Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

A lot of exciting racing is set for this weekend, so here’s a look at some of the headlines.

1. NASCAR is back in Daytona for its annual 4th of July races at Daytona. However, the Xfinity and Cup will be running on Saturday and Sunday night, instead of their usual Friday and Saturday night dates, as NBC broadcasts the sport for the first time in nine years. Looking forward to their return, as well as seeing what the racing will be like.

The Gen-6 Cup Series car has not produced the same exciting racing fans had been accustomed to with its predecessors. At the Daytona 500 in February, cars raced three-wide for several laps. Here’s hoping we can have the same exciting racing on Sunday night.

2. Formula 1 returns to action this weekend, as the series travels to the Silverstone circuit for the British Grand Prix.

Although Lewis Hamilton dominated the early part of the season, Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg has taken over as the series has begun its European leg of the schedule, winning every round contested on the continent this year.

Rosberg has led the first practice sessions this weekend, do not be surprised if he wins and closes the 10-point gap between he and Hamilton.

3. The NHRA returns to action as well, with all 4 series racing at Norwalk. Halfway through the season, all four professional series have close competitions, with the largest points differential between 1st and 2nd at 87 in Funny Car. Last year, track records were set in each category.

4. Although not in action this weekend, IndyCar has made several headlines following the race in California.

Despite a series-record 80 lead changes, opinions over the event were severely divided over the race, including some drivers who were upset that pack racing had returned. Following the complaints, IndyCar President Mark Miles voiced his displeasure with drivers making disparaging remarks.

I completely agree with Miles’ frustration and a sport that is struggling to find more fans like INDYCAR can not afford to have drivers being overly critical of the product.

Regardless, as I discussed last week, I think any time drivers have concerns over the on-track product, they need to be met with the utmost sincerity. Hopefully the series can figure this issues out before the next superspeedway race at Pocono in August and it will not take away from the rest of the season.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July weekend. Thank You to all our service members and their families, both past and present. Your sacrifices do not go without our sincerest appreciation.

Top 10 Tuesday: July Daytona Moments

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

This weekend, NASCAR returns to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400. For the first time since 1997, the Independence Day classic at the 2.5-mile oval will not be contested on Saturday night, running instead on Sunday night.

Additionally, NBC returns to broadcast its first NASCAR race since the 2006 finale at Homestead. In celebration of the famed race, here are the top moments throughout its 56-year history.

10. 1997- Andretti Wins for Yarborough: The surnames are two of the most recognizable in all of motorsports.

On July 5, John Andretti led 113 laps en route to a dominating victory in the Pepsi 400, edging Terry Labonte on a one-lap sprint to the finish by .029 seconds, at the time the closest finish at Daytona.

The win was the first of two in the Cup Series for Andretti and the lone win for Cale Yarborough (1967 and 1968 race winner) as an owner.

9. 1985- Sacks Scores his Lone Victory: Driving a “research and development” car prepared by Crew Chief Gary Nelson for DiGard Racing, Greg Sacks started the day ninth.

Sacks powered his way to the front and held off Bill Elliott by 23.5 seconds to win his first and only Cup Series race. The legality of the winning car came into question, but nothing was ever proven and the win stood.

8. 1963-The “Firecracker 400” is born: For the first four years, NASCAR’s July event at Daytona was a 250-miler. In 1963, that all changed, as the event was extended to 400 miles.

Fireball Roberts won in a race that boasted 39 lead changes for his second straight and third overall win in the event. It would be one of the last wins for the legendary Roberts, who passed away a year later from injuries sustained in a crash at Charlotte.

7. 1990-The Intimidator Conquers Daytona: The struggles that the late Dale Earnhardt saw at Daytona have been well-documented. One of his most infamous heartbreaks at the track came at the 1990 Daytona 500.

With less than half a lap to go, Earnhardt cut a tire and relinquished the win to Derrike Cope. In the summer, luck would be on Earnhardt’s side.

