Friday, November 27, 2009

Results for the 2009 Tacate SCORE Baja 1000 Off-Road Race

Treading through a 672 mile course in the Northern Baja course, the 2009 running of the SCORE off-road series' Tacate Baja 1000 proceeded into its 42th running in late November.

Overall, Class 22 contender Kendall Norman completed the scenic desert course in the quickest time on-board a Honda motorcycle. Class 22 vehicles took the top 3 finishing positions for the 2009 Baja 1000.

The Trophy Truck class win was grasped by Scott and Andy McMillian driving a Chevrolet-powered off-road vehicle. Teammate and truck owner of Andy McMillin in the event NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Robby Gordon (who became 2009 ) struggled with tire issues that knocked him from competition for the Trophy Truck win. Though Robby Gordon fell short of winning the 2009 event, completion of the Baja 1000 race provided Gordon with not only the 2009 Score Trophy Truck championship, but overall honours amongst four-wheel Score Off-Road series competitors.

As Hummer is destined to fall out of the General Motors fold, their ultimate sport utility vehicles placed strong in the Stock categories of the desert off-road challenge. A Hummer H3 Alpha driven by Rod and Chad Hall took the Full Stock class while Chad Hall, Emily Miller and Mike Winkel took a Hummer H3 to Mini Stock honours. For Rod Hall, this class victory became his 21st in the Baja 1000 event.

Photos Provided by General Motors

Class Winners of Baja 1000

Baja Challenge: NICK BALDWIN
Stock Full: CHAD HALL
Stock Mini: JOSH HALL
Sportsman Truck: RANDY SWINK
Sportsman Buggy: RORY WARD
Sportsman Uty: REID NORDIN
Class 1/2: ERIC DURAN
Class 5 1600: MARCOS NUNEZ
Class 8: JUAN LOPEZ H.
Class 17: ERIC FILAR
Class 20: JESUS RIOS
Class 24: TOM WRIGHT
Class 50: JIM O'NEAL

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mercedes Grand Prix Hires Nico Rosberg; Schumacher in Other Car?

Photo Courtesy of Brawn GP/Mercedes Grand Prix

Buying and rebranding the 2009 Constructor champion Brawn GP, it would have been thought that Mercedes Grand Prix would be a turn-key operation for the 2010 Formula 1 season. The reality is that the reformulated team was in immediate need of two new drivers after Rubens Barrichello and 2009 F1 driver's champ Jenson Button sought other race teams for 2010.

Filling the seat of Mercedes Grand Prix's first silver arrow race car is second-generation F1 driver Nico Rosberg. Having competed 4 seasons with Williams F1, Nico Rosberg's best finish in 70 Formula 1 races came with a 2nd place in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Rosberg's crowning career achievement was winning the GP2 series title in 2005 finishing ahead of Finland's Heikki Kolavainen and American Scott Speed. "I am really happy to be a part of the Silver Arrows re-launch in 2010 as a driver for Mercedes. No other brand in Formula 1 can look back on such a long and successful tradition in motor racing" Rosberg commented with the announcement. A German native with a German-owned F1 operation, the pairing is definitely a pleasing sight to Deutschland nationalists.

Amongst the most popular rumour for the second seat has 7-time Formula 1 Champion Michael Schumacher returning to the circuit. Involved in the Sauber Mercedes-Benz sports car team in 1989 and 1990, the reuniting of the two German motorsport names would certainly for a head turner for the 2010 Formula 1 tour. Schumacher had planned to run races for Ferrari in 2009 to substitute for the injured Felipe Massa but was himself sidelined by a motorcycle accident. Though Schumacher's manager confirmed meeting with Mercedes Grand Prix management, the driver's representative expressed that the chances of Michael Schumacher running for the team is 'highly unlikely'.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 2010 Formula 1 Driver Grid So Far

Since the checkered flag dropped on the 2009 Formula 1 season, the green flag flew to what has been one of the wackiest F1 off-seasons in recent history. Besides the addition of four new teams and the changing hands of the 2009 F1 constructor's championship, the driver's roster for the 2010 F1 circuit is a massive musical chair game including as much as four F1 World Champions. Red Bull Racing has is the only who has committed to the 2010 campaign with the same driver lineup from the 2009 year.

As of November 25th of 2009, the following list is the present complexion of the 2010 Formula one team rosters:

Mercedes Grand Prix (Formerly Brawn GP)

1. Nico Rosberg
2. ? (Michael Schumacher or Nick Heidfeld)

Red Bull Racing

1. Sebestian Vettal
2. Mark Webber


1. Jenson Button
2. Lewis Hamilton


1. Felipe Massa
2. Fernando Alonso


1. Robert Kubica
2. ? (Romain Grosjean or Adam Khan)

Scuderia Toro Rosso

1. Sébastien Buemi
2. ? (Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo or Brendon Hartley are rumoured for the second seat)

Force India

1. ? (Neither Force India seat has been filled for the 2010 F1 season)
2. ?
Test and Reserve Driver Role. (Paul di Resta or JR Hildebrand have been invited by Force India to test for a role with the F1 team)

AT&T Williams F1

1. Rubens Barrichello
2. Nico Hülkenberg

Lotus F1 Team

1. Unknown (Lotus mentioned to have signed driver but name hasn't been revealed. Jacques Villeneuve Alex Yoong, Kobui Kobayashi and Jarno Trulli has been linked)
2. ?

Manor Grand Prix

1. Timo Glock
2. ? (GP2 series Lucas di Grassi is been mentioned)

Team USF1

1. ? (Argentina Touring Car champ Jose Maria Lopez is all but officially confirmed to drive first car. Rumours have also placed Jacques Villeneuve in Team USF1)
2. ?

Campos Meta

1. Bruno Senna
2. ? (Pedro De La Rosa has been courted. Driver of Campos sold GP2 team Vitaly Petrov could be a possibility)

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 F1 Champion Button Driving for McLaren in 2010

Photo Provided by Brawn GP/Mercedes Grand Prix

As the 2009 Formula 1 season ended just under a month ago, some radical off-season deals for the 2010 tour is already set to reform the grand prix starting grid. With the surprising announcement that Brawn GP operation morphing into Mercedes Grand Prix last Monday, indications pointed that the 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button would be housed under the new Silver Arrows banner for 2010. However, two days later, broadcasts proclaimed the reigning Formula 1 champion Button would be driving for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes outfit in 2010. Spending 7 seasons inside the team that evolved from BAR to Honda to Brawn GP in 2009, Jenson Button responded in a in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' official release by saying “It’s always a difficult decision to leave a team when you’ve been there for so long. But life is all about challenges – and, most important of all, it’s about challenging yourself. So, although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I’ll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges."

Teaming up with 2008 F1 champ Lewis Hamilton for an all-British driver lineup, Hamilton has been very complimentary to the entrance of Jenson Button into the McLaren F1 team. In Lewis Hamilton's words, “I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together. We both really want our team to succeed. Although we’ll be pushing each other hard, I’m sure we’ll very quickly establish a great working relationship. He’s an exceptional driver: very controlled and very smooth, and he has a real depth of knowledge and experience."

Considering the timing of Jenson Button's move to McLaren and the intricacy of Formula 1 contracts, it would be safe to believe that the planned to switch teams well before the Mercedes-Benz buy-in to Brawn GP was made official.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Denny Hamlin Wins Ford 400, Johnson Gains 4th Sprint Cup Championship

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Heading into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final race of 2009, there were at least 43 stories of success, despair, and change relating to the past 35 events. Heading into Homestead-Miami Speedway's Ford 400, headlines included the magnificent comeback of Mark Martin, the most recent resurgence of Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton, the dismal year for Dale Earnhardt Jr, as well as the final race for Michael Waltrip in full-time Sprint Cup competition. However, those story lines would serve only as sidebars to the quest of Jimmie Johnson attempt to capture a record-setting 4th straight championship.

