Season struggles continue for NNS rookie Kwasniewski

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It’s been a rough rookie season in the Nationwide Series for Dylan Kwasniewski.

The 19-year-old Las Vegas native came into the series billed as a potential star of the future, having spent two years as part of the NASCAR Next group of up-and-coming drivers.

He won the K&N Pro Series West championship at the age of 17 in 2012, and the K&N Pro Series East title at the age of 18 in 2013, becoming the only driver in K&N history to earn titles in both east- and west-coast based series.

He also was featured on a web-based reality series, “Flat Out,” which followed Kwasniewski both on and off the racetrack, highlighting not only his racing endeavors, but also his personal and family life.

With all those good things going for him, it seemed like he was ready to make the big move to the Nationwide Series, which potentially would be nothing more than a stopover point for Kwasniewski on his way up to the Sprint Cup Series.

But it has not been an easy road for Kwasniewski. In 21 NNS starts this season, he’s failed to earn a win or even a top-five finish, and has just two top-10 showings to his credit.

He’s had nine finishes of 20th or worse.

Also, after being as high as fifth in the season rankings after the second race of the season (Phoenix), Kwasniewski has been stuck in 12th-place in the series standings for eight of the last nine races.

He’s also been involved in several wrecks, including three DNFs directly related to crashes.

Things became so rough that just before last month’s race at Chicagoland, the driver of the Rockstar Energy Chevrolet saw veteran crew chief Pat Tryson relieved of his duties and reassigned within the TSM organization.

Shannon Rursch replaced Tryson as crew chief.

But the crew chief change has not greatly affected Kwasniewski’s success factor in their first four races together. While he earned finishes of 17th and 14th, followed by a ninth-place showing last week at Iowa, his second-best finish of the season, Kwasniewski once again had a mediocre 27th-place showing Saturday at Watkins Glen, finishing one lap off the lead lap.

It’s been a trying season, hasn’t it, Dylan?

“I definitely set high expectations for myself,” Kwasniewski recently told his hometown newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “So I’m a little bit disappointed in my finishes so far. But to me, the big thing is to finish the races and to gain all the experience I can by completing every lap.

“Once you finish the laps and finish the race, then the good finishes will come after that.”

Kwasniewski has been criticized for being overly aggressive, but that’s nothing unusual for a series rookie. Many other drivers have been accused of – and been guilty of – the same thing.

The most recent episode of too much aggresiveness came in Saturday’s race at The Glen, when Kwasniewski was involved in two different run-ins with series veteran Regan Smith, who confronted the young rookie while still in his car on pit road after the race (Smith finished 17th, Kwasniewski 27th).

“It was nothing, I’m fine,” Smith told ESPN. “I had two runs on him. The second time, he just didn’t give at the point in the race he should have give. He said he wasn’t trying to wreck me, that he just was mad.”

Smith is under contract as a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing. But it’s likely he’ll be staying in the Nationwide Series for at least a couple more seasons of seasoning and development before promoting him to Sprint Cup is broached.

“We were set up to have a lot of good finishes — a lot of top 10s and even some top fives,” Kwasniewski said of several races earlier this season. “Then I ended up screwing up because I was trying to overextend. That’s my competitive nature.

“I made some mistakes, and I ended up wrecking some cars. You can’t learn anything from that, so I’ve got a little different mentality.”

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NHRA: Capps wins 2 in a row; Torrence, Tonglet, McGaha get 1st wins of ’17

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Ron Capps continued his quest toward his second consecutive NHRA Funny Car title, capturing his second straight win of 2017 in Sunday’s eliminations of the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

Other winners in the sixth of 24 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events this season were Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

In Funny Car, Capps’ winning run (3.933 seconds at 322.65 mph) was the 52nd win of his NHRA career and his first in the 4-Wide Nationals.

“This is a fun race,” Capps said in a media release. “I’ve got a great racecar. To be in a car and to have it throw you back with that many g-force and realizing the temperature that track is and still feeling that six g’s and thinking ‘how on God’s earth are these two Goodyear’s (tires) sticking to that ground?’ It’s an amazing feeling.”

The win also moved Capps into the lead in the Funny Car standings, now holding a 43-point edge over second-ranked and teammate Matt Hagan.

In Top Fuel, Torrence earned his first win of the season and ninth of his career with a strong run of 3.783 seconds at 323.89 mph.

Ironically, one of the crewmen on Torrence’s team, Gary Pritchett, is married to Leah Pritchett, who maintains her lead in the Top Fuel point standings. Torrence defeated Pritchett in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.

“This is the same as winning a race that you had to pedal it every round or you had to win it on holeshots,” Torrence said. “This is a driver’s race. We race 24 races a year and one of them we race four-wide. It’s completely different when you come in here; you’re mentally challenged.”

In Pro Stock, Chris McGaha earned his first win of the season and fifth of his career (6.591 seconds at 210.44 mph).

“Now it looks like we’ve got some momentum and it’s kind of hard to swallow,” McGaha said. “To me, I’ve always said you’ve got to have power to win in this game. You’ve got to have enough smoke to win. This one showed us we have a lot of power and that’s why we came here.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Tonglet also earned his first win of 2017 (and 10th of his career) with a winning ride was 6.864 seconds at 195.00 mph.

“It’s just unbelievable what we’ve come through this weekend alone,” Tonglet stated. “With the four-wides you just have to be prepared for anything. You just have to concentrate because if you lose your train of thought it’s going to be bad.”

The win is also Tonglet’s first since joining the White Alligator Racing headed by 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Jerry Savoie.

The NHRA now moves to Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, next weekend (May 5-7).

************************************

FINAL FINISHING ORDER: 

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Leah Pritchett; 4. Terry McMillen; 5. Dom Lagana; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Clay Millican; 8. Antron Brown; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Terry Haddock; 11. Ike Maier; 12. Shawn Langdon; 13. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 14. Pat Dakin; 15. Chris Karamesines.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Ron Capps; 2. Jack Beckman; 3. J.R. Todd; 4. Matt Hagan; 5. Robert Hight; 6. Jonnie Lindberg; 7. John Force; 8. Tim Wilkerson; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 10. Chad Head; 11. Bob Bode; 12. Bob Tasca III; 13. Del Worsham; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Cruz Pedregon; 16. Courtney Force.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Chris McGaha; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Shane Gray; 4. Drew Skillman; 5. Vincent Nobile; 6. Alex Laughlin; 7. Jason Line; 8. Tanner Gray; 9. Jeg Coughlin; 10. Allen Johnson; 11. Bo Butner; 12. Shane Tucker; 13. Deric Kramer; 14. Alan Prusiensky; 15. Erica Enders; 16. John Gaydosh Jr.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. LE Tonglet; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Andrew Hines; 4. Scotty Pollacheck; 5. Joey Gladstone; 6. Angelle Sampey; 7. Matt Smith; 8. Karen Stoffer; 9. Jerry Savoie; 10. Angie Smith; 11. Shawn Gann; 12. Hector Arana; 13. Chip Ellis; 14. Steve Johnson; 15. Hector Arana Jr; 16. Cory Reed.

************************************

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.783 seconds, 323.89 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.874 seconds, 309.13 mph and Leah Pritchett, 3.796 seconds, 318.84 mph and Terry McMillen, 4.650 seconds, 171.23 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.933, 322.65 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.959, 320.05 and J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.103, 307.72 and Matt Hagan, Charger, 8.820, 93.67.

PRO STOCK: Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.591, 210.44 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.614, 209.56 and Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.648, 209.33 and Drew Skillman, Camaro, foul.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.864, 195.00 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.821, 195.31 and Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.902, 194.16 and Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, broke.