After leading for 127 of 160 laps, Earnhardt held off Alan Kulwicki by 1.47 seconds to win his first of two July races at Daytona.

On the first lap of the race, Greg Sacks triggered a 23-car crash that is regarded as the first “Big One” at a restrictor plate track.

6. 1988-July 4th Streak Ends: For the first 29 years, the July event at Daytona fell on Independence Day. For 1988, the event would be run on a Saturday, but the date would be July 2.

In the race, Bill Elliott beat Rick Wilson by 3 feet after starting 38th. The race also marked the first time in 15 years that restrictor plates would be used in the event. In the past 26 years, the event has only been run on July 4th twice.

5. 1972-1974: Pearson Wins Three Straight: Mired among the long list of accomplishments in his racing career are three straight wins for “The Silver Fox” in the July race at Daytona.

Capping off the streak in 1974, Pearson let Richard Petty slip in front of him on the last lap, but used the draft from Petty’s car to sling shot past him for the win.

Even more impressive is that Pearson remains the only driver to win three straight years in either of the Cup Series races at Daytona. The race also featured 45 lead changes, a record that would stand until 2010 (47 lead changes).

4. 2007-McMurray Edges Busch: Earlier in the day, Kyle Busch had won the rain-delayed Busch Series event at Daytona and was looking to become the first driver to win a Cup and a Busch Series race on the same day.

Jamie McMurray, who had not won in 166 starts, thwarted those plans though, as he drove past Busch at the start/finish line on the last lap to win by .005 seconds, the closest finish in the speedway’s history. The race would also serve as the last time the Generation 4 car would be used at a restrictor plate track.

3. 1998-Night Racing Begins at Daytona: The 1998 edition of the July classic was scheduled for July 4th night, however the first night race at the Florida track would be delayed by wildfires. On October 17, history was finally made and stock cars ran under the lights at Daytona.

After a 37-minute red flag for rain with five laps to go, Jeff Gordon held on for his 11th of 13 victories (tied for a modern-era record) in 1998 and his second of three in the July Daytona race.

2. 2001- Dale Jr. Wins his first at Daytona- 2001 had been a trying season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR to say the least. His father, Dale Sr., was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500, while DEI’s Michael Waltrip won and the younger Earnhardt ran second.

On the final restart in the July event, Earnhardt started sixth but worked his way to the front and held off Waltrip for his first of three wins and the second straight DEI 1-2 at Daytona.

1. 1984- “The King” gets his 200th win- Perhaps the most memorable moment in NASCAR history, the day started with President Ronald Reagan giving the command to start engines on Air Force One before flying to the track. Eventually, President Reagan made his way to Daytona. On the track, Richard Petty went into the race with 199 career wins.

Petty would battle for the win with Cale Yarborough, who led 71 laps that day and nabbed Yarborough as the two took the caution flag with two laps remaining following Doug Heveron’s, flip. After the race, Reagan joined Petty to celebrate what would be the final win of his illustrious career.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11
Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s festivities.

1. Saturday’s IndyCar race at Fontana was one of the most spectacular races in series history. Graham Rahal picked up his first win since 2008 and engine/aero kit manufacturer Honda’s third of the season in a race that featured a record 80 lead changes.

Despite the excitement, many drivers voiced concerns about the racing. With drivers wheel-to-wheel at nearly 220 miles per hour, accidents became a concern. Particularly one crash on the last lap, where Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided, sending Briscoe airborne. Thankfully, neither was injured.

However, the concern still remained, particularly with the crash at Las Vegas in 2011 that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon still in recent memory.

Although I do think that any concerns voiced by the drivers need to be treated with the highest regard, from what I saw (albeit, on TV) the racing seemed very clean until the race drew near its conclusion and Fontana is much wider than other superspeedways, such as Texas and Indianapolis.

Luckily, the series only has one superspeedway left on this year’s schedule, when they visit Pocono on August 23. So, whatever issues may need to be worked out should be in two months’ time. Until then, here’s hoping the series can get more fans in the seats at each of the remaining tracks.