Having already asserted himself in qualifying for the Ford 400 by grabbing pole, Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Lowes Chevrolet made is clear that the winner of 3 consecutive Sprint Cup championship chases were by no means willing to play a conservative effort in the 2009 season's finale. Being 108 points ahead of Hendrick Motorsport teammate Mark Martin, Johnson's sole challenger chance for his long-fought championship trophy rested on the slim hopes.

Polesitter Jimmie Johnson used his early race positioning to gain him some additional cushioning in the points by leading the first 9 laps. Adding 5 points for leading the event, Johnson needed only to finish 27th place or better to hold off Martin's best efforts. Taking the front spot from Johnson was the #47 Toyota of Marcus Ambrose. A proven road course ace from Tazmania, this first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series displayed better than expected abilities for a rookie driver on ovals. Ambrose's time at the front would be short-lived as a right-rear tire caused Ambrose the first of many headaches in the 400 mile race which resulted in a 35th place finish.

Through the early stages of the Ford 400, JR Nation fans had a reason to cheer as the #88 National Guard Chevrolet inventively used the high line to maneuver from 32nd to 8th by lap 67. By this time in the race, the #14 car of Tony Stewart led the way with Richard Childress Racing's cars Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer running in tow. Stewart, having led NASCAR Sprint Cup points before the chase, saw himself holding onto 5th in the 2009 chase standings entering into Homestead.

The race's first caution came out on lap 82 as Ambrose's #47 spun off turn 4. Setting up the ideal conditions for the full field. Two Hendrick Motorsport cars who had been running well prior to the caution, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon, experienced difficulty keeping pace with the field on the restart. While Gordon was able to recover to 6th in the final running order, Earnhardt Jr's #88 suffered a flat tire just before the half way point. A 28th place finish was the result of the final race of 2009 for the #88 Chevrolet as Earnhardt is certainly ready to put behind him.

Within 35 laps, the caution came out 4 times for single car incidents. In final one of those cautions the lap 117, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya began what became an incident trilogy past amongst the mid-way point of the Ford 400. Started when the two drivers were jockeying for position out of the Homestead-Miami Speedway's turn 4 a lap prior to caution, Montoya's #42 Chevrolet used the higher groove to gain a faster exit speed. A Stewart's #14 sled up in front of the swifter #42 car, Montoya maintained his momentum as he slammed into the back bumper of Tony Stewart. Suffering no lingering damage from the squarely-targeted shot, Stewart nonetheless felt displeased with the contact. As the pair exited turn 2 side-by-side, Stewart repaid the avoidable contact by shoving into Montoya's passenger side. The impact not only mangled the sheet metal of Montoya's car but cut down a right side tire. The #42 Chevrolet slammed the turn 3 wall hard enough to shatter a brake rotor. Requiring several laps to repair, Montoya lost valuable ground on the once existent opportunity to grab 5th place in the Sprint Cup chase standings. A position held ironically by Tony Stewart leading into Homestead.

Digressing from the Stewart/Montoya clash, that lap 117 caution brought fought one of the race's most chaotic wreck on pit road. In a reaction to an almost stopped #96 car, several cars entering the pits were forced to brake causing four cars to be damaged through the chain reaction accident. The worst damaged cars in the incident were the #19 of Elliott Sadler and the #43 of Reed Sorenson, both belonged to Richard Petty Motorsports.

Eventually returning to the track, Juan Pablo Montoya remained mindful of what caused him to endure some costly repairs. Back on track, the #42 commissioned the three act in the Stewart/Montoya feud. In a move of blatant payback, Montoya turned Stewart around in turn 4 sending the #14 spinning during lap 157. With Montoya receiving a 2 lap penalty for rough driving, the on-track confrontations between the two drivers finally ended.

As the race progressed, the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota of Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch's #2 Dodge fought between themselves for the Ford 400 victory from lap 135 to 198. Following their battle, a new contender emerged after in the #31 CAT Chevrolet. Jeff Burton, who left 19 laps later in the race's running, became the third RCR car to lead on the day.

Burton led as a yellow flag for a debris caution flew. Unknowingly the final caution which would slow the Ford 400, the lead lap cars entered pit road; the majority of those cars took 4 fresh tires in response to the abrasive surface of Homestead-Miami Speedway. In an effort to replace a tight sensation and win track position, the #2 car's crew chief Pat Tryson elected that only two right side tires be changed. Tryson, spending his last race with the Penske Racing team before going to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2010, last decision for the Miller Lite Dodge was not the winning move for Kurt Busch. The two-tire strategy bit the #2 Dodge immediately on the lap 220 restart as he lost 5 positions the time he exited turn 2. Fighting back as the tires equalized against the competition, Busch captured 4th place on the checkered flag.

Starting on the second row for the lap 222 restart, Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota powered by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (who earlier in the weekend celebrated his first NASCAR Nationwide championship). While Jeff Burton in 2nd place showed pace equal to Hamlin, he was unable to catch the speedy Denny Hamlin who took the Ford 400.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

An impressive win by Denny Hamlin and his #11 Joe Gibbs Racing team, his victory was instantly foreshadowed by the 5th place finisher Jimmie Johnson's effort. Johnson won the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 4th straight year the driver of Hendrick Motorsports' #48 Chevrolet completed the feat. "I am just blown away by the things we've been able to accomplish over the last eight years in the sport. Obviously the last four years have been just unbelievable." Johnson said as he went on the pay thanks to everyone from NASCAR, to long-time crew chief Chad Knauss, and to team owner Rick Hendrick. Due to a family emergency, Mr. Hendrick was unable to be on attendance for the celebration. Wishing the best outcome for Rick Hendrick's emergency, he'll hopefully be celebrating his 9th Cup series championship with Johnson and crew some time before the December 4th Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in Las Vegas.

XSL Speed Reporter Interview: Jacques Villeneuve

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Perhaps the most accomplished Canadian race car drivers in history, Jacques Villeneuve holds an Indy 500 victory, CART/IndyCar title and a 1997 Formula One World Championship. An image of his father 1970-early 1980s Formula 1 legend Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques' driving style exhibited the same hungry aggression. The young Villeneuve was undoubtedly a benefactor of top flight racing outfits of the day, his name adorned the carbon fiber roll hoops of Players Racing machines in IndyCar and the leading Formula 1 operations of Williams F1 between 1996-1998.

With the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship serving as a highlight to any open wheel driver's career, the title seemingly brought a downturn to Jacques Villeneuve's career. Haunted in his 1998 F1 title defense by an uncompetitive Williams race car, continuing years with the than new BAR team (currently Mercedes Grand Prix) were not the rides Villeneuve had grown accustomed to in his earlier seasons. When BAR-Honda unceremoniously cut Villeneuve in the final races of 2003, Villeneuve went on to spend two seasons at BMW-Sauber enjoying limited success.

In late 2007, Jacques Villeneuve became one of many open wheel drivers who saw NASCAR as a chance to stay within the same continent as his home. While a full-time campaign was planned in 2008 with Bill Davis Racing, financiers backed out of a sponsorship deal leaving Villeneuve on the sidelines.

For 2009, Jacques Villeneuve received his annual invite to Montreal's NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Again driving for the capture Braun Racing in the #32 Dollar General Toyota, it's needless to say the only Canadian visit with NASCAR's second-best division is eagerly awaited by Villeneuve.

Within the important late August weekend, I was granted an opportunity to have Jacques Villeneuve answer some of my questions on his racing career. Please enjoy the results from this brief interaction in the following Q &A:

Question: Endeavouring into music, a fine dining restaurant, and most significantly into becoming a father, do you look at your auto racing career in a different light than compared to 10 years ago?

Answer: I was born into racing and it is in my blood. I have been blessed in and lucky to live many different experiences outside of racing (most of it thanks to racing). I have always be passionate about music and will stay involved but it comes after racing.
My 2 kids have become my priority and somehow they make me want to race even more and harder. They remind me of growing up admiring my dad and of the great childhood I had.

Q: While being one of more decorated open wheel drivers to attempt a transition to stock car racing, what attracted you to pursue a career in NASCAR?

A: There are 2 great series in the world: F1 and NASCAR and both are are the opposite ends of the spectrum. NASCAR is amazingly challenging. I always enjoyed oval racing from my IndyCar days and winning the Indy 500 in 95 got me into F1.

