Harvick Wins in Wine Country

Kevin Harvick finally tasted victory in wine country. The Bakersfield, CA native dominated the weekend at the twisting road course in Sonoma, CA.

He kicked his weekend off by winning the K&N West series race on Saturday.

“It kept me from sitting around and trying to find something to do on Saturday,” Harvick said. “I think that was the biggest thing. I’m sitting around and there’s guys out here making laps and learning things, and I think that’s the most important thing is to never take for granted that you have to try to expand your knowledge and keep an open mind to making things better.

He followed that up by taking the checkered flag in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday. His first win of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season, also marked his first ever win at the Napa Valley track.

After the race he said, “To finally check this one off the list, being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list.”

It was his first win with Stuart-Haas Racing since the team switched manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford.

Clint Bowyer finished second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch completed the top five.

Next up, the series heads to Daytona International Raceway for the Coca-Cola 400.

Top 10 Race finishers:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Kyle Busch
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Kurt Busch
8. Chase Elliott
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Jamie McMurray

Photo Gallery: All photos by Chris Gill/ Core360 Sports

Utah Motorsports Campus Hosts MotoAmerica Round 5

Round 5 of the 2017 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Race Championship took place over the weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus. The world class facility nestled just outside of Tooele, UT was again the site of top tier Superbike racing in the United States.

Early on Saturday during Motul Superbike/Bazzaz Superstock 1000 Superpole qualifying, Roger Hayden set a new track record with a 148.9 second lap aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki. Teammate Tony Elias would finish in the second spot, with Yamaha rider Josh Hayes taking the 3rd position.

The two Yoshimura Suzuki riders dominated the Superbike races with Elias taking the top spot on the podium both days. While he had work to do after making a mistake early in race one on Saturday, the Spaniard powered his way to victory circle in a more conventional way on Sunday.

The Supersport class saw similar dominance by Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports Yamaha riders JD Beach, and Garrett Gerloff. Beach entered the weekend hoping to continue his hot streak having won 4 straight prior races.
The 25 year old from Snoqualmie, WA took the lead early on Saturday, while teammate Gerloff had to battle M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise before managing a second place finish.

The unfortunate twist for Beach and Gerloff came on the final lap of race #2. After having their way with the rest of the field, the only question was which one of the two teammates would finish on top of the podium. They diced it up fairly, but aggressively, and heading into turn 6, beach made a move to get inside of Gerloff. The two bikes touched, sending them both into the gravel. That mishap allowed Debise to go on and secure the win.

Afterwards, JD offered this, “In the last lap, when Garrett tucked the front in turn five, I was able to get a little bit of a drive on him going into turn six. It looked like he went just a little bit wide, and I tried to get up underneath him. I went for it, and there just wasn’t enough room. Today are the races you would like to forget. I’m sorry to Garrett, his crew, and the whole team for costing them a win. I want to move past this and go to Laguna.”

Photo Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports

VIR hosts MotoAmerica Superbike Championship of Virginia

MotoAmerica returned VIRginia International Raceway again this year as professional motorcycle racing continues to rebound in the United States. The 2.25 mile North Course at VIR was the site of the 2017 Superbike Championship of Virginia.

Set within the lush countryside of Alton, VA, VIR is one of the premier road courses in the country.

Adding to the excitement and anticipation entering the weekend was the verbal back and forth between Spaniard Toni Elias and defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier. In the post-race press conference at Road Atlanta, the 2 riders had a difference of opinions on Elias’ aggressive style and on track professionalism. Elias was the Motul Superbike points leader coming into the weekend with 3 wins already under his belt.

Mother Nature provided an additional challenge on Friday as practice and qualifying sessions took place under wet, soupy conditions.

Roger Hayden captured his first Superbike win at VIRginia International Raceway on Saturday. Toni Elias crashed out on lap 1, and the veteran Yoshimura Suzuki rider would battle Josh Herrin for the lead shortly thereafter. He then held off two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier to win the opening-round race of the Championship of Virginia.

In race 2 on Sunday, Josh Hayes, who also suffered a crash the day before, took his first Motul Superbike race win of the 2017 MotoAmerica season.
Both Supersport races featured battles between Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha teammates JD Beach and Garrett Gerloff. They finished 1-2 each day, with each rider capturing the top spot on the podium. First Beach, then Gerloff. Victory circle turned into party central, with the young riders showering their loyal following of fans with celebratory champagne.

Neither rain, nor cool temperatures, or even the celebration of Mother’s Day on Sunday would prevent fans from turning out for the double header race weekend. Aside from some of the most exciting racing in recent memory, fans were able to experience stunt shows, demo rides and autograph signings.

