Sonoma Race Weekend Wrap Up
- Johnson wins at Atlanta:#48-Jimmie Johnson won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his 1st win of the season, 5th win in at Atlanta and 76th career win. He ties Dale Earnhardt, Sr. for 7th on the all-time career wins list and has one at least 1 race in each of the last 15 years. Johnson led 52 of the 330 laps.
- #88-Earnhardt, Jr. finished 2nd, followed by #18-Busch, #41-Busch, #19-Edwards, #4-Harvick, #78-Truex, Jr., #24-Elliott, #2-Keselowski, and #17-Stenhouse.
- The 8th place finish is a career best for #24-Elliott.
- The race went caution-free for the first 209 laps, the longest green flag run to start a race in Atlanta history.
- A spin by #31-Newman with 2 laps remaining sent the race into "NASCAR Overtime". A wreck on the backstretch after the leaders had already passed the overtime line, forced the race to end under caution.
Penalty takes Kenseth out of contention: #20-Matt Kenseth scored his second disappointing finish in a row after a miscommunication cost him two laps and led to a 19th-place finish Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth led 47 of the first 115 laps Sunday before pitting under green when trouble struck. NASCAR penalized him for improper fueling. Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, argued the call. As that happened, NASCAR give Kenseth the black flag, but Kenseth did not respond to it. NASCAR stopped scoring Kenseth for a lap until he came into the pits for his pass-through penalty. He also lost a lap while going down pit road and was two laps down once he was back up to speed.(NBC Sports)(2-29-2016)
Positive response to aero package from drivers: For a race with a mere three cautions, #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. found Sunday's event with the new low-downforce competition package exhilarating. "I loved it," Earnhardt said. "We were sliding around and driving the hell out of the car. I had a blast! I had some good races there on the track with the #2 (Brad Keselowski) and the #18 (Kyle Busch) and a bunch of guys. Man, it was so much fun. And I post old pictures online all the time of the '80s and '90s, and that's when racing was racing. That's when it was good. That's what they saw today."
Ninth-place finisher Brad Keselowski echoed Earnhardt's sentiments. "I loved the way the cars drive," said Keselowski, who had the top-finishing Ford. "I understand that it takes more than my opinion to make the sport go round, but I thought it was awesome."
#19-Carl Edwards, a long-time advocate of the new aerodynamic package, would like to see NASCAR take even more downforce away. "They just need to keep taking more," said Edwards, who drove his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a fifth-place result. "This is real racing. We're driving hard. You can see the guys out here just digging for everything they're worth. I'm worn out. That's a tough race and just a lot of fun. I just can't thank NASCAR enough and Atlanta - don't ever pave this place - it's a perfect race track. I hope the fans enjoyed the show. The thing is, just know that in that car we're driving as hard as we can."(NASCAR Wire Service)(2-29-2016)
NEXT RACE: This weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; TV on FOX on Sunday at noon PT.
Leah Pritchett raced to her first Top Fuel victory Sunday at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also picked up victories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Pritchett used a quicker reaction time and a performance of 3.775 seconds at 323.12 mph in her Quaker State dragster to finish in front of Brittany Force's 3.774 at 321.35 in her Monster Energy dragster. It was the first all-female Top Fuel final since Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio. It is only the fourth time two women have decided a pro class victory in the Mello Yello Series. Angelle Sampey and Karen Stoffer have met twice in finals in Pro Stock Motorcycle, most recently at Norwalk last season.
NEXT RACE: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues March 17-20 with the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Florida's Gainesville Raceway.
Castroneves sets pace in Verizon IndyCar Series' rapid return to Phoenix
The Valley of the Sun welcomed the Verizon IndyCar Series back to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. The teams and drivers responded with a very rapid thank you.
Competing en masse for the first time at the historic 1.022-mile oval since 2005, 21 drivers participated in the two-day promoter test that served as a preview for the upcoming Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). More than 5,300 laps were completed, with 18 drivers clocking times faster than the official track record set two decades ago by Indy car great Arie Luyendyk.
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud led the way. Castroneves, in the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, set the top lap of 19.2735 seconds (190.894 mph) in the climactic Feb. 27 evening session.
Pagenaud was fastest in the afternoon session and second overall for the four sessions, with a lap of 19.2884 seconds (190.747 mph). Both Penske drivers were more than three-tenths of a second under Luyendyk's 1996 record lap of 19.608 seconds (183.599 mph). Official Indy car records can only be set during qualifying and the race.
Teams now shift to road/street course mode for a private test March 1-2 at Sebring (Fla). International Raceway. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg from March 11-13. The race airs live on ABC at 12:30 p.m. ET March 13.
At Sonoma Raceway
- Bracket Drags this weekend! Georgia, Danny and their crew will take over the track for two days of Bracket Drag Racing this Saturday and Sunday.