Bubba Wallace honors Wendell Scott by earning pole for Martinsville Truck race

1 Comment

On a weekend that carries a lot of significance for honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame-elect inductee Wendell Scott, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. paid tribute in his own way to Scott.

With a special paint scheme that recalled the powder blue and white No. 34 the late driver used to drive, Wallace went out and won the pole for Saturday afternoon’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

It was Wallace’s third career pole and comes on the one-year anniversary that Wallace earned his first career NCWTS race last October at Martinsville, marking the first win by an African-American driver since Scott’s lone Cup triumph in December 1964.

“It’s an awesome paint scheme for Wendell Scott in the No. 34 Toyota Tundra,” Wallace told FoxSports1. “It’s been a good weekend so far.

“We got our stuff turned around in the second practice and happy about our chances.”

Currently third in the NCWTS standings, Wallace is hoping to close the 28-point gap between him and series points leader Matt Crafton.

“There’s still enough stress to think about what’s going to play out in the race, but hopefully it goes smooth,” Wallace said. “We control our own destiny in this race and let’s go have some fun.

“We just have to be smart … try to lead every lap, get as many points as we can and just have a good day. It’s a special weekend, so let’s add a little spice to it and get another (grandfather’s clock that is given to the race winner).”

Timothy Peters, who won last week’s race at Talladega, is looking for back-to-back wins. He’ll start on the outside of the front pole (96.195 mph).

Crafton starts third (96.132), followed by Cole Custer, Ryan Blaney, Gray Gaulding, Johnny Sauter, German Quiroga, Jeb Burton, Tyler Reddick, Joey Coulter and Alex Guenette.

There were several incidents in the first round of qualifying. Rookies Charles Buchanan Jr. and Dustin Hapka spun around while making their runs, but neither suffered any damage to their race trucks.

And then in the final minute of the final round, Quiroga went out to try and improve his spot on the grid, only to spin out as well. Quiroga did not hit anything, but he may have damaged his tires with the spin.

Such was not the case for fellow NCWTS rookie Jody Knowles, who also spun, but couldn’t stop from also backing into the outside retaining wall, incurring damage to the sheet metal.

Reddick skimmed the wall while making his first qualifying run, but damage was minimal.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
Leave a comment

Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500