Photo Gallery:

all photos by Kevin C Cox, CORE360 Sports

Simon Pagenaud Wins Phoenix Grand Prix

Simon Pagenaud won the Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway. The 1 mile desert oval was the site of the 3rd race on the 2017 IndyCar schedule.

For the second straight year, Helio Castroneves would start from P1. He set a new track record of 194.9 mph and captured the King of Speed crown award Friday evening. 

The Brazilian finished 4th after leading a total of 73 laps in the No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevy.

Pagenaud took advantage of a mid-race caution on lap 138 as Takuma Sato smacked the wall exiting turn 4. His teammate, Will Power, who was leading at the time, was caught in the pits and at that point the Frenchman was able to snag the lead, and seemingly cruise to the victory.
However, in a post-race comment, Pagenaud would proclaim, “Those were the longest 50 laps of my life.” He continued, “I have a button on my wheel that tells me how many laps were left. I kept pressing it. It was stressful. The car was phenomenal.”

With his 10th victory, and the first oval track win of his career, Pagenaud, who also took the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship title, would leave Phoenix with the series points lead.

For team owner Roger Penske, the victory marked the 450th of his career spanning all of his motorsports affiliations.

Sebastien Bourdais, the series points leader coming into the weekend, was involved in a first lap wreck that also collected Mikhail Aleshin’s No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Max Chilton, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti were also involved.
In addition to fans’ excitement surrounding renovations and remodeling taking place at PIR, drivers and team officials echoed those sentiments all weekend and were already anticipating next year’s race weekend.

Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports

 

Kyle Larson Sweeps the Weekend in Fontana

Kyle Larson completed a weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. The California native captured the pole with a blistering effort on Friday, won the Xfinity race on Saturday, and then capped off his homecoming weekend by winning the Monster Energy Auto Club 400 on Sunday.
Larson, who had finished second in each of the previous three weeks in the Cup competition, used his dominating performance in Fontana to stretch his lead in the standings to 29 points over second-place Chase Elliott.
Not only is he the series points leader, but the victory in Fontana all but assures him a spot in the 10-race Cup playoffs.
In a post-race interview with NASCAR.com, Larson confessed, “It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I’ve got to fight people off on restarts.” He would go on to say, “Our Target Chevy was amazing all day. We were able to lead a lot of laps today. (Martin) Truex was better than us that second stage by quite a bit. We were able to get the jump on him the following restart and led pretty much the rest of the distance.”
Larson’s only other Cup Series win came at another 2 mile oval in Michigan.
The Monster Energy series now heads back east after the 3 race west coast swing. Next up is the challenging ½ mile paperclip known as Martinsville Speedway.

Season Standings after Fontana:

1 Kyle Larson
2 Chase Elliott
3 Martin Truex Jr.
4 Brad Keselowski
5 Joey Logano
6 Kyle Busch
7 Ryan Blaney
8 Clint Bowyer
9 Jamie McMurray
10 Kevin Harvick

Gallery: all photos Sami Ayyat / Core360 Sports

Ryan Newman Rolls the Dice, Wins in Phoenix

A late race gamble paved the way to a Monster weekend for Ryan Newman. He was the unlikely driver celebrating in victory lane after the Camping World 500.

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series made the short trek south from Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, AZ.

The Valley of the Sun lived up to its name all weekend. Record temperatures were set on Sunday as the ambient temperature at the drop of the green flag hovered around 97 degrees. Throughout the race, there were reports of in-car temperatures reaching 143 degrees.

It was under those conditions that Newman and Richard Childress Racing ended their droughts of making it to victory lane at a NASCAR race. RCR hadn’t tasted victory since the 2013 fall race at this very track. For Newman, the drought dated back to the 2013 Brickyard 400.

“It was a long time coming,” said Newman as he reflected on his 18th career Cup win.

Kyle Busch was actually leading the race, and widening the gap on the field, when pole sitter Joey Logano blew a tire which caused a caution with 5 laps to go.
So one could only imagine was going through Ryan Newman’s head when he heard crew chief Luke Lambert’s plan. Lambert rolled the dice, and had him stay out instead of pitting. That allowed him to restart the race on the front row ahead of faster cars who decided to come to pit road for fresh tires. It would prove to be the move of the race since he was able hold his lead at the restart, and go on for the win.

“A heck of a gutsy call by Luke Lambert,” Newman said. “It’s his first win as a crew chief in the Cup Series. I think making a gutsy call like that makes it that much more special for him.”

In other news regarding Phoenix International Raceway, the 1 mile oval is in the beginning stages of a major redesign and renovation. The estimated $178 million dollar project is scheduled to be completed by the November 2018 fall race.

Weekend Gallery: All photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports

Martin Truex Jr wins Big in Vegas

Martin Truex Jr. took advantage of Brad Keselowski’s misfortune with only two laps remaining Sunday to win the NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

2017 was promised to be the year of evolution and change for NASCAR.