2. Today, the Cup Series ran on its first of two road courses at Sonoma. After Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson dominated much of the race, Kyle Busch took advantage of fresh tires on a late restart to win his first Cup Series race since breaking his leg and ankle in February at Daytona. Kyle’s brother Kurt finished 2nd, the first 1-2 for the siblings.

Currently, Kyle is 136 points out of 30th in points, needing an average finish of 14th to be in the top 30 after 26 races. Getting and staying there will be tough for Busch, although he may be one of just a handful of drivers capable of pulling it off.

Having Busch in the Chase does undoubtedly add excitement and the injury of course could be argued as a mistake on NASCAR’s part, as CEO Brian France has alluded to. Regardless, I don’t think having a driver miss that many races and be elligible for the championship is the best process.

In some ways it takes away from other teams and drivers who have competed all season. Had Busch missed only a handful of races (like his brother Kurt, who was suspended for three races), I may be more in favor of his inclusion in the playoffs.

Overall, I think that this is an issues NASCAR needs to look at soon. I do applaud that they have added medical waivers and that they have issued some limits (such as the ones for Kyle Busch).

I would like to see them consider a no-exceptions rule that a driver must compete in a minimum percentage of regular season races (e.g. 80-85% of the 26, so 21-23) in order to maintain postseason eligibility.

Have a Great Week

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Verizon IndyCar Series are back in action this weekend. Here’s my take on some of the top stories heading into the weekend.

1. With the first of two Sprint Cup road course races on tap this weekend in Sonoma , one of the big talking points has been the debate of adding a road course to the Chase. NASCAR has argued that the current lineup of Chase tracks represents the makeup of the schedule. I would agree with that, but I do think that the current Chase schedule could use a rejuvenation. Adding some more variety to the final 10 races could help add to a playoff system has seen some major shakeups in the past few years.

If NASCAR is to add a road course to the schedule, my personal vote would be for Watkins Glen. Over the past few years, The Glen has seen several exciting finishes. Although Sonoma does offer perhaps a more optimal location and has had great racing, I think the Glen has delivered quality racing more consistently. Though fans remember the crash-filled event in 2011 at Sonoma fondly, the racing seems to not have lived up to that quality since then.

2. This weekend, the IndyCar Series will also be in the Golden State, as they head to Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. Because of the high temperatures expecting (last three races have been at night in September, October and August respectively) and this race will be run during a hot June day, downforce levels have been altered with some wing angle changes.

IndyCar estimates that about 300 pounds of downforce will be added to the cars from what was seen at Texas. Although this is the third oval of the year, all three are very different. Nonetheless, let’s hope that we can see a repeat of some the excitement from earlier this year and maybe Honda can give Chevrolet a run for their money.

Have a Great Weekend

Top 10 Tuesday: California Drivers

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

With the IndyCar Series in Fontana and the Sprint Cup Series in Sonoma this weekend, here is a look at the best drivers who call the Golden State home.

10. Ron Hornaday Jr.- The Palmdale driver rounds out the list. Hornaday has been a dominant force in the 20-year history of the Truck Series, winning the championship a record four times and accumulating a record 50 career wins. In addition to his outstanding success in the Truck Series, Hornaday added four victories in what is now the Xfinity Series.

9. Robby Gordon- Like many other drivers who call California home, Gordon, (who hails from Cerritos, Ca.) got his start off-road racing, where he won eight championships and scored three victories in the famed Baja 1000.
In the early 90s, Gordon switched his focus to NASCAR and open wheel, winning multiple times in the Cup and (current) Xfinity series, as well as IndyCar. Right now, Gordon has returned to his roots, starting the Stadium Super Truck Series, which has become a huge success and even landed a spot in the X Games.

8. Gary Scelzi- The second Fresno-born driver and third drag racer on the list, Scelzi began in the sport in 1997 after a tragic accident in the 1996 US Nationals claimed the life of Blaine Johnson. Scelzi went onto win three of the next four championships in Top Fuel. In 2001, Scelzi switched over to Funny Car and earned the 2005 series championship. Scelzi ended his career with 37 National Event wins in addition to the four championships.

