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When you think of places associated with Lamborghini, what comes to mind? Sant'Agata, obviously. Monaco? Los Angeles? Hong Kong? How about Kansas? While the king of flyover states might not be the first place you'd imagine a squadron of race-tuned Lamborghinis running, the state is home to Kansas Speedway, a tri-oval that, like Daytona, has an internal road course, allowing drivers to run on the banking and on the infield.
Lamborghini brought its Super Trofeo North America series to the track to give the locals a taste of what high-performance Italian racers are capable of, and to be entirely honest, the racing looked pretty entertaining. The one-make racing series focuses on gentleman drivers in identical cars, and is running its first season on the North American continent, after starting in Europe and expanding to Asia. It's mainly a support race for Grand-Am, the American Le Mans Series and Indy Car races. Take a look below for the footage from the Kansas event.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The #56 NAPA Auto Parts car piloted by Martin Truex looked untouchable. For most of the day he was, leading mosre laps in one race than he has in 2 season previous in total, Martin Truex looked like he ws the one to beat, and then the sun came out. When the sun came out it loosened up everyone in the field, but for Truex it spelled the end as Denny Hamlin’s #11 Fed EX car improved enough under the new track conditions that, with 30 laps to go, he was finally able to make the pass and hold off Martin Truex Jr. right up to the checkered flag. Truex gave it all he had making 2 serious dive bomb attempts at retaking the lea but it simply was too little and too late to catch Hamlin before the checkered flag.
“Whether it was coincidence or not, our car definitely seemed like, [relative] to the field, was better once the sun came out,” Hamlin said. “I felt like our car lost a lot of grip when the sun came out, but I guess a lot of guys did when that happened. I felt like all day I was behind the No. 56 [Truex], and his car looked so superior to the field.”
“We just needed some kind of change — weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at — and we kind of got both of them. In overcast conditions, the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level’s higher in the race car, and it’s more of a track-position type race. When the sun’s out, the drivers, in my opinion, are more prominent.”
“You move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what you don’t have. The slicker the conditions are, the better it tends to [be] for our race team. Luckily, we had that run in sunshine.”
For Truex the 2nd place finish was the most disheartening second place finish he has ever felt. After being the dominant car all day long, to lose because of something as simple as sunshie really burned the leader of the MWR team.
“I guess if we can be this disappointed with second, it shows how far we’ve come as a race team,” he said.
“I felt like [Sunday] was kind of a day where I thought I was back, and felt really strong that we’d have a car that could contend for the win going into the race. And then to be able to do that all day long, it was a good feeling.”
“I know our wins are going to come. We just need to keep running like we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve won, and I know I’m capable of it, and that’s the most disappointing thing, letting one slip away [Sunday]. If I had made a mistake or we’d made a bad adjustment or something, it would probably be a little bit easier to swallow, to be honest. But to put tires on, and not touch the car, and all of a sudden the car drives worse than it has all day, it is pretty frustrating when you haven’t won in a while. But again, I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team right now. … Good things are in the future for us, and I’ve just got to keep looking at that direction.”
When asked about his moves at the end while trying to retake the leads, Truex hinted at his frustration in his desperate moves.
“Desperation,” Truex said wryly. “I was a little bit faster than Denny at the end, but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be, and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground.
“It was desperation — last-ditch effort — just trying something. There was no chance to make it work.”
“I’m just not really sure what to think of that last set of tires,” Truex said. “The car had been really good all day, we put the last set on, and I was just wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run.
“Denny was able to get by me, and once he did, the race was over. The car got better longer in the run, and I was able to get back to him, but I’d get three or four car-lengths from him and pick up the aero push …
Jimmie Johnson however feels strongly that his 3rd place finish was a show that he and his race team are back and ready to be in contention.
“This week it doesn’t register,” Johnson said. “To me, last week at Texas [and] the week before, to lead a lot of laps at Martinsville and have our cars be one, two, three and not get the victory … [Sunday], to get near the end and not close the deal does sting. We ran well but we weren’t a dominant car and kind of finished where we should have.