Q: Without the resources of the Players' Driver Development program which had fostered outstanding Canadian driving talent including yourself and others, do you believe the crop of future drivers face an even tougher road into professional racing?

A: There are many driver development programs out there. Some of it is luck or timing and allot is about going to get what you want. It takes hard work and always has. Times change, but there are always opportunities for those who work hard for it.

Q: With major open wheel racing in North America reformed under a single sanctioning body for the first time since you won the Indy 500 and overall series championship in 1995, would you consider a return to IndyCar racing? Even if only for the Canadian leg?

A: IndyCar is still damaged and not what it used to be. The healing process hopefully has started as it was a great series that opened doors to F1 to a few drivers.

Q: There have been reports that you're expressing interest for rejoining Formula 1 next year. Is this option a serious possibility? Is the rule changes in the series provoking a return?

A: The priority right now obviously is F1 and NASCAR but I would not be against a return to IndyCar in the right conditions. I just love racing.

Q: Having driven cars in almost every form of motorsports, what type of auto racing brings you the most sense of thrill?

A: Really all racing is fun, even did some front wheel drive touring car at Spa and its still exciting. The different dynamics make it both challenging to drive and to read the handling to make it better. But ultimately nothing compares to the sheer cornering speed of an F1.

Jacques conversing with Boris Said
during the 2009 NASCAR weekend
in Montreal.
Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Q: Taking into account the magnitude of racing on a famous course named after your father, driving for Braun Racing to a top finish in this year's NAPA Auto Parts 200 was a definite crowd pleaser. How much does it mean to you and your team to finish well in the Nationwide race? Would it be more important professionally or personally

A: Montreal is an extremely important race whatever series I race it in. It is my backyard. The expectations are high having raced on it 12 times. It is difficult to quantify the professional importance of a road course in NASCAR as there are only 2 non-oval races a season but a good result would definitely be a step in the right direction. Ultimately what is needed to move forward in NASCAR is good oval results.

Since conducting the interview, The 2009 running of the Napa Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve to palce amounted to a thrilling affair to the Canadian crowd. Besides the last lap pass Carl Edwards used to win the race, Jacques Villenueve delivered an impressive 4th place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series main event. Driving the #32 Toyota brilliantly all weekend, the French-Canadian driver proud performance deserves a real chance to show his stock car abilities at the highest NASCAR levels.

Opened to the notion of future tours in NASCAR, Speculation since the interview has Villeneuve seriously interested in rejoining the F1 circuit. With the addition of several new formula one teams to the 2010 grand prix grid, Jacques Villeneuve's name has been connected to USF1 as well as the Lotus F1 Team.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NASCAR Nationwide: Kyle Busch Wins Big in Ford 300; Taking Race and Championship

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

In mid-day qualifying, the #60 Ford belonging to 2008 Ford 300 winner Carl Edwards took the top spot ahead of Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton. In spite of earning pole Carl Edwards knew that his efforts to capture the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Championship were exhausted the moment him and Kyle Busch took the green flag for the Ford 300. Needing simply to start the race, the #18 Toyota of Busch climbed his very first championship in a major NASCAR division. Coming off a frustrating Friday night finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the newly-acclaimed 2009 Nationwide Series champion focused on an improved performance in Saturday's race. While Edwards led the first laps, Busch's #18 Z-Line Toyota quickly charged forward from his 5th place starting position. On a restart from a lap 9 caution for Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 12 for the 1st of 7 times during the 300 mile race distance.

While Kyle Busch rode comfortably at the front, Sprint Cup teammate Denny Hamlin (driving the #11 CJM Toyota for this race) would use the finale of the NASCAR Nationwide 2009 schedule to back up a threat he made last week in Phoenix. Holding strong hatred for JR Motorsport's driver Brad Keselowski's aggressive bumping on a lap 157 restart that claimed Hamlin's car, Denny Hamlin exact wording in a post race interview said "There's a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in, I'm just going to be the first to the pay window". Aptly enough for Hamlin, he found the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet on track by lap 36, cashing in his chips on an incident of contact out of the 4th corner. Spinning out Brad Keselowski, the #88 car avoided contact with the walls as he sled down the frontstretch. While Denny Hamlin considered himself entitled to payback NASCAR, having spoken with both drivers following the Phoenix Nationwide race, didn't share Hamlin's logic penalizing the #11 car one lap for the incident. Getting rewarded a rewarded the free pass after a later caution, Denny Hamlin did rebound to a 5th place finish. As for Brad Keselowski, his final race for JR Motorsports ended in 12th position after the early race drama.

On lap 47, Busch's car give up the lead to a suddenly revived Jeff Burton wheeling the #29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Burton held the lead until a lap 81 caution for debris. With the lead changing 20 times through the Ford 300, Joe Gibbs Racing allies Kyle Busch and Joey Logano trading the first position 4 times between lap 86 to lap 101.

As they battled, the Ford Fusion of Carl Edwards set himself in prime passing position taking lap 102 and holding up to the lead for 34 circuits. After 64 caution-free rotations around the Homestead-Miami Speedway, caution flew for the 6th time for the #6 car of Eric Darrell brushing the outer wall. Benefiting from a gain in track position, the deciding restart for lap 163 allowed Kyle Busch able to size up Edwards making the pass one lap later. Surviving a final challenge of a final restart after a lap 186 caution, Kyle Busch blazed to the finish line on lap 200 capturing the last race of the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide schedule and 9th for Busch this season.

Winning it all through the Ford 300, a jovial Kyle Busch finally finds cause to celebrate in what is this young driver's biggest victory in history able to wave both the checkered flag and championship flag after the 2009 campaign.

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Ford 300

  1. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota
  2. Carl Edwards #60 Ford
  3. Jeff Burton #29 Chevrolet
  4. Joey Logano #20 Toyota
  5. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota
  6. David Ruttimann #32 Toyota
  7. Ryan Newman#33 Chevrolet
  8. Steve Wallace #66 Chevrolet
  9. Scott Speed #99 Toyota
  10. Matt Kenseth #16 Ford

NASCAR Truck Series: Kevin Harvick Wins 2009 Truck Series Finale Ford 200

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

As NASCAR's 3 major touring series (Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup) concludes with Ford Championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver's title clinched by Ron Hornaday Jr one week ago at Phoenix International Raceway, Friday night's Ford 200 event might have been anti-climatic in the seasonal scheme. However, thanks to the less publicized owner points, a battle remained up for grabs. The accumulative points of the truck team, #33 KHI (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) Chevrolet team is under pressure by the #51 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota through the combined driving efforts of Brian Ickler, Aric Almirola, Travis Kvapil, and most prominently Kyle Busch.

Perhaps the hardest hit of the three major NASCAR touring series, current economics conditions effected the 2009 Camping World Truck season. Reflecting on that note, Roush Racing (running under extremely limited Ford support for 2009) is set to pull the plug on its Truck series operation after 15 seasons of competition. In their swansong race, Roush's #6 Ford driven by Colin Braun took the pole for the 200 mile race around the 1.5 mile oval.

As Braun's Ford F-150 race truck took the flag for the Ford 200, the #4 Chevrolet Silverado of Kevin Harvick acted quickly to repeat his Phoenix performance of one week earlier. The #51 truck of Kyle Busch lurked closely behind the #4 truck in effort to steal the owners championship from Kevin Harvick's #33 team.

By midway through the event, Busch's mission appeared to be accomplished as Ron Hornaday was only able to achieve an average pace around Homestead-Miami. Looking prime to capture the owner championship for Billy Ballew Motorsports, Kyle Busch's quest was effectively ended on lap 82. With tire wear existing as a minor story as the race progressed, the #51 truck was claimed amongst the victims of a tire cut. Falling one lap down due to a green flag pit stop, the lost opportunity for the #51 Toyota team was compounded by a pit road penalty. Kyle Busch's best efforts resulted in a 13th place finish failing to capture any gain on the #33 team. In related news, Kyle Busch is widely rumoured to buy the Xpress Motorsports equipment to run with his own truck team next year meaning this could be Busch's final race for Billy Ballew Motorsports.

With 4 laps left in the Ford 200, 9 of the 10 remaining lead lap trucks, which included 1st place Kevin Harvick, made a surprising move to pit in the final minutes of the Camping World Truck Series as a result of the pace new tires have shown. This pit stop wounded up being a good decision by the #4 Chevy team as one tire displayed significant wear on Harvick's leading truck. The #17 Toyota of Timothy Peters, the only truck not to pit, gambled in favour of track position as the field braced for a green-white-checkered finish. Immediately on the green flag, Harvick used fresh tires and a perfected restart to pass the underdog Peters. As pursuers Matt Crafton and Colin Braun were left to deal with passing Peters' Toyota, Kevin Harvick checked out to win the Ford 200. Using a last lap move, the #88 Chevrolet driven by Matt Crafton skated by Colin Braun and Timothy Peters to take second place.

Crossing the finish line 8th, Ron Hornaday was officially declared the 2009 Champion concluding the year 187 points ahead of Matt Crafton. For a second time, KHI celebrated the double victory as Harvick and Hornaday threw up a tire-squealing smokescreen along with Homestead-Miami Speedway's front stretch.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Please stay tuned to XSL Speed Reporter for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Year in Review as well as the events leading up to the 2010 season.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Ford 200

Top 10:
  1. Kevin Harvick #33 Chevrolet
  2. Matt Crafton #88 Chevrolet
  3. Colin Braun #6 Ford
  4. Timothy Peters #17 Toyota
  5. Todd Bodine #30 Toyota
  6. Mike Skinner #5 Toyota
  7. David Starr #24 Toyota
  8. Ron Hornaday #33 Chevrolet
  9. Johnny Sauter #13 Chevrolet
  10. T.J. Bell #11 Toyota

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Johnson Takes Pole in Homestead Finale

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As the top three NASCAR touring series wrap up their 2009 seasons at Homestead-Miami Speedway, only the NASCAR Sprint Cup series has a title which is still up for grabs ( Kyle Busch simply needs to take the green flag in Saturday's Ford 300 NASCAR Nationwide race to wrap up that title). Just 108 points ahead of the hungry Mark Martin, 3-time Sprint Cup championship Jimmie Johnson is intending to lock up his unprecedented 4th title in a row. Having set himself into a perfect flight path to by winning 4 of the 9 races in the chase, Johnson needs only to place his #48 Lowes Chevy in a spot 25th or better to counter any effort made by Mark Martin and his #5 Chevrolet.

As the Hendrick Motorsports teammates plan to duo for the 2009 Cup, one thing that remains certain is car owner Rick Hendrick will hold his 9th Cup series championship in 1995. This 2009 championship will place Hendrick just one short of the record 10 Cup championships secured by the Petty Enterprises operation.

In Qualifying for the season finale Ford 400, Mark Martin did exactly what he needed to do in attempting to win a long-fought first Cup championship. Setting the #5 Kelloggs/Carquest Chevrolet at the top spot, Martin was only 2 of the first 15 cars to set time in qualifying to remain in the top 15 at the completion of qualifying. Attribute the warmer afternoon 82 degree Fahrenheit weather creating a slicker track surface for the earlier runners for the poor overall showings for many top drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway(Kyle Busch is starting in 30th and 2007 race winner Matt Kenseth placed deep into the 34th starting spot.

Leaving 33th for qualifying was the driver and car who captured the Homestead-Miami Speedway pole. Maybe feeling that the pressure of his 4th championship isn't enough, Jimmie Johnson placed his #48 Chevrolet right at the front of the 43 car starting grid. After Johnson's qualifying attempt, Scott Speed and Marcus Ambrose performed runs to take the 2nd and 3rd spot. In fact, Speed in the #82 Red Bull Toyota was the last car out on the track and almost challenged the #48 Chevy.

Rounding out the top 10 in qualifying for the Ford 400 are Tony Stewart in 5th, Kevin Harvick 6th, Ryan Newman 7th, Greg Biffle 8th, Bill Elliott 9th, and Clint Boywer 10th. Surprises near the front of the grid includes Regan Smith in the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet as well as Michael McDowell's #36 Baldwin Racing Toyota. Managing to place race cars from underfunded race teams in 16th and 18th place starting positions.

Starting in 20th place for the Ford 400, Jeff Gordon prepares to hold off Kurt Busch who sits 42 points behind the #24 car driver in the Chase. This is significant because if Gordon can maintain 3rd in the points, he could conclude Hendrick's dominance of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship by sweeping the top 3 in the standings.

For the fourth and final Hendrick Motorsports car of Dale Earnhardt Jr, the team could only manage a forgettable 32rd place starting spot. Running 8th in practice earlier in the day, an early session run for Dale Earnhardt Jr's qualifying attempt likely contributed to the poor qualifying result. Nonetheless, this is another run of misfortune for the entire #88 team for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2009. As the other three Hendrick Motorsports drivers occupy the top 3 spot in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Earnhardt Jr rests 24th in the points standings between Martin Truex Jr and AJ Allmendinger.

Deciding the outcome of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Sunday's Ford 400 is set to start at 3:15 eastern time.

NASCAR Sprint Cup
2009 Ford 400 Starting Grid

Top 10

1. Jimmie Johnson (C)
2. Scott Speed
3. Marcus Ambrose
4. Mark Martin (C)
5. Tony Stewart (C)
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Ryan Newman (C)
8. Greg Biffle (C)
9. Bill Elliott
10. Clint Bowyer

Other Notables

11. Jamie McMurray
12. Kurt Busch (C)
13. AJ Allendinger
16. Regan Smith
17. David Gilliland
18. Michael McDowell
20. Jeff Gordon (C)
23. Juan Pablo Montoya (C)
24. Carl Edwards (C)
25. Kasey Kahne (C)
31. Kyle Busch
33. Dale Earnhardt Jr
35. Matt Kenseth

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Might End

Attempting to entertain ourselves with a prediction of this season's Chase for the Sprint Cup, in September I assembled a calculation on the potential finishing spots 5th through 14th after the Richmond race. Titled How The 2009 Chase for the Cup Could Shape, the mathematical calculations to previous race events wasn't entirely accurate (both charts placed Brian Vickers out of the Chase). Nonetheless, I thought it would be a fan and entertaining exercise to predict how the Chase will end for 2009.

Thanks to the changing competition of NASCAR's leading division the 2009 Chase for the Championship
, some new contenders emerged beyond the charts. However, as the 12 drivers settled into the Chase, the winner of the past 3 editions of the NASCAR Sprint Cup 10-race championship continued on course. Jimmie Johnson and his #48 Chevrolet has been an indomitable team under the Hendrick Motorsport banner. However, Hendrick's new, old shoe Mark Martin has given Johnson a fair fight in 2009 winning 5 races in the season. However, Johnson has won 4 races only in the 10-race Chase. Neither of the top-2 point championship drivers have claimed a Cup victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway but neither has faltered badly around the 1.5 mile oval.

To arrive at a conclusion for the 2009 Chase, I've gone back to average the last 3 finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In order of best to lesser performing at Homestead-Miami are the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase drivers.

Best Finishers in Past 3 Homestead Races

Driver/ Average Calc. Finish/ Points Position

Carl Edwards/ 4.7 /11th
Denny Hamlin/ 6.3/ 8th
Mark Martin*/ 9.7/ 2rd
Jimmie Johnson/ 10.3/ 1st
Greg Biffle/ 10.7/ 7th
Jeff Gordon/ 10.7/ 3th
Kasey Kahne/ 11.3/ 10th
Tony Stewart/ 18.0/ 5th
Ryan Newman/ 21.3/ 9th
Juan Pablo Montoya/ 22.0/ 6th
Kurt Busch/ 29.3/ 4th
Brian Vickers/ 31.7/ 12th

*Mark Martin's three finishes were taken through 2007-2005 since Martin did not compete in last season's Homestead finale.

Modeling the Chase drivers' past three Sprint Cup races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the following is the average finishes that can be expected from the top 12 point contenders:

Driver/Proposed Points Position at End

1. Jimmie Johnson/ 6,626
2. Mark Martin/ 6,518
3. Jeff Gordon/ 6,453
4. Kurt Busch/ 6,357
5. Tony Stewart/ 6,316
6. Greg Biffle/ 6,301 +1
7. Juan Pablo Montoya/ 6,300 -1
8. Denny Hamlin/ 6,290
9. Ryan Newman/ 6,181
10. Kasey Kahne/ 6,146
11. Carl Edwards/ 6,127
12. Brian Vickers/ 5,892

Using this data, the only change in the entire top 12 drivers in the 2009 chase would involve Greg Biffle moving a position up on Juan Pablo Montoya by just 1 point. However, based on Montoya's stellar stock car performance through the last half of the Cup season, it is very likely that the #42 Chevrolet could buck the 3-year trend.

Is Jimmie Johnson destined to make NASCAR Sprint Cup history by winning his 4th straight championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway? The race Ford 400 scheduled for Sunday will certainly decide the official outcome for the 2009 Chase for the Cup.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mercedes-Benz Buys Majority Stake In Brawn GP; Becoming Mercedes Grand Prix in 2010

Image Acquired From Brawn GP/Mercedes Grand Prix

Winning the 2009 Formula 1 constructor champion by winning 8 times in their first season with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello driving, Brawn GP was the Cinderella story of modern auto racing. Spun off the less than successful factory Honda Formula 1 team, former Ferrari and Renault technical director Ross Brawn retained the personal of the past team but sought the power of a Mercedes-Benz powerplant. As Brawn GP reveled as their Mercedes-Benz engines, few would have known that the German automaker wished to end their customer relationship. Instead, Mercedes-Benz (under parent company Daimler AG) decided to evolve their customer into their new factory team for 2010.

Announced Monday, Daimler AG, partnered with Abu Dhabi-based principal investment firm Aabar Investments PJSC, bought over 75.1% controlling interest to the one-year Formula 1 entrant Brawn GP. Renaming the team Mercedes Grand Prix, minority team owner and team leader Ross Brawn will continue to have an important presence in the new team.

While Brawn GP gains the factory support of Mercedes-Benz, The German auto giant also announced a change in their 14-year relationship with McLaren Mercedes Formula One. With Mercedes-Benz already possessing a 40 percent stake in this previous partnership, a preparation has been made for McLaren to buy back Mercedes-Benz's share of the team by 2011. However, as the auto manufacturer divests their interest from McLaren, Mercedes-Benz has also entered into a long-term engine supply deal for the Mclaren F1 team through the 2015 season.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Jimmie Johnson Dominates in the Desert

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Making the perfect recovery from last week's 110 point loss at Texas Motor Speedway, the quest for vengeance drove the #48 Lowes Chevrolet Impala going into the penultimate round of the 2009 Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. Starting third in the field, Jimmie Johnson was very much ready to return to common form during the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Sprint Cup championship challenger Mark Martin, on the other hand, would like to have another uncharacteristic stumble from Johnson to liven the hunt for the 51 year old veteran's first Cup championship.

The green flag dropped for the 312 lap race on the Phoenix one-mile oval under the supervision of Arizona Senator and 2008 US presidential candidate John McCain. polesitter Martin Truex Jr enjoyed only the briefest lead as his #1 Rain-X Chevrolet was overhauled by front row companion Kurt Busch on the first lap. Riding momentum form his win next week in Texas, Busch led 90 circuits around PIR until a racy Jimmie Johnson grabbed the front position as the field approached green flag pit stops.

After a round of green flag pit stops shuffled the lead back to Johnson, caution came out for the first time on lap 115 for debris. Attended to by a track clean up truck was on track, it should be noted that the piece of debris was not seen on television. Nonetheless, this much needed breather set up the first of two restart incidents in the race. As green returned on lap 119, missteps on the restart by some cars ahead in the double-file lineup caused an accordion effect that caught David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Robby Gordon, and Michael Waltrip (the latter three cars sustained crash damage).

Johnson's Chevy continued to lead handily until a 3rd yellow flag dropped for debris (an unidentified piece of debris similar to the first caution). As the green flag fell on lap 167, two laps later the caution came out again for the biggest incident of the day at Phoenix International Raceway. Amounting from a Dale Earnhardt Jr losing control of his #88 Chevrolet on the low side of the track, an 8 car pileup ensued collecting Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, and again Brad Keslowski in the #12 Dodge. 2000 Cup Series champion Labonte, in his #71 TRG Motorsport Chevrolet, was immediately out of the race due to the extent of his race vehicle's damage. Tony Stewart faired better but could only muster 25th place through falling two laps down for repairs to the #14 car. As for Earnhardt Jr, he finished 56 laps down in 35th position likely taking solace that the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign is almost over. With members of the Hendrick Motorsports #88 crew caught up on a non-serious traffic accident before the race, questions should surround whether Dale Earnhardt Jr is being haunted by jinx for 2009.

As the race went green at lap 178, it was all Jimmie Johnson who, with exception to a final pit stop exchange, led the Sprint Cup field uncontested to his 7th win of the 2009 season. Almost 2 seconds behind Johnson, the #31 CAT Chevrolet driven by Jeff Burton quietly enjoyed their best finish in what has been a dismal 2009 season for the whole Richard Childess Racing organization. Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, and Martin Truex Jr filled out the remainder of the top 5 after 312 laps at Phoenix.

The win for the #48 Lowes Chevy was also the Hendrick Motorsport squad's 6th straight team victory at Phoenix International Raceway and 9th in a row for auto manufacturer Chevrolet.

While benefiting Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin have seen their chances dwindle for stealing the Chase Championship. While Martin can pose a risk to Jimmie Johnson at Homestead-Miami, Gordon's "Drive for 5" opportunity will be put to rest once the #48 car takes the green flag in the finale.

Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Phoenix International Raceway
Race Results

1. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
2. Jeff Burton #31 Chevrolet
3. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
4. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
5. Martin Truex Jr #1 Chevrolet
6. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
7. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet
8. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevrolet (C)
9. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
10. David Ruttimann #00 Toyota

11. Marcos Ambrose #47 Toyota
12. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota
15. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
16. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
18. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
20. Ryan Newman #39 Chevrolet (C)
25. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
35. Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 Chevrolet
37. Brad Keslowski #12 Dodge
38. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Edwards wins Nationwide race in Pheonix, Busch all but claimed Championship

Photo Credit: Christian Peterson/Getty Image

With Carl Edwards sitting in 2nd place in NASCAR Nationwide series championship points behind Kyle Busch, the only thing he can do with his #60 Roush Racing Ford is earn maximum points through winning the last two races and lead as many laps possible. In the Able Body Labor 200, Edwards did exactly what was required on his part to hold challenge to Busch. Edwards O'Reilly/Valvoline Ford led much of the 200 lap distance with the only other leaders through the PIR event were polesitter Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Apart from sharing the lead of the Able Body Labor 200, Hamlin and Keselowski's later demonstrated they were unwilling to share room on the track.

Continuing a rivalry stretching from earlier in the season, aggressive stock car rubbing from a restart where Hamlin used his #20 Toyota to tap the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Keselowski was reciprocated on in lap 157 when Keselowski spun out Hamlin through turn 4. JR Motorsports driver Keselowski finished 5th at the race's completion, prevailing over Hamlin who came home 12th. After the race, Denny Hamlin expressed in an interview he was unwilling to provide a soundbite to the incident but ended up providing one. "There's a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in, I'm just going to be the first to the pay window." Hamlin said setting up what could be a moment of possible redemption at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, it would not be surprising if NASCAR shares a word with both drivers before the Saturday Nationwide series finale.

While much of the race's focus rested on Busch and the 2009 Nationwide crown, the Able Body Labor 200 produced many performances worthy of mention. Behind Carl Edwards, Phoenix truck race winner Kevin Harvick came home second and third place belonged to a masterful performance by 2010 free agent Reed Sorenson in the Dollar General Toyota. The top 10 finishing order in Phoenix involved 8 of those drivers are qualified for the Sprint Cup show tomorrow. Only Mike Bliss in 8th and Steven Wallace finishing 10th were the only exceptions.