7. Kevin Harvick- After winning his first career Cup Series championship last year, the Bakersfield-born driver has etched his place as one of NASCAR’s dominating drivers. In addition to his title, Harvick has also notched 30 Cup Series wins, two titles in what is now the Xfinity series and is one of 26 drivers to amass wins in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions (Cup, Xfinity and Truck).

6. Don Prudhomme- A driver hailing from San Fernando, Prudhomme’s resume is highlighted by 49 National Event wins (35 Funny Car, 14 Top Fuel) and he is also one of three drivers (Force and Kenny Bernstein) to win four consecutive championships in Funny Car since 1974, a feat he accomplished from 1975 to 1978.

5. Bill Vukovich- One of the biggest names from Indy’s “Roadster Era”, Vukovich got his start racing midget cars, where he won three championships from 1945-1946. Vukovich’s greatest success came at the Indianapolis 500, where dominated the event, leading the most laps every year from 1952 to 1954, winning in 1953 and 1954. Vukovich’s bid for a record three straight 500 titles came to a tragic end, when he was killed in a crash while leading in 1955.

4. Jimmie Johnson- Similar to Rick Mears, Johnson (a native of El Cajon) got his start in off-road racing. After a quiet start to his NASCAR career, he was signed by Hendrick Motorsports and began his Cup Series career in 2002. Since then, Johnson has amassed 72 wins and six championships (including a record five straight from 2006-2010), becoming the sport’s greatest dominator since teammate and fellow Californian Jeff Gordon.

3. John Force- The Bell Gardens-born driver’s name has become intertwined with drag racing over the last four decades. With 16 Funny Car titles and 143 National Event wins, Force has been one of the dominant figures in the sport and has helped bring the NHRA into the mainstream motorsports focus.

2. Rick Mears- The Bakersfield, California- born racer got his start on the off-road circuits. However, in a career that spanned from the late 1970s to the early 90s, Mears became one of the legends of IndyCar racing. Mears’ resume boasts three series titles and a record-tying four Indianapolis 500 victories. Despite having his career somewhat shortened, Mears’ accomplishments cement him as one of the greatest drivers of all-time.

1. Jeff Gordon- Perhaps the best stock car driver of the last 20 years, the Vallejo, California native made his way on to the big stage in 1992. 23 years, 92 wins and four Cup Series championships later, Gordon is less than five months away from calling it a career. His on-track accomplishments and overall impact on NASCAR have helped make him one of the most recognizable athletes in any sport.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11
Hope all the dads out there had a great Father’s Day.

• After dominating the Truck Series race in Iowa on Friday night, Erik Jones passed Ryan Blaney late in the Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland on Sunday to win the rain-delayed event. After subbing for Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch earlier in the year, many had been wondering if Joe Gibbs would move Jones up to the Cup Series full-time.

However, there was also the thought that Gibbs wants to avoid moving him up too quickly with big expectations, as many say was the problem with Joey Logano’s journey to the series.

Although I could understand that mentality, I think Gibbs may need to move Jones up within the next year or two at the absolute most. Otherwise, teams will be chomping at the bit for his services and Gibbs will regret it if Jones bolts for another team.

• Nico Rosberg of Mercedes won the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday morning, giving him and teammate Lewis Hamilton seven of eight victories in the 2015 season. Although parity has been somewhat of a hard find in F1, it may be time for the series to look into how to improve the competition.

Even as competition has not been the hallmark of the series and it may never present the unpredictability that NASCAR and IndyCar thrive on, creating an even slightly more level field could help bring in new viewers and re-energize the current fan base.

It is true that many sports fans enjoy dynasties and dominant superstars, but I think in present times, competition and unpredictability is paramount to attract new sports fans.