“[Sunday] doesn’t bother me. Sure, I’d love to [win the 200th], but the No. 56 [Truex] and the No. 11 [Hamlin] at the end had more pace than we did.”
“I commend Chad for trying something a little different, strategy-wise,” Johnson said. “If things would’ve played out different at the end, maybe we could’ve put two on while the other guys were putting four — something, just trying to give us some options.
“I don’t think it affected our finish. We got basically back to where we were [before the stop]. I think I was ahead of the No. 11 but the No. 11 was real strong that last run and went up there and got the win.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr had another strong showing with a 7th place finish, good enough to keep him in 4th in the overall points. Steve Letarte, in an intervfiew with Claire B. Lange from Sirius / XM NASCAR radio, said it isn’t how far you are frm teh top, they’re more concerned with not falling past 11th in the standings. 64 points ahead of 11th place is the way they are thinking right now. If they can remain as consistant as they have been so far this season, the wins will happen, as long as they don’t get ffrustrated before they get there.
Tony Stewart, the reigning 2011 champion had another off day with the #14 Mobil 1 car. Starting back in the field in 29th he never really seemed to gain any traction in his move towards the front. Coming on strong at the end of the race he managed to improve his position up to 13th dropping him to 8th in teh overall points.
Next week we head to Richmond for the first of 2 races there. Richmond being a short track is usually as very aggressive race, however the feeling doesn’t really seem to be there for the first race of the season. Drivers and crew chiefs both expect to see a lot of green flag racing in comparison to what we will see in the fall. Only time will tell.
NASCAR – Allmendinger Wins the Pole At Kansas, Engine Trouble for Logano Moves Him to the Back of the Field
A.J. Allmendinger has been here before, leading the field to the green flag, but this is his first in his new ride with Penske in the number 22 AAA sponsored ride. This is the 97th all time pole for Penske racing and after waching almost the entire field qualify before him, Allmendinger edged Kevin Harvick (175.747 mph) by .043 seconds at the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway to take the poole position at Kansas Motor Speedway. How does Allmendinger deal with the pressure of being new to a team who us used to success on the race track?
“More than anything, I put so much pressure on my shoulders to go out there and perform,” Allmendinger said. “They [his Penske team] are used to winning, running up front, getting poles. It’s good just to build momentum.
“So, hopefully, we have a solid 400 miles. It’s good, but we know the bigger picture’s on Sunday, and I’m happy to be part of the team.”
Kevin Harvick will start beside him on the outside in position 2. Harvick had an excellent lap in the making but got “a little excited” as he entered the final 2 corners and lost a little bit of ground.
“That might have cost us the pole, but overall it’s been a great year for us qualifying-wise so far,” Harvick said. “The cars have been fast every week, and as soon as we put together a whole weekend without me making a mistake or things not going exactly right, I think everything’s going to come together nicely.
“So I’m pretty happy with the way everything’s gone so far this year.”
So what about the other big names in NASCAR? Teams that carry the big names in the sport, Roush and Hendrick have been the power houses in the sport for the past few seasons, and yet that strength hasn’t really been shown on the track so far this season.
Greg Biffle, the current points leader and last weeks winner in Texas, was asked about the pecking order of the team. After delivering his first win in 49 starts last weekened, who is the #1 driver in the Roush Stables? Carl Edwards did sign a multi million dollar contract to re-up with Roush for the next 4 season, and his team finished second in points in 2011 by being consistant, but only marked one win fo the season. So far this season Edwards has yet to lead a lap. But if he were to choose one racetrack this year to get that win and break his 40 race losing streak, Kansas would be where he wants it most.
“There would be no bigger win on the circuit,” Edwards said. “If I had to choose between winning one race throughout the year, that would be the one I would pick. The amount of pride that I would have — winning that close to home and in front of so many people that are friends of mine and people that have helped me — that would be huge.”