************************************ 

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE – Steve Torrence, 3.770, 326.56 and Dom Lagana, 3.859, 319.82 def. Scott Palmer, 3.873,323.35 and Troy Coughlin Jr., 10.347, 84.52; Leah Pritchett, 3.737, 316.23 and Clay Millican, 3.743, 320.97 def. Terry Haddock, 4.292, 218.51 and Shawn Langdon, 5.211, 145.67; Antron Brown, 3.763, 326.08 and Tony Schumacher, 4.374, 247.52 def. Ike Maier, 4.387, 185.82 and Pat Dakin, 11.899, 61.87; Doug Kalitta, 3.751, 324.44 and Terry McMillen, 4.346, 262.64 def.  Brittany Force, 9.446, 80.41, Chris Karamesines, broke;

SEMIFINALS – Schumacher, 3.792, 327.74 and McMillen, 3.832, 316.52 def. Kalitta, 4.202, 230.37 and Brown, 6.933, 100.67; Pritchett, 3.756, 323.27 and Torrence, 3.774, 326.71 def. Lagana, 3.889,316.97 and Millican, 5.134, 145.30;

FINAL – Torrence, 3.783, 323.89 def. Schumacher, 3.874, 309.13, Pritchett, 3.796, 318.84 and McMillen, 4.650, 171.23.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE – Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.986, 322.65 and J.R. Todd, Camry, 7.767, 257.28 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 7.939, 118.58 and Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, DQ; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.884, 327.66 and Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.025, 316.23 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.288, 314.31 and Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.712, 98.34; John Force, Camaro, 3.937, 309.20 and Ron Capps, Charger, 3.926, 322.65 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.451, 280.54 and Del Worsham, Camry, 4.843, 189.90; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.930, 330.07 and Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.336, 267.59 def.Bob Bode, Charger, 4.530, 202.85 and Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 9.393, 87.27;

SEMIFINALS – Hagan, 3.983, 325.77 and Todd, 4.036, 281.54 def. Lindberg, 4.418, 267.69 and Wilkerson, 6.193, 108.07; Capps, 3.920, 323.43 and Beckman, 3.991, 316.38 def. Hight, 4.012, 318.39 and J. Force, 5.618, 128.54;

FINAL – Capps, 3.933, 322.65 def. Beckman, 3.959, 320.05, Todd, 4.103, 307.72 and Hagan, 8.820, 93.67.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE – Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.601, 210.24 and Jason Line, Camaro, 6.594, 210.67 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.612, 209.26 and Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.645, 209.39; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.598, 210.87 and Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.627, 209.23 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.617, 209.98 and Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.632, 209.33; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.596, 210.28 and Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.650, 208.36 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.709, 204.98 and Erica Enders, Camaro, DQ; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.612, 209.07 and Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.601, 210.77 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.568, 209.52 and John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, broke;

SEMIFINALS – Anderson, 6.606, 210.60 and S. Gray, 6.618, 209.26 def. Laughlin, 6.631, 209.23 and T. Gray, 6.623, 209.65; McGaha, 6.586, 210.47 and Skillman, 6.612, 209.59 def. Nobile, 6.624,

209.39 and Line, 6.616, 209.49;

FINAL – McGaha, 6.591, 210.44 def. Anderson, 6.614, 209.56, S. Gray, 6.648, 209.33 and Skillman, foul.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE – Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.817, 195.99 and LE Tonglet, Suzuki GSXR, 6.829, 195.36 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki TL1000, 6.813, 195.62 and Steve Johnson, TL1000, 6.994, 190.89; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki TL1000R, 6.867, 193.85 and Joey Gladstone, GSXR, 6.888, 194.94 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.940, 194.55 and Chip Ellis, Buell XB9R, 6.888, 196.19; Andrew Hines, Harley V-Rod, 6.838,195.11 and Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.959, 192.96 def. Hector Arana, XB9R, 7.271, 195.34 and Cory Reed, Victory, 10.037, 83.65; Eddie Krawiec, V-Rod, 6.792, 196.22 and Matt Smith, Victory Gunner, 6.924, 192.71 def. Shawn Gann, XB9R, 6.964, 192.14 and Hector Arana Jr, XB9R, 8.210, 113.57;

SEMIFINALS – Tonglet, 6.889, 192.74 and Pollacheck, 6.886, 192.96 def. Gladstone, 6.925, 193.63 and Stoffer, 6.914, 192.38; Hines, 6.868, 195.11 and Krawiec, 6.867, 195.28 def. Sampey, 6.944,193.46 and M. Smith, 6.892, 193.71;

FINAL – Tonglet, 6.864, 195.00 def. Krawiec, 6.821, 195.31, Hines, 6.902, 194.16 and Pollacheck, broke.

