Busch capture the Pole at Pocono

NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying can be fraught with twists, turns and unexpected bumps in the road.         
 
Friday's qualifying session at Pocono Raceway, which saw Kurt Busch capture the Coors Light Pole for Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 had them all.
 
Throughout the day, Turn 2 -- the Tunnel Turn -- had been a major topic of concern.

"There are grocery store parking lots around the country that are jealous of those three bumps that have developed there," said Busch, speculating that an offseason beautification project with water feature, enhancing the exterior tunnel entry, somehow created the lumpy racing surface.
 
"To me, if they could just go ahead and take some bumps like that and put them over in the other corners too, it would be even better," said Carl Edwards. "It adds something. As long as it's not breaking parts, I believe it gives us an opportunity to setup passes."
 
Ultimately, the issue with the bumpy track took a back seat when Denny Hamlin spun in Turn 1 in the final minute of qualifying, halting the session with 39 seconds remaining and preventing himself and four other drivers from posting a time in the final round.
 
"It really is a bizarre set of circumstances," said Jimmie Johnson, a winner of four races this season but one of the drivers left in the qualifying cold. "It's just unfortunate (for) the guys that were on the track. But as long as NASCAR is consistent (with the rule) through all three series, then we will take our medicine and just deal with it. We (start) ninth. That is the best we've been in a while.
 
Joey Logano, the last driver not from Hendrick Motorsports to win at Pocono, was not so forgiving. Logano said he already had a ‘headache' thanks to the bumps -- and that was before his lap in progress was negated by Hamlin's spin.
 
"A car spins out and they throw a red flag for it and then you don't get an opportunity to go out and make a lap," Logano said. "I don't understand it. It makes me mad. I don't get it. We didn't even have a chance to try to put our car up front."
 
Busch suggested that Pocono Raceway attempt to grind the bumps prior to Sunday's race. Earnhardt was encouraged that Pocono Raceway CEO Brandon Igdalsky was not only aware of the situation, but planning to take action before the Sprint Cup Series returns in late July.
 
"I feel like they understand that while we can probably get through this weekend with what's back there right now, it's probably not in their best interest to leave it as-is," Earnhardt said. "It will continue to get worse and I don't think that we can get our race cars through there if it gets much worse than it is."
 
Carl Edwards finished second in qualifying. "My plan with Denny (Joe Gibbs Racing teammate) almost worked out," Edwards joked. "But he didn't spin early enough to keep Kurt from catching me."
 
Martin Truex Jr. qualified third in the Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, unaware that the session had been cut short but well aware of the challenges in Turn 2.
 
"It's wild," he said. "The first time through there, I thought either our car was way off or there's something wrong with the race track. The bumps are 10 times bigger than they were last year, which is crazy. You're going across bumps that are 8-10 inches tall and, literally, the tires are coming off the ground."
 
Jeff Gordon qualified fourth and series leader Kevin Harvick, who posted the fastest lap in each of the first two qualifying sessions, was fifth. Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne were the other drivers who were burned by Hamlin's spin, having waited too long to attempt a lap in the five-minute session.
 
Kurt Busch noted during practice that he was losing speed in Turns 1 and 3 and elected to focus on the vast majority of the course, not the troubles in Turn 2. His team also overcame a "wrong gear ratio in the transmission in third gear."
 
"There was so much disconnect when we first got here," said Busch, whose third pole of the season was the 19th of his career. "We had to drop back, reboot with (crew chief) Tony Gibson, (engineer) Johnny Klausmeier, the whole gang. Today was a big group-bonding day and a strength-building day on what this No. 41 team can do together."
 
With 43 race entries, all drivers qualified for Sunday's race.
 
Tony Stewart, mired in 28th in the point standings, was forced to a backup car after a crash coming out of the Tunnel Turn in the 36th minute of Friday's practice session.  Stewart was 28th in the first round of qualifying and failed to advance. "Driver error," said Stewart, who has managed just one top-10 finish this season. "I was already past the bump. I got loose on the exit (of the turn) and couldn't catch it."