See You Soon

Quick Takes: Pre-Weekend Edition

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

Leading into each weekend of racing, I will have some brief thoughts about recent news in the world of motorsports:

1. Very happy to hear that the Sprint Cup Series will be utilizing a new aero package at Kentucky in a few weeks. Passing has become an increasingly rare commodity at the intermediate tracks, so hopefully this will help. Also wondering who will be able to adapt to the new rules the best. Among the drivers to keep an eye are Kurt and Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.

2. Word got out the the Imola circuit, which hosted the San Marino GP from 1981-2006 and the Italian GP in 1980, may be looking to cut a deal to host, or at least co-host the Italian GP with Monza. Monza, which is contracted through next year, has some financial issues preventing its long-term sustainability. Nothing against Imola, but I think keeping the Italian race at its original circuit is imperative, especially after this year’s fiasco between Hockenheim and Nürburgring left the calendar without a German Grand Prix.

3. In IndyCar scheduling news, reports showed that reviving open-wheel racing at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin may be a possibility for next. Sanctioning fees and a conflict with the race at the Milwaukee Mile have often been pointed to as hold-ups in the track reappearing on the schedule. Although it may be too early to tell if another race at the road course will come to fruition, the series returning to one of its most famous venues would undoubtedly be one of the most popular stops on the schedule.

Happy Fathers Day

Top Ten Tuesday: Fathers and Children in Racing

Spencer Neff

Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

Each Tuesday I will have a top ten countdown. In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, here are my top father and children in racing:

10. Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve: After starting out on snowmobiles in his native Quebec, the Canadian quickly moved to open-wheel cars. From 1977-1982, Gilles racked up six wins. However, his life was tragically cut short after a practice crash for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

Son Jacques made his way to the big stages of auto racing in 1994, finishing second in the Indianapolis 500 and earning his first career IndyCar win at Road America in Wisconsin. The next year Jacques took the victory in the Indianapolis 500 and three more races en route to the 1995 IndyCar Championship. The next year, Villeneuve departed for Formula 1, where he won 11 races and the 1997 Championship. Since leaving the series in 2006, Jacques has dabbled in NASCAR, sports cars and even returned to race in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

9. Graham and Damon Hill: One of the most well-rounded drivers in racing, Graham is the only driver to win the “Triple Crown of Racing” (24 Hours of Le Mans-1972, Indianapolis 500-1966 and the Grand Prix of Monaco-1963-65,1968-69), as well as the 1962 and 1968 Formula 1 titles. Graham perished in a plane crash in 1975, but son Damon would carry on the family legacy. Damon racked up 22 victories in Formula and earned the 1996 Formula 1 title, making the Hills the only father-son duo to win championships in Formula 1.

8. Sir Jack , Geoff, Gary and David Brabham: One of the stars of the Formula 1 circuit in the  late 1950s 1960s, Sir Jack  raced to 14 wins and three championships during his 14-year career.

Jack’s sons made their legacy in the world of sports car racing. Eldest son Geoff earned four IMSA GTP Championships, while Gary won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1991 and David won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009. Geoff’s son Matthew currently races for Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights Series.

7. John, Ashley Force-Hood, Brittany and Courtney Force: Drag Racing’s most famous name boasts John with NHRA records for National event wins (141) and championships (16). Daughter Ashley claimed four career wins in Funny Car before going on hiatus. Courtney has claimed seven Funny Car wins in over three years of competition and Brittany is seeking her first National event win in Top Fuel.

6.  Ned and Dale Jarrett: Ned was one of the early stars of the sport, earning titles in what is now the Sprint Cup Series in 1961 and 1965 and 50 career victories before retiring abruptly after his 1965 title. His son Dale tallied 32 career wins, including three Daytona 500s (1993, 96 and 2000), and won the 1999 Cup Series title. Ned and Dale have also had successful careers in the broadcast booth. One of the Jarrett family’s most famous moments was Ned calling Dale’s first Daytona 500 win in 1993 for CBS.