But who is the number one driver in the Roush stables as they see it? Who is getting the better deal when it comes to equipment? Both Edwards and Biffle were very coy with their response to that question.
“No, I still think the No. 99 [Edwards] is the number one team at Roush,” Biffle said Friday, allowing the smile to play at the corners of his mouth. “I’m the underdog.”
Edwards disagrees. Based on current performance, he says it’s easy to identify the top team at Roush.
“Right now, Greg is the No. 1 team — the No. 16 team is — because they’re leading the points and winning races,” Edwards said.
So what about the most consistant driver in the Hendrick stables ths season, Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Is there a pecking order at Hendrick Motorsports that decides who get the best equipment? How does he feel about his chances in the 2012 season?
Asked whether he thought Johnson was a better driver, Earnhardt was emphatic in his response.
“No, he’s a hell of a race car driver, but I feel like I’m the best,” Earnhardt said. “I think that’s the way you have to feel. I feel like I’m smarter than everybody, and I can drive better than everybody, and I know a lot of people ain’t going to agree with that, but I feel pretty strong about it.”
“There is a bit of a pecking order, and it really comes down to what you’ve done lately,” Earnhardt said Friday at Kansas. “I think that Jimmie and Jeff will always carry a certain role in that company that I will probably never achieve, just due to them being there that long and having that trust built up with Rick [Hendrick] and all the employees there — and their accomplishments, obviously.”
So on to the track we go in Kansas for the STP 400 to decide the winner, and who has done the most lately in the pecking order for both of these power house teams.
Listening to the media talk about Jimmie Johnson for the past few weeks has been entertaining to say the least. Most of them seemed to have had him counted out of the 2011 Chase since Tony Stewart won the first race in Chicago. Then along came Dover where he ran second and some of the nay sayers were still saying that he had a whole lot of work to do to catch back up in the points. Well we have seen Jimmie’s work ethic for the past 5 years when it comes down to the Chase races. No one understands the pressure better than the man that everyone is trying to beat. After all to “Be then Man, you have to beat The Man” right?
In a race where he dominated from beginning to end, there was no doubt that his was the car to beat. While the majority of the race had been long green flag runs, as the final laps wore down, so did the patience of all the drivers on the track. Yellow flags began to fly, and every time they did Chad Knaus cringed over the fact that the field was going to tighten back up and give everyone on the track at Jimmie again. Kasey Kahne had a push from Brad Kesolowski on the final restart and did his best to run him down, but Johnson and his 48 car just drove away like he had done all day long.
“We’ve been knocking on the door all year long,” said Johnson, after leading 197 laps. “We’ve got beat in some cases, and we’ve beat ourselves in others. … We did our part, and we’ll just see if we can do it six more times.”
Asked if he feels that a sixth consecutive Championship is in his reach he had this to say.
“We’re doing the right things,” Johnson said. “You just don’t know. Sure, this is a huge, huge step in the right direction, but in six races a lot can happen. So I don’t want to get overly excited. We’ve got to go out there and race for this thing.”
While Kasey Kahne tried to bring Red Bull at least one win in their final season in NASCAR, it was simply not in the cards at the Hollywood Casino 400.
Brad Kesolowski, who finished third, summed up the 48 car and his feeling about the race, and while happy that he managed a 3rd and a gain in the points he is still not satisfied.
“Another solid day for us thus far,” Keselowski said after the race. “Makes you kick yourself that last week at Dover we had troubles we did, because we’ve had top-five cars each and every week, [and] we’re executing very well as a group and as a team.”
“Just the things that we can control we’re doing very well. So I’m proud of everything and proud of our efforts.”
“Paul Wolfe my crew chief, used great strategy,” Keselowski said. “We did the best we could. I think Jimmie went in the garage and stole my No. 22 Nationwide car, because there was nobody going to run with him all day.