Iannone delights Italian fans as Marquez provides the drama

Andrea Iannone claimed Ducati’s first pole at Mugello since 2007, while Marc Marquez experienced his worst ever MotoGP™ Qualifying.

It was a day of contrasts at the Gran Premio D’Italia as Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone sent the Italian fans at the Autodromo del Mugello into rapture as he claimed his first career MotoGP™ pole position in near perfect conditions.

Countering that was the dramatic action involving the reigning MotoGP™ World Champion Marc Marquez, as he failed to make it through to Q2 for the first time in his career and will start Sunday’s race from the head of the fifth row in thirteenth.

Iannone, riding with a fractured humerus sustained during a testing crash at the Tuscany Circuit, took advantage of the softer option tyre available to Ducati to set a 1’46.489, which was almost seven-tenths quicker than Dani Pedrosa’s pole record from 2013: “I am very pleased with how things went today! For sure in my condition this result was in no way expected, but in the end me and my team did a great job and we managed to improve. The only problem I have at the moment is my shoulder condition, because it needs more time to get back to 100%: tomorrow will be a tough race but I will not give in”

Marquez struggled throughout the day, getting caught out in FP3 and finishing down in eleventh on the combined timesheets. It was only the second time the Spaniard has failed to automatically qualify for Q2, the first being at Mugello in 2013.

A crash in FP4 only compounded matters and as Marquez attempted to make it through from Q1 he set a time good enough for second on the timesheets with 2 minutes to go in the session. Thinking that the job was done, it was then that disaster struck for him and his team. Yonny Hernandez on the Octo Pramac Racing Ducati displaced him in the final seconds, securing the Columbians progress through to Q2 at Marquez’ expense. This means that Marquez will have to start Sunday’s race from the front of the fourth row in 13th, his worst ever MotoGP™ Qualifying performance: “We can't be happy about today, because this was the worst qualifying result that we have had in MotoGP. Starting in the morning, we didn't use the new tyre and that took us into Q1 – in which we had a problem that prevented us from progressing to Q2. Nevertheless, I think we have a good pace for tomorrow, although it is clear that starting from so far back we will suffer a lot.”

Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo will be a force to be reckoned with come Sunday’s race, as he demonstrated an incredibly consistent race pace throughout Free Practice. The double MotoGP™ World Champion was only 0.095s behind Dovizioso in Q2 and will start from second on the grid, a feat made all the more impressive as Lorenzo does not have the softer option tyre available to him: “We must be proud of our performance, because we improved the bike, which has been our goal for today. We had to improve our pace by half a second and maybe we didn‘t do that but we did shave off three-tenths. Today has been a great day. We couldn‘t get the pole position, but second place is great.”

Andrea Dovizioso followed up Iannone’s amazing pole lap by securing third on the grid, making it two Ducati GP15’s on the front row, and the team will be pushing hard for their first win since Stoner’s victory in Australia in 2010: “It was a great qualifying session for our team, because there are two Ducati GP15 bikes on the front row. I had a good feeling with the bike when I did my lap, and this is very important in view of the race because it means that we have the speed to be able to fight for the leading positions.”

CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow won the battle of the Satellite riders, as he once again impressed during Q2 to finish fourth as the fastest Honda on the grid: “Overall I was happy, because I tried a hard front tyre and I was happy with that, so much so I even qualified with it. I just missed out on the front row again, but I made a small mistake which was my own fault.”

Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro was another rider who had to grit his teeth as he was suffering from the injury to his right thumb sustained during his Free Practice crash at Le Mans. The Spaniard was impressive after making through as the second fastest rider from Q1, and will start the race from the middle of the second row in fifth, although he has concerns about the affect his injury might have on his pace over race distance.

To top off an almost perfect day for Ducati, their test rider Michele Pirro managed to set a time good enough for sixth in Q2 and will complete the second row for Sunday’s race, an effort which was the best qualifying performance from a wild card rider since Ben Spies claimed fifth in 2008 at Indianapolis.