5. Bobby and Davey Allison: Another father-son duo from NASCAR, Bobby and brother Donnie (10 career Cup Series wins) were founding members of the famed Alabama Gang. Bobby accumulated 84 career Cup Series wins, including three Daytona 500s (1978, ’82 and ’88) and the 1983 Championship.

Perhaps the biggest moment for the family was a thrilling 1-2 finish in the 1988 Daytona 500 between Bobby and Davey in what proved to be Bobby’s last career win. Davey, whose brother Clifford was killed in a practice crash at Michigan, won 19 times in the Cup series, including the 1992 Daytona 500, before a helicopter crash in 1993 took his life.

4. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr.: Another name synonymous with NASCAR, the Earnhardt family has earned their place among the elite in the sport of Auto Racing.

Dale Sr. racked up 76 career victories and seven Cup Series Championships in a career that spanned from 1978 until his untimely death from a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Dale Jr. has carried on the Earnhardt, including the 1998 and 1999 Xfinity Series titles (formerly Busch Series) and 24 wins in the Sprint Cup Series, including two Daytona 500 wins (2004 and 2014).

In August 2000, Dale Sr. became just the second father to race alongside two sons (Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty), when Dale’s oldest son Kerry raced with him and Dale Jr.

3. Al Unser Sr. and Jr.: Another family who made their name in open-wheel racing, the two combined for 73 wins, including six victories in the Indianapolis 500 and five championships in IndyCar. Al’s older brother Bobby also added three Indianapolis 500 victories and two IndyCar titles to the family legacy.

2. Mario and Michael Andretti: Mario’s legendary career boasts four IndyCar titles and 52 series victories, a Formula 1 championship (12 wins) and a win in the 1967 Daytona 500, as well as the 1969 Indianapolis 500. Mario’s son Michael has quite a racing record as well.

The younger Andretti earned 42 victories and the 1991 IndyCar Championship. In 1991 and 1992, Mario and Michael were joined by Mario’s younger son Jeff and his nephew John in the Indianapolis 500. Michael came out of retirement in 2006 and 2007 to race in the Indianapolis 500 alongside his son Marco, who continues to race for his father in the IndyCar Series.

1. Lee, Richard and Maurice Petty: Most people recognize Richard, a 7-time champion and winner of 200 races as “The King, as well as Lee for winning the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959, but many casual racing fans may not recognize Richard’s younger brother, Maurice. Although never winning a race, Maurice built engines and served as crew chief, helping Petty Enterprises win over 250 races and 10 Cup Series Championships.

Enjoy  your week

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Each week I will have some thoughts on some of the weekend’s racing events:

1. The IndyCar race in Toronto on Sunday featured some competitive racing and strategy, as rain played a factor early on in the event. Barber winner Josef Newgarden pulled away for his second win of the season and Luca Filippi completed a 1-2 for CFH Racing at the Exhibition Place circuit. The top six spots were taken by Chevrolet-powered cars.

The manufacturer has dominated this year, with eight wins to Honda’s two. The  disparity is obviously a major concern for a series which has seen immense competition since the unveiling of the DW12 chassis three years ago. Here’s hoping that Honda can improve during the off weekend before Fontana, or at least by the end of the season.

2. After several rain delays, the Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan was called 63 laps short of the finish and Kurt Busch nabbed his second win of the season. Kudos to NASCAR and everyone at MIS for their work to get the race in despite the weather.

With an off week before heading to the road course at Sonoma, one thing that NASCAR should continue looking at is this year’s aero/engine package. This year, 125 horsepower has been removed from the cars via a tapered spacer on the engine and have reduced the size of the rear spoiler to reduce downforce.

However, there has been chatter about the lack of passing. From what many drivers and other observers have noted, perhaps it may best for NASCAR to take even more downforce out and bring the horsepower back up, forcing drivers to lift in the corners. Changes are rumored to be in play when the series goes to Kentucky on July 11, so there is hope that NASCAR can fix the problem.