************************************

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 569; 2. Tony Schumacher, 535; 3. Antron Brown, 501; 4. Steve Torrence, 470; 5. Doug Kalitta, 417; 6. Clay Millican, 330; 7. Brittany Force, 316; 8. Terry McMillen, 267; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 264; 10. Scott Palmer, 212.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Ron Capps, 518; 2. Matt Hagan, 475; 3. John Force, 433; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 390; 5. Jack Beckman, 375; 6. Robert Hight, 365; 7. Courtney Force, 343; 8. J.R. Todd, 295; 9. Jonnie Lindberg, 286; 10. Jim Campbell, 242.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 554; 2. Bo Butner, 464; 3. Jason Line, 457; 4. Tanner Gray, 423; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 419; 6. Chris McGaha, 365; 7. Shane Gray, 350; 8. Drew Skillman, 300; 9. Erica Enders, 295; 10. Vincent Nobile, 288.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 225; 2. Andrew Hines, 177; 3. LE Tonglet, 172; 4. Joey Gladstone, 135; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 124; 6. Jerry Savoie, 108; 7. Steve Johnson, 105; 8. Matt Smith, 104; 9. Karen Stoffer, 83; 10. Angelle Sampey, 82.

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Massa brushes off Vettel’s blocking complaint at end of Russian GP

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Felipe Massa brushed off Sebastian Vettel’s blocking complaint at the end of Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Russia, saying the Ferrari driver stood no chance of catching race winner Valtteri Bottas at the front of the pack.

Vettel closed up on Bottas in the final few laps of the race, getting a boost from DRS on the penultimate tour of the Sochi Autodrom as he ran less than a second behind.

Massa – Bottas’ former teammate at Williams – inadvertently gave the Finn a boost by also offering him DRS despite being a lap down, letting the Finn past into Turn 2.

Vettel was next up to try and lap Massa, expecting the Brazilian to lift through Turn 3, only for him to keep his foot in and make it difficult to overtake.

Vettel immediately complained over the radio to his Ferrari team, but it was to no avail as Bottas crossed the line 0.6 seconds clear to record his first grand prix victory. Massa finished the race ninth for Williams.

When asked about Vettel’s complaint after the race, Massa dismissed it, believing the German would not have caught Bottas anyway.

“To be honest, so many races he was not happy,” Massa told NBCSN.

“I left the right side for him. I slowed before corner four and he didn’t want to go.

“He wasn’t going to pass Valtteri in the last lap anyway, for sure.”

Massa was quick to congratulate Bottas after the race, the pair having spent three years together as teammates at Williams ahead of the latter’s move up to Mercedes for 2017.

“To be honest he deserves the win. He was a driver that showed he is at this level in the right way,” Massa said.

“People didn’t see the level he was [at Williams], but I said straight away he’d do a good job for Mercedes. He is.

“This is his track, and I’m so happy for him. He’ll get more than just the one he did today.”

Bottas joins F1’s Finnish stars with Russian GP win

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One has a new Finnish iceman on top of the podium.

Valtteri Bottas kept his cool under pressure in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix to claim his first F1 victory, swooping past Sebastian Vettel for the lead on the first lap, and keeping the hard-charging German behind him on the final lap.

“When I drive, there’s not much emotion in there,” Bottas said after his win. “I’m just trying to get everything right and get every lap, every corner perfect.”

Bottas joins an illustrious list of Finnish winners, including Kimi Raikkonen who joined Bottas on the podium after finishing third. Raikkonen has long been nicknamed “The Iceman” for his cool demeanor, but Bottas showed he can be just as chilled. Long considered a potential winner, he’d made the podium 11 times before with Williams and Mercedes, but the top step was always just out of reach.

