Third men for Ganassi, Penske bit by bad luck (VIDEO)

1 Comment

Brought in to replace the injured Dario Franchitti and provide support for title contender Scott Dixon in tonight’s IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway, open-wheel veteran Alex Tagliani attempted to make the most of his best opportunity in some time.

Tagliani, who stepped out of his drive with Barracuda Racing in late July, started 21st for the MAV TV 500 but charged into the Top 5 by the midway point and then went on to lead a few laps shortly after in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Unfortunately for the Canadian driver, his solid night went bad with 40 laps to go when he spun out coming off of Turn 2 and made contact with the wall – relegating him to a 14th-place finish after a promising run with one of IndyCar’s top teams.

Like Tagliani at TCGR, A.J. Allmendinger was called upon to help Team Penske’s own championship hopeful, Helio Castroneves, in a third car tonight in Fontana.

But he had found his own trouble just a little bit beforehand, when he lost control of his No. 2 IZOD Chevrolet going through Turn 3 and then smashed into the Turn 4 wall with 61 laps to go.

The incident capped off an up-and-down, part-time IndyCar run for Allmendinger this season before he returns to full-time Sprint Cup competition next year with JTG Daugherty Racing.

‘Dinger made six IndyCar starts for Team Penske and finished seventh in his first Indianapolis 500, but with his crash tonight taken into account, he also suffered four DNFs in that stretch.

Those DNFs include a gearbox failure at Long Beach and a pair of first-lap crashes in both races of the Detroit Belle Isle doubleheader weekend in June.

Theriault clinches ARCA title before finale at Kansas

Getty Images
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) There is no long, convoluted story about how Austin Theriault came to Ken Schrader Racing, forging a team that so dominated the ARCA Series that it captured the title simply by showing up for the finale.

“We both wanted something to do,” the folksy Schrader said with a smile and shrug before Friday night’s race at Kansas Speedway. “He didn’t have a car to drive and I didn’t have a driver.”

So, they solved each other’s problem.

Theriault hopped into the seat and proceeded to win seven times over the first 19 races, building such a lead on his nearest challenger that he sewed up the title at Kentucky. And that made for a rather enjoyable weekend at Kansas, where all the pressure was off their team.

Along the way, Theriault became the first driver to win at a superspeedway, short track, dirt track and road event in the same season, and he swept the superspeedway and short-track challenges.

If there was something to win, he won it.

“I hoped we’d have a shot at it and it’s proved out this year that we’ve really exceeded anybody’s expectations,” Theriault said. “We had some things to work on early. We kind of dusted off a bit, went back to work. We had some time between Daytona and the mile-and-a-halfs that came up later in the season, and we realized where we were strong and where we had to work.

“But in the end it came back to pure dedication, I think,” he explained. “The amount of time it took behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The 23-year-old driver from Fort Kent, Maine, knows something about dedication. He appeared to be on racing’s fast track, scoring a Truck Series ride a few years ago for Brad Keselowski, when a terrifying crash at Las Vegas left him with a broken back and sitting on the sidelines.

The best ride he could find last year was in the K&N Pro Series.

It was at a trade show in Indianapolis last December that Theriault ran into Schrader, who was busy putting together a team for this season. They had dinner a couple nights later and, Schrader said, it was his wife Ann who came away impressed by the yes-sir, no-sir driver.

“My wife doesn’t go to all the races,” Schrader said. “After we talked she said, `I like that guy. How good is he?’ She doesn’t know. I knew he was racing well in Keselowski’s truck, had an unfortunate wreck, had to sit out a bit. I told her, `That’s somebody who could make us very happy next year.”‘

Theriault delivered on that promise.

They weren’t the only ones happy Friday, either. Zane Smith earned his second pole of the season, beating teammate Sheldon Creed to earn the top spot for the Kansas ARCA 150, while 20-year-old Natalie Decker announced a full-time ride with Venturini Motorsports next season.

“This is obviously a big step in my career,” said Decker, who made six starts as a rookie this season. “I’m confident and ready for this next move. After tonight my focus shifts to next season. We’ll be ready to go at Daytona.”