Dani Pedrosa on the second Factory Repsol Honda RC213V showed he is recovering from his arm pump surgery by setting the seventh fastest time. The Spaniard will start from the head of the third row, ahead of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi.

Rossi, once again, could not perform as he wanted during qualifying, although he wont be too disappointed to start the race from eighth on the grid as his last three victories have been achieved after he qualified in that position: “I improved a lot and my lap time was not so bad, but it wasn‘t enough. All the top riders were able to improve their pace a lot, so apart from my starting position on the third row, which is not fantastic, I‘m quite happy about today.”

Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales will start the race from ninth on the grid, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates Pol Espargaro & Bradley Smith in tenth and eleventh respectively.

Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera was the leading Open class rider in fifteenth, with the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Factory spec Honda of Scott Redding down in 17th.

Is Cameron Waters being groomed to replace David Reynolds

Prodrive Racing (Australia) Team Principal Tim Edwards is in his 11th year leading the team and while the current focus is the battle for this season’s V8 Supercars Championship title, developing the next generation of talent has been a key feature during his time at the helm.

Edwards shares his thoughts on the team’s V8 Supercars Dunlop Series campaign – contested with Cameron Waters behind the wheel, who currently leads the points – finding the next star driver, and the future of the junior category.

Tim, the performance of the Championship Series team this season has been well-documented, but it has been backed by its equally-dominant form in the Dunlop Series. How do you view the efforts of Cameron Waters so far?

"Cam has been just brilliant this year. It is actually hard to highlight an area where he has been deficient, which is a real credit to him and our Dunlop Series crew. This is his second season with us and while finishing runner-up wasn’t a poor effort, I think we underperformed in all aspects in 2014. That has obviously motivated everyone and this year we are reaping the rewards."

What has impressed you most about Cam?

"I think his consistency across all areas has helped him get to the position he is in. After three rounds he is 118 points ahead. In Adelaide we saw a great battle with PD [ex-Prodrive Racing driver Paul Dumbrell] where they left equal on points. In Perth, Cam topped all but one session and then in Winton he went one better and topped every session and has now won six races on the bounce. That sort of consistency and conversion rate is seriously impressive in any category. Last year he and his crew were inconsistent and that cost us, this year we’re all executing our plans and that has made all the difference."

Prodrive Racing has been a regular in the Dunlop Series over the years, either running its own cars or operating customer entries. You must see it as the ideal breeding ground?

"There is no better training for a career in the main game than competing in the Dunlop Series. It teaches all aspects of what it takes to succeed in our category and does so right under the nose of the main series teams so we all get to see the next generation of talent. We are always looking to the future and more often than not, that talent lies in the Dunlop Series. Frosty is a former champion and he’s obviously turned out ok, we used it to groom Chaz and he’s stepped up without missing a beat and Cam is now ready for the main series."

So you see Cam in a main series car sooner rather than later?

"Absolutely. He is ready now. We got lucky with Chaz as when he was ready we had the ability to place him at DJR for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately there isn’t a vacancy for Cam right now but when he gets his chance he will make the most of it. So we aren’t looking for the next Chaz Mostert as we’ve already got him. What we now need is the next Cameron Waters."

Who is that? Or is it too early to tell?

"We are never short of willing volunteers to drive for our team but clearly we’ve been selective in our approach over the years and it has paid off. We have our PRA Academy drivers but they are a lot younger and still a few years off being ready so they aren’t in the frame. We do have a few people on our radar and the people we have discussed potential opportunities with are aware of our expectations, but that doesn’t mean other people won’t come into the frame. Being in one of our Dunlop Series cars in 2016 is the most highly-sought seat for an up-and-coming young driver but we’re not just going to stick anyone in. They have to fit our requirements and deliver at the same level that Chaz and Cam have."

The 2016 regulations will allow Next Generation cars in the Dunlop Series for the first time. Does that change the team’s plans?

