Wednesday, 18 September 2019
BREAKING NEWS

A cult hero, king of the roads, three contenders and other storylines to watch on NASCAR weekend at Road America – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A cult hero, king of the roads, three contenders and other storylines to watch on NASCAR weekend at Road America – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
20 Aug
2:53
CLOSE

This weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series makes its 10th trip to Road America in Elkhart Lake and will be joined by the SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am Series, the Stadium Super Trucks series and F3 Americas Championship.

The CTech Manufacturing 180 is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the 4-mile, 14-turn course, with TV coverage on NBCSN. Xfinity practices are set for 12:35 p.m. and 2:35 p.m. Friday and qualifying for 10:40 a.m. Saturday.

Here are some of the top storylines to watch:

Everybody’s darling

Matt DiBenedetto went from hard-working journeyman to sympathetic figure to a 28-year-old cult hero in a span of a couple of days last week.

DiBenedetto, who has been scrapping since 2009, helped Leavine Family Racing make great strides this season in the Cup Series but was caught up in the Toyota numbers game and announced Thursday he’d been told he wouldn’t be back. Then Saturday he came within 0.502 of a second of his first national-level victory after losing the lead at Bristol to Denny Hamlin with 12 laps to go.

Now on a weekend off for Cup, DiBenedetto is scheduled for his first Xfinity race since 2016, a start that has the feel of consolation prize. DiBenedetto’s best finish in three tries at Road America has been 11th, and his best Cup finish before Sunday came on the Sonoma Raceway road course.

Who’s next?

Road America has yet to have a driver hoist an Xfinity Series trophy more than once. Three previous winners are entered: Justin Allgaier (2018), Jeremy Clements (2017) and A.J. Allmendinger (2013).

In four cases, the Road America winner was making his first trip to victory lane on the NASCAR national level: Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), Allmendinger (2013), Michael McDowell (2016) and Clements.

King of the roads

Twenty-year-old Austin Cindric waited 54 races for his first Xfinity Series win and just one for his second, taking back-to-back road races at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio.

Cindric has run two Xfinity races at Road America, qualifying on the pole in his series debut in 2017 and leading two laps before an engine failure knocked him out last year. His team, Penske Racing, which has won once, finished second twice and placed seventh or better in seven Road America events.

Championship flair

With four races to go before the start of the Xfinity playoffs, Tyler Reddick is gaining a tighter grip on the points lead, 54 ahead of Christopher Bell and 85 ahead of Cole Custer.

They’re the series’ big three this season. Reddick’s win Friday in Bristol, Tennessee, gave him four victories, and Bell and Custer each have won five races.

None of them has a road-course victory to his credit, though. The next three in points, Allgaier, Cindric and Chase Briscoe, all do.

Local flavor

Josh Bilicki of Richfield has thousands of laps around Road America, so the race will provide his best chance for his first NASCAR top-10 finish. Bilicki’s second full-time season in the Xfinity Series has included more DNFs than he’d prefer, given a lack of funding for him in the second RSS Racing Chevrolet. He has finished just one of his three starts at the track.

Nic Hammann of Elkhart Lake is out to make his fourth start in the series and third at Road America. All have come with low-budget teams. His only finish was 29th, one lap down, at Road America in 2017, his most recent Xfinity race.

Dick Karth, 66, of Grafton, plans to make his Xfinity debut with MBM Motorsports. A club and vintage racer, Karth has made three ARCA starts, one at Road America.

The Trans Am Series’ Ryan Companies Road America Classic (11:40 a.m. Saturday) will include a handful of state drivers, including Cliff Ebben of Appleton, who won at Road America in 2016 at age 64; and NASCAR Truck Series driver Natalie Decker of Eagle River.

Early start

Three Xfinity Series drivers also are scheduled to compete in Trans Am’s TA2 division, giving them more than 2 hours of available testing and practice time, a qualifying session and a full race on the track before they even qualify for the CTech 180. 

They are: Bell, Justin Haley (ninth) and Brandon Jones (11th). A year ago, Xfinity drivers took three of the top four positions. The TA2 race – run separately from the TA/TA3/TA4 event – is first on the race-day schedule at 8 a.m.

The show

The Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks brought a whole new type of entertainment when they joined the show a year ago. Although the series does tend to have some drivers you’ve heard of – including Robby Gordon, the former NASCAR/Indy-car racer who owns and promotes it – it’s not so much about the people competing or who wins the race.

Off-road-style vehicles leaping off jumps, running on two wheels, drifting and sometimes rolling pumps up a crowd no matter what else is going on. Matthew Brabham, a graduate of the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel ladder, won the championship and leads the standings over Gordon heading into the doubleheader weekend. Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday; races are 12:50 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

Our subscribers make this coverage possible. Subscribe to the Journal Sentinel today and get a special offer at jsonline.com/deal.

Source: https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/motor/2019/08/19/nascar-xfinity-series-road-america-seven-storylines-watch/2049048001/

Recommended

« »

allsites

Related Articles