“His car was just way better. … To get a third-place out of this, if it wasn’t for that power steering last week, we’d probably have the points lead. Those failures, those troubles, they’re going to come the No. 48′s [Johnson's] way, and when it does, we’ll be there.”
Tony Stewart looked like the only car on the track that had a chance at running down Jimmie. For most of the race his lap times were close and even mirroring those of the leader. On the second last caution Stewart took 4 tires while a majority of the teams took only 2. As the 2 tire crowd started to thin out Stewart made advances back through the field and got himself back up to 6th when the final caution came out. Stewat made a mistake and slid thgouh his pit causing him to lose 8 spots. He never recovered from that mistake finishing 15th behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Points leader Carl Edwards looked like junk all day long. Running at times in 20th place and 2 laps down, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osbourne used their outstanding communication skills to get then changes done and used the correct strategy to get Carl back on the lead lap. The late race cautions worked in their favor with wave arounds and one well timed Lucky Dog. Edwards managed to finish 5th in a race where he could have done a whole lot worse. A fact that was not lost on Carl in post race interviews.
“That’s the worst the car has felt in a race for a long time,” Edwards said.
“We were very fortunate — I do not deserve to be sitting up here,” Edwards said. “We’ve messed-up enough in the past that I’m proud of our ability to keep plugging along. Maybe it’s a test to see if anyone melts down …”
“It didn’t happen Sunday, even if Osborne swore after the race that ‘we were gonna be happy with a 15th, to be honest with you’ — at least I was. ”
“That’s the most we’ve done with a car that wasn’t capable of winning ever, so I’m really proud of my guys who made good adjustments,” Edwards said. “I cannot believe from the way the day started, to finish like that is spectacular.”
Crew Chief Bob Osbourne was in complete agreement.
“Dire straits, definitely, early-on in the race [and] we didn’t anticipate getting a fifth out of it, that’s for sure,” Osborne said. “But this No. 99 crew put their heads down and did all the adjustments I asked them to do, in a timely fashion. We didn’t lose a lot of spots on pit road under green, when we had to make adjustments.”
“They got all the adjustments done under yellow that I asked ‘em to do and Carl got up on the wheel and made things happen that I think most people can’t.”
“I can’t yet say if this was or wasn’t [a championship-caliber performance],” Osborne said. “But you can’t knock the performance that the boys had [Sunday]. Nobody got their heads down, nobody got frustrated — everybody stayed focused and did what had to be done to get the best finish possible and I’m very happy about that.”
Here’s how the standings look after the race in Kansas:
|9||+1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2118||-43|
He may not have unloaded the fastest car at the track, but during each of the 3 practice sessions Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M car, and his crew chief Matt Puccia who has only been with Biffle for 11 races so far, they made wholesale changes and managed to bring the car to life. Greg Biffle turned a lap of 174.887 mph (30.877 seconds) which was good enough for him to lay claim to the pole position, his second of the year, and 8th of his career at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Biffle is the defending champion of this race and he certainly knows this track. His record here of two wins and six top-fives in 10 starts and an average finish of 8.3 certainly stands above the rest of the competitors and you can just see the confidence in his eyes.
“I unloaded off the truck and tried to make a lap and I said we were in big trouble,” Biffle said. “We went from there to being the fastest car [and] it wasn’t in one run. I think that says something about the team, how we started there and ended up [with the pole], how we worked on the car and didn’t lose our patience, confidence and focus on getting the car to go. It was quite amazing.
“Never would have guessed that we would be on the pole. They went back and looked at the data and worked on it. I have to pat myself on the back a little bit because I must have drove a pretty good lap in order to get it up there, but they did a lot of work and really studied it. That says a lot for our team and a lot for Matt. That is what a championship team is made of, someone that can make something out of nothing. That is what we did [Friday]. We started out without very much and we are on the pole for Sunday’s race.”
