(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Paul Menard benefits from Joey Logano’s misfortune, wins Nationwide race at Michigan

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Sprint Cup regular Paul Menard earned his second career Nationwide Series victory (and first since 2006), capturing Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International.

“Man, it’s good to be back to victory lane,” Menard told ESPN after the race. “Win No. 2 and I think we finished second or third a ton the last couple years, so this feels good.”

Menard led just 18 of the event’s 125 laps, but the big story of his win was being in the right place at the right time.

With five laps to go, race-leader Joey Logano was forced to pit after suffering a flat right rear tire, costing him the win and allowing Menard to assume the lead, holding on for the checkered flag.

“I ran over something at some point, it pretty much sucks,” said Logano, who finished 16th. “We had a real good Ford the whole race. … I hate giving them away like that, you know. To look for the silver lining, we had a fast race car and we should have won the race. You win some this way, and you lose some this way, and today we lost one that way.

“That’s racing for you. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.”

Menard, who has one career Sprint Cup win (2011 Indianapolis), could empathize with Logano’s frustration, as he has been in that spot a few times himself.

“I was trying to run him down, we were catching up just a little bit, but I wasn’t going to get him,” Menard said of Logano. “I thought that the best car was going to finish second again. We had this happen to us a couple of times last year. … The best car won today. … I hate to wish bad luck on Joey, but we’ll take it.”

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (making his final appearance on the Nationwide circuit this season), pole-sitter Kyle Busch and Brian Scott in fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Chase Elliott, Regan Smith, Kyle Larson, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher.

With less than 25 laps, Elliott Sadler was running second when a large piece of debris became wedged in the front end of his Toyota. Sadler tried to get behind Earnhardt to hopefully suck the debris off the grill, but it didn’t work.

As a result, Sadler was forced to pit to remove the debris, which was causing his motor to be on the verge of overheating, and went from second-place to 23rd upon exiting pit road, albeit still on the lead lap.

The only significant wreck in the race occurred on Lap 80 when Trevor Bayne and Dylan Kwasniewski got together. It appeared Kwasniewski’s car wiggled and then slid up into Bayne, putting both of their cars into the wall.

Kwasniewski, who turned 19 two weeks ago, continues to struggle in his rookie season on the Nationwide series circuit. He’s managed just one top-10 finish in 13 starts, and Saturday is now his third DNF in 2014.

Regan Smith continued to hold on to his lead in the season standings, increasing his edge to 14 points over second-ranked Elliott Sadler (unofficial points standings are listed below Saturday’s race finishing order).

The series moves to Road America in Wisconsin next Saturday, followed by Kentucky Speedway on June 27, Daytona on July 4, New Hampshire on July 12 and Chicagoland on July 19.

 

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Here’s the finishing order for Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway:

1 Paul Menard

2 Sam Hornish Jr.

3 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

4 Kyle Busch

5 Brian Scott

6 Chase Elliott

7 Regan Smith

8 Kyle Larson

9 Ty Dillon

10 Chris Buescher

 

11 Ryan Reed

12 Ross Chastain

13 Ryan Sieg

14 Landon Cassill

15 James Buescher

16 Joey Logano

17 Elliott Sadler

18 Mike Bliss

19 Dakoda Armstrong

20 Jeremy Clements

 

21 JJ Yeley

22 Brendan Gaughan

23 Jeff Green

24 Blake Koch

25 Jeffrey Earnhardt

26 Josh Wise

27 Joey Gase

28 Mike Harmon

29 Ryan Ellis

30 Trevor Bayne

 

31 Dylan Kwasniewski

32 Harrison Rhodes

33 Jamie Dick

34 Carl Long

35 Derrike Cope

36 Tanner Berryhill

37 Matt Carter

38 Tommy Joe Martins

39 Kevin Lepage

40 Tim Schendel

 

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Unofficial Nationwide Series points standings after Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway:

1 Regan Smith

2 Elliott Sadler -14

3 Chase Elliott -20

4 Ty Dillon -35

5 Trevor Bayne -50

6 Brian Scott -55

7 Brendan Gaughan -122

8 Chris Buescher -123

9 James Buescher -124

10 Ryan Reed -152

 

11 Landon Cassill -153

12 Dylan Kwasniewski -169

13 Dakoda Armstrong -171

14 Mike Bliss -175

15 Jeremy Clements -225

16 Jeffrey Earnhardt -240

17 JJ Yeley -249

18 Joey Gase -264

19 Ryan Sieg -280

20 Eric McClure -282

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Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway