June 4, 2009

IRL: Wheldon paces Texas' first practice

Dan Wheldon posted the fastest practice time in Texas' first session, with a lap of 215.783 mph. Danica Patrick was second best at 214.884.

Our View: That is hauling the mail. By comparison, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won last spring's pole with a speed of 190.907 in the heavier NASCAR Sprint Cup cars. Patrick has been incredibly strong on oval tracks, so her chance of extending the top-five streak to five is real.

Complete Practice Times

IRL: Patrick unscathed by rumors

Danica Patrick is not allowing persistent rumors of her joining NASCAR to interfere with he focus on the track, according to the Associated Press.

Our View: Patrick is riding a four-race streak of top-fives—including a third in the Indy 500—which means she is in a great position to negotiate.

IRL: Scheckter in for eight more

Tomas Scheckter will compete with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for eight more races, including this week at Texas Motor Speedway, according to IndyCar.com.

Our View: In two races this year, Scheckter has been consistent but not overly strong. He finished 12th in the Indy 500 and was 13th last week at Milwaukee. Fantasy owners can expect similar results at Texas.

Trucks: Texas lineup, with avg. start / finish

Making only his second start at Texas Motor Speedway and his first since 2005, Johnny Sauter won the pole for Friday night's WinStar World Casino 400k at a speed of 178.485 mph. He beat Ron Hornaday Jr. be a mere 0.09 seconds and that driver is looking to overcome an early-race crash last week at Dover International Speedway.

This race is a companion event with the Indy Racing League, and as such there are no Truckstopper Cup regulars. The accompanying bad news is only 33 trucks showed up—which is three less than a full field—and the slowest driver in the field is nearly six seconds slower than the pole sitter. Nick Tucker will almost certainly start and park his Silverado, but under green flag conditions, he would likely be lapped within six circuits.


StartDriverAvg. FinAvg. StartAttempts
1Johnny Sauter11.0033.001
2Ron Hornaday Jr10.679.5012
3Matt Crafton12.3820.3116
4Brian Ickler

5Dennis Setzer10.8611.5721
6Rick Crawford11.6410.5922
7Chad McCumbee12.8013.805
8Ricky Carmichael

9Todd Bodine8.1113.229
10Timothy Peters26.0024.502
11Mike Skinner5.503.7010
12Aric Almirola25.7514.254
13David Starr13.3313.3321
14Colin Braun13.5014.502
15Johnny Benson Jr12.788.339
16T J Bell26.0020.005
17Brian Scott14.3324.003
18Jason White26.4031.405
19Stacy Compton13.6716.506
20James Buescher

21Mario Gosselin

22Terry Cook15.3614.5522
23J J Yeley

24Tayler Malsam

25Ryan Matthews27.0023.502
26Marc Mitchell12.0023.001
27Butch Miller23.6026.805
28Ryan Hackett

29John Jackson

30Norm Benning28.0032.001
31Brandon Knupp34.0035.001
32Wayne Edwards31.0031.005
33Nick Tucker33.0034.001

Week 23 Unified Power Rankings

With Formula 1 taking last week off, the two strongest drivers in auto sports remain at the top of our grid. Jenson Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello continue to be nearly unassailable with their strong showings on the international stage.

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart keeps hovering around the front of the field and last week's second-place finish in the Autism Speaks 400 kept him solidly in third on this grid. If Button and Barrichello stumble in this week's Turkish Grand Prix, "Smoke" could take the lead in the Unified Power Rankings just as he's done in the NASCAR point system. He hasn't been perfect, but then again with seven top-five finishes in his last nine attempts in Cup and Nationwide competition combined, he's about as close as you're going to get.

Dario Franchitti was last week's top Indy Racing League driver on our grid and he actually improved two positions from 11th overall to ninth on the strength of his third-place finish in the ABC Supply Co. / A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile—and yet, he's no longer the king of his crowd.

The IRL honor goes to Helio Castroneves, who settles into fourth on the overall grid despite an 11th in that same race. He didn't actually leap frog Franchitti, however; Castroneves was not included in last week's grid because he had not yet run four races in 2009. His victory in the Indy 500 and a second in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway was enough to place Castroneves fourth on the overall grid.

Mark Martin was the biggest mover in the top 10—or at least, he's in the top 10 now, after jumping eight spots from 18th with a 10th-place finish at Dover International Speedway. The biggest loser was Camping World Truck Series Ron Hornaday Jr., who dropped 19 positions from 10th to 29th after crashing early last week. He has a chance to snap back this week, however, since he starts from the outside pole for Friday night's companion race at Texas Motor Speedway with the IRL.

Hornaday's hardship can't compare to Tony Kanaan. His early-race crash at Milwaukee caused him to drop 21 positions from 14th to 35th.

Unified Power Rankings

RankDriverPointsLast week+/-
1Jenson Button110.6710
2Rubens Barrichello99.8320
3Tony Stewart96.0030
4Helio Castroneves92.25NR
5Kurt Busch91.9150
6Jimmie Johnson90.4571
7Ryan Briscoe87.80125
8Jason Leffler87.564-4
9Dario Franchitti86.80112
10Mark Martin85.00188
11Ryan Newman84.606-5
12Denny Hamlin84.279-3
13Danica Patrick82.60152
14Brad Keselowski82.14217
15Mark Webber82.0013-2
16Scott Dixon81.202812
17Jeff Gordon81.098-9
18Kyle Busch79.63191
19Timo Glock79.50201
20Matt Kenseth79.44277
21Carl Edwards78.30221
22Jeff Burton78.0017-5
23Dan Wheldon77.2016-7
24Joey Logano76.55251
25Fernando Alonso76.1724-1
26Kasey Kahne75.27260
27Matt Crafton74.60292
28Greg Biffle73.2923-5
29Ron Hornaday Jr72.6010-19
30Jason Keller72.11366
31Juan Montoya71.7330-1
32Dale Earnhardt Jr70.2131-1
33Nico Rosberg70.0032-1
34Brian Vickers68.2033-1
35Tony Kanaan68.2014-21
36Sebastian Vettel67.50393
37Kevin Harvick67.28414
38Steve Wallace67.11402
39Justin Allgaier67.00423
40Clint Bowyer66.50433
41Graham Rahal66.405918
42Martin Truex Jr65.82453
43David Reutimann65.6238-5
44Marco Andretti64.80528
45Jamie McMurray64.7344-1
46Lewis Hamilton63.67471
47Johnny Benson Jr63.6035-12
48David Ragan63.17557
49Brian Scott63.00578
50Paul Menard62.63544

Previous Unified Power Rankings:

Week 22
Week 21
Week 20

It's official: double-file restarts

"We've heard the fans loud and clear: 'double-file restarts -- shootout style' are coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France. "This addition to the race format is good for competition and good for the fans."

Our View: If the driver of a lead lap car chooses to pit a second time, however, he will have to start behind the lap down cars. This should make the race for the lead more competitive. The change goes into effect at Pocono Raceway in the Pocono 500.

IRL: Patrick has best top-five streak

Danica Patrick heads to Texas Motor Speedway as the only IndyCar Series driver riding a streak of four consecutive top-five finishes, according to AutoRacingDaily.com.

Our View: At the start of the season, who would have thought that Patrick would be one of the best values in the Indy fantasy games. There is no reason to believe she is going to slow down anytime soon.

Pocono "go-or-go-homers"

This week's entry list features 46 cars. In the event that qualification is canceled, the following drivers would make the show: Sterling Marlin, Scott Speed, David Gilliland, Joe Nemechek, Patrick Carpentier, Dave Blaney, Mike Wallace and Regan Smith.

Our View: That means Trevor Boys, Dexter Bean and Derrike Cope would be going home—and those are also the drivers most likely to be the slowest on speed as well.

Double file restarts at Pocono?

Double file restarts at the Cup level could be coming as soon as this weekend at Pocono, according to FoxSports.com.

Our View: This is going to significantly alter lead changes at the front of the pack and it's going to benefit drivers with an aggressive streak—such as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick—when they are near the front.

Dodge withholds support

The bankruptcy proceedings of Dodge/Chrsyler have put factory support on hold for the moment, according to NASCAR.com.

Our View: In this economy, with sponsorship at a premium, this support was extremely important. This impacts Richard Petty Motorsports' four teams and Penske's three teams. The effect won't be immediate, but without some additional support, money will eventually be tight.