“I thought Michigan, Chicago, Dover — all of those I thought were places that we could have won at,” Biffle said. “Unfortunately, the two speedway races, Michigan and Chicago, we had items break on the race car. That took us out of contention. We had OK finishes but I think here we’re back in the saddle again.
“This is a mile-and-a-half and our cars are fast and run good on those. I have some wins here and this is obviously a place that we are very capable of winning. I feel the same way about Texas and Phoenix, Charlotte and Homestead. I feel like those are race tracks we can definitely win at. We could win at all of them or none of them. We just have to wait and see.”
Biffle managed to edge out his teammate Carl Edwards who came a close second with a speed of 174.571 mph. Third-place qualifier Kyle Busch (174.447 mph) split up the Roush Fenway party by beating RFR driver Matt Kenseth (174.436 mph), who will start fourth. Kasey Kahne (174.413 mph) qualified fifth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be starting mid pack in 18th this weekend. When asked about the last few races and the mechanical problems from last weekend at Dover Jr was sounding relieved and assured that those problems would not rise again.
“There was not enough penetration on that weld. Not enough heat,” Earnhardt said. “That’s what he told me, so that’s what I will go with. I haven’t seen the piece that broke. It’s unfortunate but I’m sure it won’t happen again. Chad Knaus promised me it wouldn’t. I’ll take his word. Pretty strong word.”
A lot of the pundits have been discounting both Dale Jr and Ryan Newman as they sit in the 10th and 11th places in points right now. Counting them out may be a natural reaction, but with this new points system it really is too early to say. We’ve seen Brad Kesolowski make a run before the chase from 23rd to 11th in just 9 races and if anyone was watching the points at the start of the chase to now they will realize just how big the points swings have been. How does Jr feel about his chances within this new points system.
“You don’t really know I guess,” Earnhardt said. “I mean, 34 positions, you can do that in a race. There’s only 43 of us in a race. With the right luck, you can make it happen. We’re going to have to run good to do that. We’ll see how that goes. We’ve had some pretty fast cars, some quick enough cars to have some good finishes. Man, I would like to win a race before the year is out, and I think we can do that as a team. I feel confident that we can do that. I don’t think it’s over by no means.”
Ryan Newman reminded the media that last week they were counting out 5 time champion Jimmie Johnson and yet this weekend he sits 5th in the standings, just 13 points behind the co leaders, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick.
“Last week you guys counted Jimmie Johnson potentially out. He bounced back pretty vibrantly, and that was one race,” said Newman, 41 points back in 11th. “We’ve got seven to go, or whatever it is. From my standpoint, just go out there and do our best. It’s no different. But we’re 41 points out — 42 if you want to go for the championship, I guess, because we don’t have the wins to beat some of the guys up there. But we can. There’s still plenty of time. There are still plenty of, I guess, wild cards if you want to say it, between Phoenix and Martinsville and Talladega. We don’t know.”
“You get one mulligan, not two and a half,” Newman said. “I think by no means are we out of a shot for a championship. We’ve just got a pretty steep uphill battle I still think we’re capable of overcoming. I’m not going to say that we’re not. But it’s not going to be easy.”
Other chasers also made excellent points about how the media is reading the standings and looking for a prediction. No one can predict how things will work out yet especially since no one can predict things like mechanical failure, tire issues, or even how the weather will be effecting the tracks that are left to race at. Matt Kenseth thinks that it is just too early for those types of predictions.
“Last week I went in, and everybody was asking and saying that Jimmie was out of it,” said Kenseth. “I was thinking that he had won the last however many Dover races. I thought that was interesting, because you can have some pretty wild point swings. The further you get down the road, you can start looking at it and see who you think is more legitimate
than others, but there are a lot of cars really close right now. I think it is pretty early to be eliminating anybody.”
Tony Stewart knows better than the rest of the field how big those swings can be. To go from 10th place to first in the first 2 races of the chase, only to drop back to 3rd place in a points tie with Kyle Busch, Stewart is ready to face the next 7 races.
