I do believe Aric’s got the talent to be a competitive driver. I believed when he got screwed on the Milwaukee race years ago, I believe it now.  It’s RPM’s equipment that gives me serious doubt. But who knows? I’ve been wrong before, maybe I’ll be wrong in November and the 43 car will win another NASCAR championship.

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Tyler Pierce