Team Penske has early Chase edge, but Hendrick camp can strike at Dover


So far, the expected clash of the titans between Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup has gone the way of The Captain’s Men.

Yesterday at New Hampshire, Joey Logano joined Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the Contender Round by earning his fourth win of 2014.

Keselowski also had a solid run too, rallying to finish seventh after a mid-race spin on a day where he and his crew could basically do whatever they wished thanks to their Chase-opening win at Chicagoland.

It’s been a resounding opening statement from both the 2 team of Keselowski and the 22 team of Logano, which are both firing on all cylinders at the right time.

“I’d like to say the 35-inch, 35-ounce bat, they’re swinging it hard,” said Penske Racing vice chairman Walter Czarnecki about his two squads. “We’re trying to give them the resources and they’re doing with it. We’re gratified with where we are.”

From Logano’s perspective, the win on his home track yesterday only bolsters an outfit that was already feeling good heading into the post-season.

“Personally, I consider [New Hampshire] my worst racetrack – terrible to say because it’s my home race track – but I’ve always struggled when I come here,” he said. “To be able to win at your worst racetrack, that makes you feel like you can win anywhere. It’s special to be able to do that.

“The confidence is high at the 22 team right now. All of Team Penske, we all feel like we’ve got some championships to win this year – not only on the Cup side, but the Nationwide side also, and with IndyCar. We’re just trying to catch up to them.”

Meanwhile, the Hendrick camp’s top effort in Loudon was a fifth-place run from Jimmie Johnson. But while Penske has come out strong, HMS has no reason to push the panic button.

They likely would have had three of their drivers in the Top-10 yesterday if not for Jeff Gordon’s late crash (Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished ninth).

And they’re still in position to have all four of their drivers advance to the Contender Round following next weekend’s first-round finale at Dover International Speedway – a track that’s been good for HMS and especially so for Johnson, who won his ninth race on the “Monster Mile” this past June.

Earnhardt has also been strong as of late on the Dover concrete.

“I know everybody is looking at us like we are falling off a little bit, but Chicago hadn’t been a great track for us and New Hampshire hadn’t either,” said Earnhardt. “Dover has. So I will be surprised if we don’t go down there and be competitive.

“We were racing for a win there last year and ran pretty good there this year [finished ninth]. I look forward to going and having a good car.”

Indeed, Team Penske has been superb in the early going of the Chase. But look out for a proper response from HMS in Delaware.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.