“We have seven races to go,” Stewart agreed. “You look at how much it changed in the first two weeks. You can stare at the point standings until you are blue in the face. There is a long way to go still. Everybody is worrying way too much about the points and where everybody is at right now.”
Kurt Busch has had a wild weekend so far. After a spin out on Friday in practice things were not looking good to begin his weekend at Kansas Speedway. Things improved marginally in practice but his car seemed to come alive when it came time to qualify. Never starting better than 7th in 9 career starts here Busch was overjoyed at his starting slot and ready to take on the field.
“I have to thank my guys for standing behind me, not just through [Friday] but through some of the tough times we’ve been through as of late,” Busch said. “It’s an amazing world, the
world of motorsports. One day you’re down, the next day you’re up.”
As the temperature heated things up the sealer between the lanes of pavement on the track was giving everyone problems. While everyone had their own way of dealing with it, Busch’s seemed simple enough.
“You choose a lane,” Busch said. “If you want the bottom lane you choose that first lane. If you’re going in to the corner in the high groove, you choose that third lane and you really stay in it — you don’t cross over the seams because they can upset the car. But it’s not as bad now, with those being worn in over the last couple years.”
“In the summer months, I think you really have to focus on corner exit,” Busch said. “That’s where it’s really hard to put all the horsepower down that we have — to get that forward bite and traction. But when you’re a racer, you don’t care what the conditions are.”
Racing at his Hometown track this weekend, Kansas native Clint Bowyer agreed that things are going to be different than in time past.
“It’s just a lot hotter and the track’s a lot slicker — the conditions are just way more extreme. But I knew it was gonna be, going into this because it’s always hot this time of year. And that’s what we love about Kansas — you just never know.”
“As it ages this track just gets better and better, the groove really widens out and it creates great racing,” Bowyer said. “It’s slick, man. Every time I come back here, the track gets slicker and slicker. But I’m telling you, for an old dirt racer that plays right in my hand. I enjoy that. That’s usually when I perform my best.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second said the strips a not as bad as on other tracks like Atlanta and Auto Club Speedway, but it certainly made things more “interesting” in his mind.
“The seams is one of those things where, if your car is half-decent and you can use them to your advantage, you’re really fast,” Montoya said. “If the car is a handful, it makes it even worse.”
Jeff Gordon won the first two races in Kansas and has had plenty of success here since, seemed to have a faster car in practice than he did in qualifying.
“To me this track has just gotten better and better every single year,” Gordon said. “I loved this track from the beginning obviously, but, like all tracks do over time as they settle in, you get some different characteristics that come into play — different bumps, you see the pavement start to wear a little bit.
“Here in Kansas, I think those things have really only made the track better because the way it wears the tires, the grip level just makes for multiple grooves. We already saw [Friday] in practice cars up against the wall, cars on the bottom, cars in the middle. That is going to make for a great race here [Sunday].”
Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano round out the rest of the top 5.
Tony Stewart(13th) and Greg Biffle (14th) both have a pair of wins at Kansas — but neither of them will start in the top 10.
Dale Jr qualified 28th followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and garage partner Jimmie Johnson in 31st.
For Jamie McMurray this has been an emotional weekend. Being so close to his hometown of Joplin Missouri he felt that he needed to go home to see what mother nature had done last week when a massive tornado ripped through the heart of the town. McMurray showed that NASCAR is always more than just race cars, but about using your celebrity to help lift the spirits of those who look up to you, when ever the opportunity presents itself. He took the time to share his emotions with the fans, visited his boyhood home, the local hospital, and stare in disbelief at the things that were simply no longer there.
“I’m sorry,” he kept saying. “I’m so sorry.” He then share his emotions with the media after taking a moment to collect himself. “I went into one of those portable bathrooms and broke down,” he said.
Looking out at the carnage stretching as far as you can see Jamie summed it up quite well. “Crazy, huh?”