"Being able to run Next Generation cars in 2016 is obviously going to be attractive for main series teams and Dunlop Series teams and drivers that want to be competitive. The next two years will be a transition period for the category but we have a few options as our current FG Dunlop Series entry is very competitive. As it stands we could run that next year and a Next Generation car alongside it, or we could run one for a customer or even sell one or two and provide technical support."

Has there been much interest from the current Dunlop Series entrants about securing Next Generation cars for 2016 and beyond?

"The opportunities are certainly there and from the number of approaches we’ve had from existing teams they seem eager to get their plans in order, so I’d like to think we’ll know soon who wants what and what we are going to run. Obviously the more competitive cars in the main series are the first to make it into the Dunlop Series when they’re eligible so thankfully we are in a position where demand for our product is high. It is now just about us getting in place the model that works best for us."

Late pass gives Reddick victory at Dover

Tyler Reddick had a score to settle with Dover International Speedway, and on Friday he did just that, winning the Lucas Oil 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in his second start at the Monster Mile.

Reddick passed Erik Jones on Lap 193 of 200 and finished 1.255 seconds ahead of Daniel Suarez, who drove past third-place finisher Jones in the closing laps to take the runner-up spot.

The victory was Reddick’s second of the season in the No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford, and in the driver’s view, it atoned for last year’s eighth-place finish, in which Reddick underestimated the physical toll high-speed racing at Dover can exact.

Specifically, his leg fell asleep as the race progressed.

"After what happened to myself last year, not knowing a lot about the g-forces in the corners here—I was kind of green when it came to asphalt racing," Reddick said. "We had a top-five truck last year, and to have something like that impede our progress in what would have been our first top five… to have something like that mess up what could have been potentially a breakout day for us are the things you can’t have happen in racing.

"I really wanted to come back here and run really strong, just like I want to run strong every given race. But (last year) gave me a little bit of extra fuel for the fire, and I knew I had to run good here—and we did."

Daniel Henrick posted a career-best fourth-place NCWTS finish in his first race at Dover. Series leader Matt Crafton ran fifth but saw his margin narrowed to 11 points by Reddick, who is second after six races.

Ben Kennedy came home sixth, followed by Keystone Light Polesitter Ryan Blaney, Brandon Jones, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Young. Suarez, Jones, Kennedy and Blaney, who finished among the top seven, are all NASCAR Next alums.

Though Jones, lost one position to Reddick in the series standings, he moved closer to Crafton, now trailing the two-time defending champion by 14 points. Sauter is fourth, 40 points behind Crafton, and could be considered the only other driver within realistic striking distance of the leader at this point in the season.

Like Jones, Suarez used a two-tire call to gain track position in the late stages of the race but felt race traffic hindered him in the closing laps.

"To be honest, I feel like we had a faster truck," said Suarez, a member of the 2014 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class, who posted his best finish to date in the series. "Traffic was everything. I was talking with my crew chief Jerry Baxter through the radio during the middle of the race. I told him, ‘I don’t care about tires, I need the track position.’

"For sure the track position was very important. Erik Jones he changed just two tires in the last pit stop and he was able to almost get the win and he was driving away, but traffic was a big problem for him and for me and I feel like for everyone. Traffic was something that was a gamble, but overall I feel like we learned some good stuff for tomorrow (in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race)."

A collision between winner Reddick and Jennifer Jo Cobb turned nasty as Cobb stormed onto a hot track to show her displeasure.  Something she will undoubtedly look back on and say that was very a very stupid thing to do.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race - Lucas Oil 200
Dover International Speedway
Dover, Delaware
Friday, May 29, 2015

