Day: April 28, 2013

Toyota Owners 400 - Practice

NASCAR president to Carl Edwards: “LOL”

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One of the more humorous anecdotes from this weekend’s Sprint Cup event at Richmond International Raceway involved Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards and NASCAR president Mike Helton.

When Matt Kenseth’s pole from Kansas Speedway was rendered ineligible for his entry into next year’s Sprint Unlimited as part of his team’s engine penalties, Edwards — who lost the Kansas pole to Kenseth by less than two one-hundredths of a second — wondered if the Unlimited spot would go to him as a result.

“When I saw the news, I texted Mike Helton right away, and I said, ‘All right, cool, we’re in the [Unlimited] next year, right? We got the pole.’ And he sent back, ‘LOL!’,” said Edwards. “I didn’t think it was that funny, but he thought it was funny.

“I think [Roush Fenway Racing general manager] Robbie Reiser proceeded to ask him, and then [crew chief] Jimmy Fennig, and he got a good laugh out of it.”

Can’t blame a guy for trying, right? In any case, Kenseth would eventually regain his Unlimited spot with a pole run at RIR, which he converted into a seventh place result last night.

As for Edwards, he’ll still have to win a pole himself to break into the pre-season exhibition at Daytona, but he did finish one spot ahead of Kenseth in sixth place — which allowed him to climb to second in the Cup standings as the series heads for Talladega next weekend.

Andretti drivers take part in offbeat Q&A session

Ryan Hunter-Reay
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After two victories to start the IZOD IndyCar Series season, the Andretti Autosport gang suffered their first down weekend of the year at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Marco Andretti was the only one of the lot to come away with a Top 10 finish, while James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and E.J. Viso all found various degrees of trouble that stuck them with poor results.

But it appears they’ve nonetheless managed to keep their sense of humor intact. The drivers took part in a Q&A session that’s probably a bit different from the ones they’re more used to, answering queries that ranged from the standard (‘What one item would you take if you knew you’d be stranded on a desert island?) to the philosophical (“If not now, then when?”).

Yeah, it’s not exactly serious questioning, but there will be time for things of that nature as we get closer to next Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network/NBC Sports Live Extra). In the meantime, have a laugh or two with the Andretti camp by checking out the video above.

Harvick: No Richmond win if race had stayed green

Toyota Owners 400
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Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin are both convinced that they wouldn’t have won last night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway without the caution that came out with five laps remaining.

Harvick had moved into second place in the final laps but it looked like he’d be unable to reel in and pass Juan Pablo Montoya for the victory. However, a crash by Brian Vickers scuttled what appeared to be a sure win for Montoya, and after Harvick pitted for fresh tires with four laps to go, he raced from seventh on the green-white-checkered restart to his first win of 2013.

Still, both Harvick and Martin believed that if the race hadn’t gone into overtime, they would’ve been forced to settle for runner-up.

“I think I had a better shot to win starting seventh [on the final restart],” said Harvick. “I don’t think I was going to catch Montoya because he had a little bit better drive up off the corner at that point.”

Martin himself noted a tendency of cars on the move being unable to keep the momentum going once they got closer to the cars in front of them. For that reason, he indicated that it was Montoya’s race to lose — until Vickers’ accident changed everything.

“Within five car lengths of anybody, seems like the advantage you had went away or diminished as soon as you got close to them, then you would have to stay on them for several laps,” Martin said. “The laps were winding down so fast; Montoya was going to have to make a mistake for us to get by him at that point.”

Schmidt camp continues drive toward IndyCar success

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
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Every IZOD IndyCar Series team has to maintain a never-ending pursuit of victory. The strong level of competition throughout the series demands it, and team owner Sam Schmidt understands how much of a boost it can be to defeat such a stout field of rivals.

“Winning is the ultimate goal here — second place is just the first loser,” Schmidt says in a Honda Racing online video that focused on his team’s efforts last weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“The competition level is so high that when you do win, it’s just the ultimate accomplishment. Because you know you’ve beat the best drivers and the best teams in the world…It really takes a team effort to get it done. To win at this level takes extreme commitment, training, dedication, hard work, and, I’d say most of all, it takes courage.”

The first episode of Honda’s “Inside the Indy Challenge” also touches on how Schmidt’s drivers, Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier, have made their way to the top level of American open-wheel racing. You can check out the full clip here.

Late incidents have drivers fuming at Kurt Busch

Toyota Owners 400 - Practice

By their design, NASCAR’s green-white-checkered finishes create frenzied dashes that carry an “every driver for themselves” feel. Kurt Busch seemed to follow that spirit in last night’s conclusion to the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, but in doing so, he drew the ire of some of his rivals.

The most notable of which was Tony Stewart, who had been pushed up the track by Busch and let him know of his displeasure by running up against the side of his car after the race. The two continued their argument verbally in the hauler area.

In addition, Busch was tagged from behind by pole sitter Matt Kenseth, who afterwards said that Busch “knocked [his] whole side off” on the final restart. Busch would retaliate for Kenseth’s earlier contact by damaging the back bumper of the latter’s machine.

Busch defended his decisions in the G-W-C period, citing the “free-for-all” nature of the finish.

“Green-white-checkered — everybody is going to put on tires,” he said. “Some guys are going to do two. Some guys stayed out. And it’s just a free for all. There is rubber build-up in the outside groove. There are cars sliding up with old tires. So, I don’t know what the No. 14 [Stewart] was upset about.

“I got hit from behind. I got hit every which way. So did he. Kenseth moved us up out of the way at the end, so that’s why I was upset with him…We got a top 10. But the biggest thing here is ten laps ago, this car didn’t have a scratch on it, and now it’s destroyed.”

A third driver was also unhappy with Busch. Martin Truex Jr. was running second when he was spun out on Lap 347 thanks to contact with the former Sprint Cup champion. Truex wound up 17th in the end.

“I ran him hard, I ran him tight, but I gave him plenty of room,” he said. “He didn’t need to do that. He was driving in over his head trying to get a win, I guess.”