Bottas doesn’t go in for wild celebration, but he radiated calm satisfaction with a job well done.

“Hearing the Finnish national anthem is something quite special for me,” he said. “I always trust in my ability but it’s nice to get a confirmation.”

Just like Raikkonen, Bottas can occasionally get irritated by well-meaning advice from his team over the radio, and that happened Sunday.

“I had to ask for a bit more radio silence from the guys on the pit wall,” he said, “just for me to get on it and focus for it, and to feel a bit more like home. Nice and quiet, and that helped.”

A country of 5.5 million people, Finland has long punched far above its weight in international motorsport.

Just eight Finns have ever started a Formula One race. Of those, seven have made the podium at least once, five have won a race and three – Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Raikkonen – became world champions.

Last year’s champion, Nico Rosberg, raced as a German but is the son of 1982 champion Keke.

It was his decision to retire in the winter that opened the door for Bottas to move to Mercedes from Williams. In his fifth Formula One season, Bottas now has a car capable of fighting for regular wins and hopes Sunday will prove “the first of many.”

Sitting third in the standings after four races, could a world championship be within Bottas’ grasp?

As he said on the podium, “for me that’s the only goal in my career.”

Red Bull GRC: Speed leads VW, Andretti 1-2 in Memphis opener

Photo: Louis Yio/Red Bull Content Pool
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The new Red Bull Global Rallycross season is underway but it’s the same driver who has ended the last two years on top, Scott Speed, who kicks off 2017 in victory lane.

The two-time defending series champion, driving the No. 41 Oberto Volkswagen Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, led home his teammate Tanner Foust in GRC’s trip to Memphis to kick off the new season. The win is also Speed’s 12th in the series, most in Global Rallycross history. Speed and Foust also won their respective semifinals.

“(Being the winningest GRC driver in history) is a great stat, but those wins are all part of having a great team – starting with Tanner Foust, I have an incredible teammate. The whole Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team just worked this offseason. We put in the work, and when we wanted to stop we worked some more. When you show up to the first race and you put this kind of performance down, it just makes all that work worthwhile. Big shout out to Circle K and Oberto for coming on this year, and obviously Rockstar – thanks so much, guys,” Speed said.

Foust was second in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle, starting his 2017 season one spot worse than he did last year. He swept the Phoenix doubleheader a year ago.

Steve Arpin, in his first race under the rebranded and phased Loenbro Motorsports effort, took the privateer No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford Fiesta ST onto the podium in third place. Arpin was the most consistent threat to the Volkswagen pair last year and has done well to carry that momentum into the start of 2017.

Rookies Mitchell DeJong and Oliver Eriksson finished fourth and fifth in superb efforts for Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE, taking their Nos. 24 and 16 Honda Civic Coupes to top-five finishes in their first weekend as teammates at the Supercars level for the Andreas Eriksson-led team.

Behind them, last year’s GRC Lites champion Cabot Bigham eighth in his first Supercars start for Bryan Herta Rallysport while Sebastian Eriksson limped to seventh in the third Honda with damage in the final. Chris Atkinson retired from the race with three laps to go in the first of two Subaru Rally Team USA WRX-STis, on what was a tough day for that team.

The final only saw eight cars take the start. Mechanical issues knocked Austin Dyne out of the weekend early in his first start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while damage on the initial start cost Patrik Sandell any hope of a result in his first final with Subaru.

In the 10-lap final around the 1.18-mile circuit which primarily utilized the Memphis International Raceway oval with a shorter dirt section, Speed and Foust both got the jump on a start, and were never headed the rest of the way.

The battle was for third between Arpin and DeJong, with Arpin taking the Joker on Lap 5 of 10 to move past the 2014 GRC Lites champion in his second Supercars weekend – DeJong debuted at Los Angeles last year.

GRC stays down south for its next race, Round 2 at Louisville, to be held on Sunday, May 21.