1. (4) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 200, $55620.
2. (5) Daniel Suarez(i), Toyota, 200, $33106.
3. (2) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 200, $32003.
4. (19) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 200, $23957.
5. (3) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 200, $23604.
6. (18) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, 200, $21965.
7. (1) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 200, $20663.
8. (12) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 200, $20060.
9. (16) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 200, $19612.
10. (25) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 199, $20313.
11. (20) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 199, $19115.
12. (13) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 199, $18810.
13. (10) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 198, $16450.
14. (15) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 196, $16339.
15. (22) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 195, $18878.
16. (21) Austin Hill, Ford, 192, $16317.
17. (27) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, 190, $18258.
18. (17) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 178, $18147.
19. (24) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 178, $15786.
20. (14) Timothy Peters, Toyota, Accident, 136, $18426.
21. (7) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 136, $17815.
22. (6) John H. Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 136, $17704.
23. (31) Tim Viens, Chevrolet, Rear End, 127, $17594.
24. (28) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, Accident, 90, $17484.
25. (8) Justin Boston #, Toyota, Accident, 65, $16273.
26. (32) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Suspension, 61, $16012.
27. (23) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Ignition, 56, $14902.
28. (26) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, Accident, 33, $14570.
29. (11) Mason Mingus, Chevrolet, Accident, 32, $14432.
30. (9) Jesse Little, Toyota, Accident, 32, $13932.
31. (29) Tyler Tanner, Chevrolet, Vibration, 15, $12432.
32. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, Accident, 12, $11432.

Jo Cobb in Hot Water

Jennifer Jo Cobb said she was “mad as hell” at Tyler Reddick and forgot a NASCAR rule that prohibits drivers from walking on the track, which she did during Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway.

“The fact that I forget is such a shame because the reason (the rule) is in place likely stems from a tragedy that none of us should forget,’’ Cobb said after meeting with NASCAR officials.

NASCAR instituted the rule last August after Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race in New York. Ward walked down the track toward Stewart’s car after an incident and was struck.

This the first time a driver in any of NASCAR’s three national series has violated the rule.

“A huge error in judgment on my part,’’ Cobb said. “The fact that we had a very stern meeting will keep it top of my mind for sure.’’

Elton Sawyer, director of the Camping World Truck Series, said of Cobb’s actions: “It’s a serious infraction. She understands what she did and there will be consequences.’’

NASCAR likely will announce its action Tuesday.

Hamlin takes Pole at Dover

Denny Hamlin rolled to the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Dover International Speedway.

Hamlin drove the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota to a fast lap of 160.121 mph on the 1-mile concrete oval. He'll start first in Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks

The pole position was Hamlin's first of the season, third at the Monster Mile and 21st of his Sprint Cup career. The pole-winning lap was significantly slower than the track qualifying record of 164.444 mph set by Brad Keselowski in May.

"It's great," said Hamlin, who also won the Dover pole in September 2012 and May 2013. "Obviously our car's shown speed all day long, which is something that we haven't had lately, so we're kind of building and getting a little bit better and starting to figure out our setups and whatnot. So we're getting better and obviously this kind of shows it."

Martin Truex Jr., second in the Sprint Cup standings, will share Sunday's front row in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet after notching the second-fastest lap at 159.723 mph. Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano completed the top five.

Defending Sprint Cup champion and current points leader Kevin Harvick qualified sixth-fastest in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Kyle Busch, making just his second start of the season in points-paying races since returning from serious leg injuries in a February crash at Daytona, earned the 10th starting spot in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Some big names were left out of later qualifying rounds at the two elimination stages in the three-round format. Jimmie Johnson, a nine-time Dover winner in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet, was among them. After leading opening Sprint Cup practice earlier in the day, he posted just the 14th-fastest lap in Round 2, failing to make the final cut to determine the top 12 starters.

"I think, in a sense, we maybe didn't make the changes we need to or thought we needed to change, because the car had so much speed in that first practice session, but it's a totally different race track," Johnson said. "And we tried to plan ahead and made some small changes, but it wasn't enough."

Kurt Busch was also in that unfortunate group, making just the 13th-best lap to miss the cut for the final, five-minute round.

Keselowski was the final driver to make the cut after Round 1, edging Kasey Kahne by .005 seconds for the 24th spot. The Team Penske driver ended up qualifying 19th. Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart also just missed the cut, posting the 26th-fastest lap.

Jeff Green and Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for the 43-car field.