3. For anyone that has watched Xfinity and/or Camping World Truck Series qualifying at some of the bigger tracks, you probably have noticed that drivers will often sit and wait on pit road until there is only enough time left for one lap.

Although this practice does add some drama and intensity to qualifying, it can get frustrating for the viewers, both on TV and in person. NASCAR ought to look into shortening the qualifying times for the rounds at these tracks.

Doing so would create a sense of urgency and take away the gamesmanship of qualifying while perhaps even adding more drama.

Although there could be issues with implementing this, it would be better than a qualifying session like Saturday morning where eventual race winner Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott had their times disallowed because they did not make it back to the line before time expired. Elliott would have had the pole with a track record time, but the two started 11th and 12th instead. A shorter session would force the drivers onto the track earlier and not run the risk of being unable to record a lap.

4. After seeing the dominant trucks of Erik Jones and Matt Crafton taken out of contention, Cole Custer took advantage of Tyler Reddick missing a shift on the final restart and went on to win the Truck Series event at Gateway. The two races in the series’ return to the Madison, Illinois venue have both produced some good racing. Perhaps it may be time to look into getting the Xfinity Series to return to the track as well.

5. After a five year winning streak by Audi, Porsche found its way to the top step of the podium for the first time since 1998 and finished 1-2, with the team of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy taking the win. Chip Ganassi Racing also announced that they will enter the WEC and Tudor Series with Ford GT, nearly 50 years after the manufacturer’s win in the race with Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt. The success of Porsche and the addition of Ford should make the sports cars series exciting to watch in the future.

Have a great week everyone

Spencer Neff

Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

My Love of Racing

I think an introduction is a great way to start off the blog. So, here it goes:

If the story of your interest in auto racing is anything like mine, you have probably had numerous people question how you could like racing. “It’s just a bunch of guys going around in circles” is one of the statements we have heard used frequently. However those of us that are fans of the sport know that there is more than meets the eye.

My love affair with racing started in the mid-90s. I was born in Bethlehem, Pa., close to where the Andretti family called home and just a few miles away from Nazareth Speedway.

After hearing the noise all the way from our house, my parents decided to take me to the race track. After just a few laps, I was hooked, with my eyes glued to the cars and barely focused on anything else. At three years old, I left Bethlehem for Phoenix, but the trek from Pennsylvania to Arizona did not deter my passion for racing.

Even without a huge group of people to share my interest, my enthusiasm for the sport traveled with me wherever I went. Despite the struggles of growing up, the passion I felt for racing as a two year-old kid from Pennsylvania is something I continue to carry with me, even as a 22 year-old and recent graduate of Purdue University.

I would like to pay tribute to some people who have helped feed my love of racing:

To Jeff Gordon: Thank You for being an amazing driver and an even better ambassador for NASCAR. You were the first driver I  called my favorite  and when I have gotten my friends and family interested in the sport, you were the one selected as their favorite driver. Although it will be sad not to see you racing, I wish you and your family nothing but the best as you move to the next stage of your life.

To Steve Byrnes: I followed your career and always enjoyed seeing you on pit road and in the booth during your broadcasts. You are one of many people who I consider to be an influence in my ambition to become a sports journalist. As sad as I and NASCAR Nation are that we will not get to see you during the races, I thank you for the contributions you made to the sport and the type of person you were in every aspect of life. While watching NASCAR Race Hub’s tribute to you, I was inspired to emulate how you conducted yourself both personally and professionally. I hope those of us trying to make it into the journalism field will always be influenced by your work.

To Dale Earnhardt, Dan Wheldon, Greg Moore and others who have lost their lives in the sport. It is your devotion to auto racing that has helped make this sport what it is. Although you may not be here with us today, I hope that it provides your loved ones with some comfort that your lives had such a profound impact on the racing family.

Finally, to everyone who has ever been involved in motorsports: Whether you are a driver, crew member, employee or a fan, your love for our sport has helped make it what it is today. If we haven’t met, I hope that one day we can so we can talk about a bunch of guys going around in circles. Have a great weekend everyone.

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

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