For years, the series has kicked off its West Coast swing with the stop in Las Vegas. This year was no exception, but the event weekend showed all the signs of that evolution and change. Most notably, the Cup Series changed its title sponsor from Sprint, to Monster Energy.

As the sport of stock car racing continues to evolve, the series has also implemented a number of format changes to increase the level of competition throughout the race, as well as the overall fan experience.

New this year is the concept of stage racing.

Keselowski and Truex Jr battled all day, but it was the #78 Furniture Row Toyota driver who won both Stage 1 and 2, by leading on lap 80, and lap 160.
And while the new format is in its infancy, Truex Jr became the first driver to win both stages, and then go on to win the race.

On this day, the excitement continued after the race was over. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, and Team Penski driver Joey Logano got into an altercation near the team’s pit boxes. The melee was obviously the result of some hard racing that led to hurt feelings. On the final lap of the race, the two made contact along backstretch, and heading to turns 3 and 4, Kyle Busch was eventually spun out. Logano went on to finish the race in 4th. Bush sat on pit road in his smoking car for a few moments before climbing out and heading directly towards Logano and his crew. Ironically, the 2 teams were pitted right next to each other. After a brief tussle, crew members and NASCAR officials stepped in separate them. Logano showed no signs of that action, but there was a noticeable cut and blood coming from Kyle Busch’s forehead.

Joey Logano also won the Xfinity race on Saturday.

All this has fans pumped up as the series heads to the Valley of the Sun, and PIR.

Weekend photo Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox/ Core360 Sports

KOBALT 400 TOP 5 FINISHERS
1) Martin Truex Jr
2) Kyle Larson
3) Chase Elliott
4) Joey Logano
5) Brad Keselowski

Logano Wins in Phoenix, Kyle Busch also Advances

Joey Logano won the Can-Am 500 in Phoenix on Sunday, securing his place in the Championship battle of four drivers at Homestead.
Phoenix International Raceway hosted the next to final race of the season for the Sprint Cup Series. At stake this year were 2 remaining spots to race for a Championship the following week in Miami.

Jimmy Johnson, and Carl Edwards had already secured their respective places in the final round by virtue of wins.

On Friday, it was Alex Bowman who set the tone for the weekend. Making the most of his opportunity to fill in for Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, the 23 year old Tucson, AZ native drove the No. 88 Chevrolet to P1 in qualifying. When asked how it felt to win his first career pole at his home track, he responded, “It’s amazing! We weren’t really that strong in practice. I don’t really know where that came from. I just can’t thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough.

Joey Logano came into the weekend knowing he needed a strong finish to move on. It took 12 additional laps due to late wrecks, but he was able to manage great restarts and hold on for the win. The victory gave him his first win at the one mile desert oval in the Sprint Cup Series.
It was also the second career Sprint Cup win at PIR for car owner Roger Penske.

Heading into the final race weekend it will be Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Logano, and Busch who get to race for the 2016 NASCAR Championship. Strategies will vary for the four teams as they not only race for a win, but also have to be mindful of the 3 other contenders because the Championship will go to the driver finishing the face in the highest position.

For the first time in 3 years, Kevin Harvick, or Cactus Kevin, as he’s been called, will not race for a Championship. He needed a win to make it to the final four.

Can-Am 500 weekend photos:

Dixon Wins IndyCar Return to The Desert

After an 11 year drought, the Verizon IndyCar Series made its much anticipated return to the desert, and Phoenix International Raceway, for a race under the lights on the 1 mile oval. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon cruised to victory under caution in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on Saturday. It marked the 39th career win for the New Zealander.
The weekend kicked off on Friday with Helio Castroneves qualifying P1 in royal fashion, earning him the nickname “King of Speed”.  The Brazilian native smashed a 20 year standing track record with a two-lap average speed of 192.32 mph.
“It’s an honor to be breaking the record, which has been holding for 20 years, and now we’re able to show that Verizon IndyCar Series cars are fast,” Castroneves said.
Saturday’s race results proved Castroneves would only be King for a day as he and Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya suffered right front tire issues that helped Dixon take the lead for good.
“It was tough, definitely one of the toughest races on these short ovals,” Dixon told reporters in post-race interviews. “The car was super-fast. I think we had the best car out there on strategies and pit stops.”
Chevrolet owned the weekend with Simon Pagenaud finishing second, Will Power third and Tony Kanaan fourth. The only Honda to crack the top five was driven by Graham Rahal. The second place finish for Simon Pagenaud gave the No. 22 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet driver the overall series points lead.
With his win at PIR, Scott Dixon reached another milestone. It was his 39th career win, and tied him with IndyCar legend Al Unser for fourth place on the all-time list.
The series now heads to Long Beach, CA for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Photo Gallery: all photos by Kevin C Cox