Kyle Busch had hoped to heist the Nationwide championship trophy triumphant, some early race contact with the #29 Chevrolet of Clint Boywer. With a 9th place finish against Carl Edwards' win, the finish failed to allow Busch to secure the necessary points to clinch the title at Phoenix. Angered by the missed opportunity to lock the championship, a disgruntled Busch characteristically declined to comment following the race. However, by just starting the Nationwide race next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway Kyle Busch will become the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion regardless of Edwards' performance.

However, Pheonix International Raceway served up another memorable victory celebration by the charismatic Carl Edwards. unable to do his trademark back-flips due to a frisbee-playing injury which caused a broken right foot, Edwards trumbled sideways for the crowd in the desert.

Denny Hamlin on Pole for Nationwide race at Phoenix

Qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway for the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series' Able Body Labor 200 continued to show the Joe Gibbs Racing colours in second-best stock car series. With Kyle Busch well-positioned to lock up his first NASCAR Nationwide championship with a 247 point lead, teammate Denny Hamlin bettered the championship-dreaming Busch's top time in noon hour qualifying at Phoenix.

Driving the #20 Gamestop Toyota which his brought 5 wins to Joey Lagono this year, Hamlin's run in the Nationwide series has been far less than expected from the veteran. Winning 2 poles for 2009, Denny Hamlin has yet to secure a top 10 finish in NASCAR Nationwide competition.

As qualifying progressed, Carl Edwards in 2nd and Harvick in 3rd have wedged themselves between the Joe Gibbs Racing cars. Rounding out the top 10 is Clint Boywer in 5th, Jason Leffler, Paul Menard, Mike Bliss, David Ragan and Reed Sorenson. Within 20 points of 2nd place Carl Edwards in Nationwide points, Brad Keselowski starts 17th at Phoenix.

Canadian driver Alex Tagliani will race later today for MacDonald Motorsports but will be starting shotgun on the field in a backup car. In qualifying, Tagliani spun his #81 Dodge through the turn 3-4 section of the race track making hard contact with the outside wall. Whlie Alex Tagliani was uninjured, the impact was severe enough bend the rear frame of the primary car.

The Able Body Labor 200 at PIR is scheduled to roll at 4:30PM Eastern time.

Harvick wins in Phoenix, Ron Hornaday Clinches 4th Truck Series Championship

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

A big night for Kevin Harvick Incorporated (KHI) saw two trucks overcome early race adversity to complete a double victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' Lucas Oil 150. While Kevin Harvick personally netted his fifth Camping World Truck series victory by winning the 150 lap affair in the desert, him and wife DeLana Harvick also celebrated as car owners of the #33 Chevrolet Silverado piloted by acclaimed truck series points champion Ron Hornaday Jr.

Adding drama to Kevin Harvick's drive in his team's #4 Chevrolet truck, the KHI co-owner's race at Phoenix International Raceway was complicated when one of his tires touched an oil slick spinning out Harvick. Using his winning experience from last year's truck race on the 1 mile oval, Kevin Harvick possessed a quickened pace suited to passing the Toyota's of Aric Armirola and Kyle Busch to lead the late stages of the truck series event.

Clinching his 4th truck series championship, Ron Hornaday Jr's 2009 championship was supported by a considerable points lead gained contributed by a five-race winning streak. However, the past 2 months of racing kept the opportunity for challenger Matt Crafton to steal the truck top honours in mathematical reach (through the likelihood remained remote). Despite a pit stop violation penalty, Hornaday decisively claimed the championship by finishing in 4th place. The #33 truck more importantly finished ahead of Crafton's #88 Chevrolet to create a 215 point pad. Having won the truck series championship previously in 1996, 1997 and 2007, the 51 year old Ron Hornaday plans to hopefully add a 5th series crown with his KHI #33 team slated to remain the same into the 2010 season.

The Billy Ballew Motorsports duo ran up front through much of event with Aric Almirola leading NASCAR's current renaissance man Kyle Busch leading most of the 150 lap distance. While Busch's part-time campaign in the Camping World Truck Series tour has left him out of contention for the championship in that division of NASCAR for 2009, truck owner points places the #51 Toyota just 75 points behind the #33 KHI Chevrolet going into the Phoenix race. While Hornaday and KHI will claim the driver's title, Busch's 2nd place finish closes the gap to 60 points going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami next Friday.

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Truex Takes Pole in Phoenix

Photo Credit: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

The second-last race of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season convenes on Phoenix International Raceway for an short, but important 312-mile Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 where every driver and team will fire their last salvos in the battle for stock car victory. The highest stakes reside in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as Johnson's disastrous race in Texas last week availed some opportunities to the his point race challengers.

Claiming his 3rd pole of 2009, the #1 Rain X-sponsored Chevrolet driven by Martin Truex Jr clocked the fastest time around the flat one-mile oval. Counting down his time with the Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing (EGR) team that started his Cup career, Martin Truex Jr has 2 races left in 2009 before joining the Michael Waltrip Racing organization for the 2010 season.

Hot off his suspenseful Texas win, Kurt Busch #2 Miller Lite Dodge posted second-fastest speed in time trials after drawing late run through the qualifying order. Though Kurt Busch 4th place seed in chase points sets him within 171 points to Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, Busch's ambitions are more logically centered on closing the 98-point gap on 2nd place in Sprint Cup standings. Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr has been mustering a good overall performance at Phoenix following an awful Texas Motor speedway. Qualifying 12th, Hornish showed some serious speed during topping the first Cup series practice in his #77 Dodge.

Third place in Phoenix qualifying, Jimmie Johnson is ready to surge back to prime form to lock by his 4th championship. With intense focus on the entire Lowes Hendrick Motorsport team, Johnson's time was likely greeted warmly by the entire #48 team. Even though the 12th place qualifying performance at Texas was not a disappointment, it could be argued that this sub top-10 starting spot positioned Johnson's #48 Chevrolet in his lap 3 accident.

In plotting the 9th round of 10 races of the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jimmie Johnson's main competition Mark Martin as well as Jeff Gordon will roll 10th and 14th on Sunday afternoon. Not as much a fighter to Johnson but to Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart #14 car starts 8th and is only 7 points from Busch's 4th place Cup standings position. While posting 4 wins this season with his freshman Chevrolet team, Stewart would understanbly feel cheated by the fact that is pre-chase lead was evaporated by the 10-race playoff format of NASCAR's top series.

Regan Smith, Brandon Ash and Kevin Conway (who had prepped to pull triple-duty at Phoenix with his first start in the Cup series) failed to make the show for Sunday.

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Starting Grid

Top 10

1. Martin Truex Jr #1 Chevrolet
2. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
3. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
4. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
5. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
6. Greg Biffle #16 Ford (C)
7. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota
8. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
9. Casey Mears #07 Chevrolet
10. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)

Other Notables

11. Michael Waltrip #55 Toyota
12. Sam Hornish Jr #77 Dodge
14. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
17. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevrolet (C)
18. Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 Chevrolet
19. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)
20. Bobby LaBonte #71 Chevrolet
23. Max Papis #13 Toyota
24. Ryan Newman #39 Chevrolet (C)
25. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
28. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
31. Kevin Harvick #29 Chevrolet

Friday, November 13, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Phoenix's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 Preview

With only two race to go, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series streaks into the Arizona desert to wage battle on the tight one-mile oval of Phoenix International Raceway. Coming off the unpredictable race last Sunday in Texas, the Chase for the Cup championship has become a fight again following the race turmoil that presented itself onto Jimmie Johnson and the #48 Chevrolet. Under the most pressing attacks of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, the spread between the three drivers are 112 points. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart remains in mathematical contention but require an unrealistic breakdown of the key Hendrick Motorsports cars to make the 2009 championship a realistic possibility.

As much as the Sprint Cup Chase has captured headlines, Phoenix is the second to last chance for drivers to prove themselves before the season ends. One time championship contenders in the 2009 Chase for the Cup Juan Pablo Montoya and Carl Edwards. Having entering the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2007, Montoya has become a sensation through the second-half of the Sprint Cup season establishing himself and the #42 Target Chevrolet as a consistent front-runner. Having won 8 races in 2008, Carl Edwards have only 2 races left to prevent going winless in the #99 Aflac Ford 2009 season. Also noteworthy in this category is Dale Earnhardt Jr who is looking to shake the monkey off his back on the Phoenix racetrack which has been historically beneficial to the Kannapolis native. The past few months have allowed moments of excellence to shine from the #88 Chevrolet Impala only to be followed by a miserable finish as result of late race problems.

A track very favourable to Hendrick Motorsports, the Chevrolet juggernaut has swept the past 5 Sprint Cup series events at Phoenix International Raceway. Of those, 3 wins were captured by Jimmie Johnson's #48 team. 2nd place Mark Martin, just 73 points behind Johnson, enters Phoenix advantaged with most recent Cup series winner from the early spring race. Even more of a streak, Chevrolets has won past 8 Sprint Cup outings at Phoenix International Raceway.

The penultimate round of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is set to start at 3:15PM Eastern time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tagliani to run Nationwide race at Phoenix

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

French-Canadian racer Alex Tagliani is rejoining with MacDonald Motorsports team for this weekend's Able Body Labor 200, the NASCAR Nationwide show on the 1 mile oval of Phoenix International Raceway. Tagliani's second time to compete in NASCAR's second-highest touring series inside the #81 Dodge Charger, he's poised to make the most of his first Nationwide Series race on an oval.

Having made his maiden NASCAR Nationwide series voyage in Montreal's NAPA Auto Parts 200 race in August of this year, Alex Tagliani finished 26th following late race scramble on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

While the #81 car of Tagliani is guaranteed a starting spot for the Able Body Labor 200 based on a top 35 position in NASCAR Nationwide Series owner points, another Canadian driver will have to put more at stake at Phoenix International Raceway during qualifying. Daryl Harr, driving a Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet sponsored by will have to beat 3 of the 46 cars to race on the one-mile oval Saturday.

Back to Tagliani, through he has been wetting his feet in NASCAR waters, it's worth noting that his open wheel career is set to get rolling again in 2010. The 2009 Indy 500 has signed a long-term contract in August to run for the all-new FAZZT Race Team co-owned by Jason Priestley.

Remembrance Day

Today expresses the need to take a proper detour from the regular auto racing news of XSL Speed Reporter to gave thanks and recognition to veterans of past wars and to those service people currently fighting for the peace-craving good.

Marking 91 years since the seizing of conflict of the First World War, the aftermath of 15 million soldiers lost combat has made November 11th a monumental date each year. Of course, as the world endured through the 20th century, World War 2 and other world conflicts up to this day have added to the casualties of armed conflict. Today, the multitude of ceremonies are a tribute the fighting men and women who work selflessly to stand guard while the other citizens of their countries remain safer because of them.

As a citizen who hasn't fought in dangerous and disputed areas, connecting to the practical, mental, and emotional pains of a soldier is not fully comprehensible. Family as well as friends certainly share the closest enlightenment of their successes and losses. However, with time acting like a corrosive to unprotected history, younger generations may soon be able to gain understanding of the toils of war through the documented accounts that remain. The offensive smell and sight of corpses resulting in trench warfare of World War 1 can not revealed truly in books. The feelings helplessness of German U-Boats attacking ship convoys, the siege on the City of London, and the death of millions of Jewish lives through Nazi genocide are given greater historical background but me are losing the firsthand accounts which add the most gravity to recalling these ordeals. Even as we watch the breaking news in 2009, we as civilians will never identify with the cautious movements along Iraqi and Afghan roads as guerrillas combatants plant hidden bombs. Soldiers deal with these senses on a daily basis, dutifully continuing their work.

Paying are respects to are respective veterans and troops, When those soldiers sacrificed their lives in the name of their fellow man, each soldier lives forever in every human being. It is up to our individual selves to connect with the shared beliefs in the safety and preservation of our loved ones.

To the living and the fallen soldiers, please keep in mind that Remembrance Day is not just a single day where we feel obligated to honour you. November 11th each year represents the one full year that we have made the most of your sacrifice.

Thank you to all the war veterans and the active members of the several military forces that stand up for a world where peaceful co-existence is an aspiration.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kurt Busch Betters Brother Kyle to Win Dickies 500 at Texas

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR

With Kyle Busch receiving much of the attention for his attempt to complete the weekend sweep in NASCAR's three major touring series (Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series) the #18 M&Ms Toyota was on course to bring home the crowning race, the Dickies 500.

Leading a majority of the races 334 laps, Kyle Busch took a gamble on the final laps that his fuel cell held the gasoline needed to make the full distance. Inside 3 laps remaining, however, Kyle Busch's Toyota busted the chance of victory requiring a brief a detour to pit road ending the chance of the weekend three-peat. Benefiting from the lost opportunity of Kyle Busch, older brother Kurt Busch triumphing on the fuel-saving strategy.

For this second win of the year, the #2 Miller Lite/Operation Homefront Dodge of Kurt Busch ran well throughout the race but was little match for the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota until the caution-free complex of the last stage of the race favoured Busch's Penske Racing car. Perhaps a gain through the new Dodge R6 engine Penske Racing has been optimizing this season, fuel economy had usually been a failing of the Dodge NASCAR program. Nonetheless, Kurt Busch celebrated with prop six-shooter pistols blazing with soon to be outgoing crew chief Pat Tyson.

The Dickies 500 started with the headline news of Jimmie Johnson's sizable points lead going into the final three races of a Chase for the Sprint Cup. However, the start of the 500 mile Texas race would alter the headlines. On lap 3, Jimmie Johnson was caught by racing misfortune after contact with Sam Hornish Jr's #77 Dodge. Having his #48 Chevrolet thrown to pieces, Johnson's car spent more than an hour in the garage. Following a massive reconstruction of the #48 Lowes Chevrolet conducted by Hendrick crew members, Johnson returned to the track on lap 116 soldiering on to a 38th place finish.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Though Johnson's lead position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points drew much of the attention, lap 176 proved to be another hit on three chase contenders. In an accident drawing the fourth caution of the Texas race Juan Pablo Montoya sled up the track and made impact with the rear of Carl Edwards. Montoya's #42 Chevrolet continued after major repairs but Edward's #99 Ford damage was so severe and needed to be retired. Jeff Gordon was also involved in the caution spinning his #24 Chevrolet but sustained no noticeable damage. In spite of this, the #24 Chevrolet never really contended from that point on in the race. Gordon did finish 11th place at the event's end.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Image

Thanks to the fuel economy show that resolved the Dickies 500, the field was tossed up in the last 20 laps of the event. Richard Childress Racing cars saw three of its four cars collect top 10 runs for perhaps their best outing for the dismal 2009 season. Kevin Harvick finished 5th, Clint Bowyer climbed 7th place and Jeff Burton, who started the race in a back up car following the loss of his primary car in a Friday practice crash, gained a free pass early in the event to wind up 9th place.

Coming out the bad side of the late race fuel gamble, Dale Earnhardt Jr saw his solid top 10 disappear as the fuel tank went empty. Having to relinquish a top 5 run within 10 laps to go, the #88 National Guard Chevrolet struggled to start dropping Earnhardt 3 laps down into 25th place.

With Johnson's troubles, one Chase driver did manage to capitalize at Texas. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin used a 4th place finish from the event to leapfrog Jeff Gordon for 2nd place in Chase standings and draw within 73 points of Johnson.

As the Dickies 500 concludes at Texas Motor Speedway, the results of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch has taught us all that presumption may not yield the real world outcomes. A possible championship runaway and a three-peat Texas sweep were both foiled by chance through the course of the 3rd last race of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I guess there is a reason NASCAR runs the races. Richard Petty Motorsports' phase in of the Ford Fusion for 2010 continues to go smoothly as AJ Allmendinger brought the car home 10th ahead of the team's Dodges.

Race Results
Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup

Top 10:

1. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
2. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
3. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
4. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
5. Kevin Harvick #29 Chevrolet
6. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
7. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet
8. Greg Biffle #16 Ford (C)
9. Jeff Burton #31 Chevrolet
10. AJ Allmendinger #44 Ford

Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing Resists Switch to Toyota

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Ending speculation that the Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing (EGR)team were going to run Toyota Camrys in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, the #1 and #42 cars will remain under the bowtie brigade next season. Reports earlier this week alleged Toyota attempted to court the EGR operations, a team derived largely from Dale Earnhardt Incorporated which had campaigned Chevrolets since its inception into the Cup series in 1997.

While Chip Ganassi has not shown a particular favouring of one brand (Running Ford, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Honda and Toyota badges on open wheel entries as well as Dodge for 8 seasons in NASCAR) the sight of seeing the team founded by Dale Earnhardt Sr, a devout Chevrolet institution, might have been too much for NASCAR fans to accept.

Jimmie Johnson Strumbles at Texas, Potentially Breaks NASCAR Championship Chase Wide Open

With only 3 races remaining in the 10 race Chase for the Sprint Cup, the entire points scenario turned anti-climatic as three-time champion Jimmie Johnson appeared destined to prevail in the 2009 Chase holding a 184 point lead into Dickies 500 Texas Motor Speedway. In a sad sense, many fans were probably hoping for one chink in the armor to the bulletproof nature of the #48 Lowes Chevrolet Impala. Well, the NASCAR Sprint Cup show at the 1.5 mile quad-oval granted the relief for the growing NASCAR fanbase not on the #48 bandwagon.

On lap 3 at Texas Motor Speedway's Dickies 500, the apparent Teflon coating that shielded Johnson wore thin. With cars still settling their positions from the drop of the initial green flag, Johnson was carrying his momentum on the an outer race line through turn 2 with cars on his inside. Two of those cars were the #00 Toyota of David Ruttimann and the #77 AAA Dodge of Sam Hornish Jr. Ruttimann ran just a little bit quicker on the back of Hornish resulting in very minor contact. As Hornish drifted wide to regather his Dodge her swept up into Johnson's Lowe Chevy transferring the #77 car's kinetic energy into the #48 car. Unsettled, Jimmie Johnson attempted to straighten the his Chevrolet Impala but couldn't handle his compromised car. Sliding down the backstretch, the #48 returns contact with the #77 catching the Dodge before the Johnson collided with the inside wall.

Spending 112 laps in the garage area receiving attention from mechanics of Hendrick Motorsport, the #48 Lowes Chevrolet was drastically rebuilt with an entirely new front nose and hood as well as a replaced rear drive assembly.

As the race at 2009 Dickies 500 Texas Motor Speedway continues, it is yet to be decided whether 2nd place points hunter Jeff Gordon and 3rd place Mark Martin will be able to capitalize on the rare faltering of the #48 Chevy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kyle Busch Repeats NASCAR Truck Win With Nationwide Victory

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Kyle Busch did the two-step in Texas Motor Speedway victory lane for second time this weekend cruising to the checkered flag during the 200 lap O'Reilly Challenge for the NASCAR Nationwide series. Taking his #51 Toyota Tundra to victory in the WinStar World Casino 350 after dicing with Ron Hornaday and holding off a late race charge from Matt Crafton, Kyle Busch started in 6th place in his Joe Gibbs Racing #18 Nationwide series Toyota roughly 14 hours after concluding the truck series festivities. As Kyle Busch found the #18 Z-Line/WWE Raw Toyota to his liking, he quickly overhauled polesitter Matt Kenseth on lap 11 and would lead 179 of the race's 200 laps.

With Kyle Busch performing yet another driving clinic in his brilliantly-prepped Nationwide Toyota, the rest of the field fought amongst themselves. The 2nd place RCR #29 Chevrolet deserves honourable mention not only for being the best of the rest. With Jeff Burton feeling too hurt to drive the #29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet after a Friday Sprint Cup crash, the car was placed in the hands of RCR teammate Casey Mears. Mears delivered a stellar run for the team which could only help his own 2010 prospects as his Sprint Cup ride with RCR is effectively gone after this season.

Though leadership battles are seldom during the O'Reilly Challenge, enough action deeper in the field would contribute to 7 cautions including ones for Rookie of the year contender Justin Allgaier and Busch's younger teammate Joey Logano. Justin Allgaier rim-rode his #12 Verizon Dodge along the turn 2 wall losing control of the race car out of the corner. Sliding down the backstretch, Michael McDowell and Mike Wallace would be swept up by the spinning Allgaier. Driving amid a personal loss of his grandfather, Joey Logano ran well in the NASCAR Nationwide race until his #20 Toyota's left rear tire exploded down the Texas Motor Speedway backstretch on lap 152. Traveling at a speed of about 170 miles per hour, Joey Logano was hard pressed to save the from impact with the safer barrier in turn 3. While the #20 WWE Toyota took a rough body slam, Logano was thankfully unhurt.

As only two races remain, Carl Edwards is seeing his hopes for a second Nationwide Championship slip away. Though fighting to secure a 9th place finish at Texas, Busch's points lead over the 2nd place Edwards has grown to 272 markers. In fact, Carl Edwards' bigger will be to hold off the charge of Brad Keselowski who sits only 20 points back 3rd in the Nationwide points. Brad Keselowski has a good race running at the front for much of the day and even grabbed the lead briefly for lap leading bonus points (an advantage he gained over Carl Edwards on the overall points standings). Keselowski finished a steady 5th place at Texas Motor Speedway and will be looking forward to his first run in a Penske Dodge in tomorrow's Sprint Cup event.

In NASCAR Nationwide racing, the win at Texas Motor Speedway was the younger Busch brother's fourth straight win at Texas and his 8th victory on the 2009 schedule.

NASCAR News Wire: Kyle Busch Wins Truck Showdown in Texas

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR

FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 6, 2009) -- If Kyle Busch enters a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, odds are better than 50-50 he'll win -- at least where the 2009 season is concerned.

Busch led the final 50 laps of Friday night's WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway and won his fifth straight race in as many starts in the series.

The victory was Busch's seventh in 13 starts this season, the 16th of his career and his first at the 1.5-mile track. Matt Crafton ran second, .995 seconds behind Busch at the finish. Ron Hornaday Jr. came home third and left Texas with a 197-point lead over second-place Crafton in the series standings.

Hornaday can wrap up the series championship with finishes of 22nd or better in the final two events.

Todd Bodine ran fourth and Colin Braun fifth.

"It's an accomplishment to beat the 33 bunch (Hornaday) here, that's for sure," Busch said. "And we got it done today. I really hate to see the 88 (Crafton) finish second to me. I wish he could get a win."

Crafton acknowledged it would be difficult to pick up the second victory of his career and his first of the year as long as Busch keeps entering races.

"I'm going to lock him in his motor home and take him out of the equation," Crafton joked.

Busch passed Hornaday for the lead on Lap 98 after bumping Hornaday's No. 33 Chevrolet on the backstretch. As Busch pulled away, Hornaday told crew chief Rick Ren to tell the No. 51 team that Talladega (where bump-drafting is commonplace) was last week.

By Lap 114, Crafton had passed Hornaday for the second position, as Hornaday fought a loose handling condition in his race truck. Crafton gradually closed on Busch, but the driver of the No. 51 Tundra maintained a lead of close to one second over his pursuer for the final 30 laps, as Crafton tried to save fuel in his No. 88 Chevrolet.

Busch, who has won the last three NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Texas, will try for the second leg of a possible weekend triple in the O'Reilly Challenge race on Saturday. He'll start sixth. On Sunday, Busch starts fifth in the Dickies 500, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

"It would be pretty awesome to get 'em all three done here at Texas," Busch said. "I've wanted to win a truck race here for a long time, so this is pretty cool, and as soon as I get a Cup win here, another one will get knocked off the list."