Justin Allgaier to pay tribute to Jason Leffler at Indianapolis

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Justin Allgaier hopes he has a co-pilot for today’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That’s because he is running a special paint scheme commemorating the life and accomplishments of Jason Leffler. Leffler will also compete using a special helmet that was designed as a replica of the one he wore in his only Indianapolis 500 start, which came during the 2000 season.

In running the scheme and helmet, Leffler hopes that he, in a sense, can take Leffler back around the 2.5-mile speedway that he was so vocally fond of.

“It’s a bittersweet deal,” Allgaier told Popular Speed. “Obviously, I really wish he was still here. But at the same time, we’re proud that we can honor him and get some press out for what we’re trying to do to help Charlie Dean.”

20130727_132438The theme was designed to benefit the Charlie Dean Leffler trust fund which was established to help assist Leffler’s five-year-old son.

The car is fielded by Turner Scott Motorsports, the team Leffler drove for through the 2011 Nationwide Series season with the team owner Harry Scott Jr. and former team owner Todd Braun serving as trustees.

The paint scheme was an obvious way to pay tribute but the helmet was conceived by Allgaier, born from the shared love that he and Leffler had for custom skins.

“Jason just lit up when you talked about this place,” Allgaier said of Indianapolis. “So we designed this helmet to commemorate his start in the 500. And a lot of people don’t know this but we’re both fans of custom designed helmets and paint schemes and I thought this would be a great way to pay tribute.

“I’m going to give it my best to win for Jason today.”

Leffler was killed on June 12 when a suspension part broke in his Sprint car at Bridgeport Speedway. The car made contact with the frontstraight wall and his car flipped over several times.

He was 37.



Nationwide Drivers Appreciate Indy Prestige

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Indiana 250 Nationwide Series race doesn’t have the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or even the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup Series race but to the guys that run for the championship, this is their chance to kiss the bricks.

The decision to move this race from nearby Lucas Oil Raceway to IMS was met with a lot of criticism. The racing isn’t as close as it was on the short track and the atmosphere is lacking at times, despite the aura of the racing at a legitimate cathedral of speed.

Justin Allgaier is one of the drivers who wished they still raced down the road at the former Indianapolis Raceway Park but he can’t deny the added prestige of winning a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s definitely something I have mixed feelings about,” Allgaier told Popular Speed after qualifying. “I love Raceway Park. It’s one of my absolute favorite places to race in the world. But at the same time, the Speedway (referencing Indianapolis) is the Speedway.

“There is a certain feeling you get from racing here once you consider the history of everything that has happened at this place and I definitely want to be here.”

Championship leader Sam Hornish Jr. knows a thing or two about the history of Indianapolis. He grew up just a few hours away in Defiance, Ohio and frequented the track as a child. He’s even made a little history himself, winning the biggest prize the track has to offer — the Indianapolis 500 in 2006.

And yet, he says winning the Indiana 250 would mean just as much to him considering his pursuit of the championship and his plans to someday return to the Sprint Cup Series.

“It could compare real good,” Hornish said of a possible Indiana 250 victory. “If they had a foot race around this place, I think everyone would want to win it… Everybody wants to come to Indianapolis.”

Trevor Bayne will have two chances to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend and he says that he is grateful for the opportunity. He told Popular Speed that he didn’t think the Indiana 250 takes away from the special qualities of the Brickyard 400 and that he’s looking forward to the new challenge of trying to win both races in one weekend.

“That would be cool,” Bayne said. “This is such a special place and nothing compares to it. We have two shots this weekend (with Roush Fenway and the Wood Brothers) and I’m looking forward to just turning laps here.”

So despite some initial hesitation, it appears that most of the Nationwide Series garage is grateful to have the chance to compete at the legendary 2.5-mile Speedway.

Green flag for the Indiana 250 is at 4:30 p.m. and the race will be broadcast on ESPN.


RACEDAY! Sadler’s Motivation, Bayne’s Fast Bear

SPEEDWAY, IN: The NASCAR Nationwide Series, back for year two, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hopes to put on another memorable event today. Last year’s contest ended with a controversial penalty call against Elliott Sadler, which will certainly change his mindset for this afternoon.

“Let me tell you, this is definitely a race that I have had in the back of my mind since last year. The last race at Indy was definitely a tough one to swallow, however, we are going to use that as fuel this season. We feel like a win was taken from us, and that will serve as motivation to get this OneMain Financial Toyota into Victory Lane (today) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway”, said Sadler.

One of the series’ young stars, Trevor Bayne, had a strong practice during yesterday’s sessions and is confident that his new bright pink Pillow Pets Mustang can back it up in the race.

“I didn’t know a rainbow bear could go so fast around a race track. Mike Kelley and those guys have built me my first new car for the whole seas and it is really fast. We are looking to get that race started and looking forward to qualifying. I think qualifying is very important here for track position. We are going to work on that and see if we can start and finish well.”

Today’s race is on ESPN and starts at 4:30 ET.










Sam Hornish Looks to Extend Indy Legacy

Sam Hornish Jr. is riding a wave of momentum that could see him ultimately knock off to of his biggest remaining goals in the Nationwide Series — winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a stock car and capture the season championship.

It was just five races ago that Hornish suffered his lone DNF of the season and dropped 58 points out of the championship lead. But a series of misfortunes for Regan Smith and increased performance by Hornish has given the latter a seven point championship advantage at the unofficial midway point of the seson.

And IMS likely means more to Hornish than any other driver as the Ohio native frequented the speedway as a child and dreamed of someday winning at the Mecca of Motorsports. He accomplished that that feat in 2006, winning the Indianapolis 500 and has tried to return to victory lane there ever since in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

This track still means a great deal to him and it takes on an even more important role in his life on Saturday afternoon.

“This race gives us an opportunity to do something that no other driver has, which is to win at the speedway in two different series,” Hornish wrote in his ESPN blog on Thursday. “That would be something significant, and we’re going to give it our best shot.

“We still have to keep in mind how tight this championship battle is and race smart. The way the season is shaping up it looks like it is going to take consistent top-5 finishes to earn the championship.”

Hornish has two wins in Nationwide Series competition but hasn’t yet shown the ability to string together wins like some of his title rivals, especially given the number of Cup drivers who steal the majority of wins in the division.

So leading laps and consistency is the key for Hornish and he knows it — he’s started to achieve it too.

Through 18 races, Hornish has led more laps (405) and turned more fastest laps (279) than ant full-time Nationwide Series competitor.

But if Hornish were to eye a win in the division, this Saturday seems like a logical opportunity. As a NASCAR driver, Hornish’s best performances at IMS came in last year’s Indiana 250 where he contended for much of the day before finishing second to teammate Brad Keselowski.

If he could improve one spot on Saturday and capture this championship, it could be the key towards his returning to the Sprint Cup Series full-time.

The Nationwide Series Indiana 250 will be broadcast on ESPN with the green flag dropping at 4:30 p.m. The championship standings can be found below.

  1. Sam Hornish Ldr.
  2. Regan Smith -7
  3. Austin Dillon -8
  4. Elliott Sadler -20
  5. Justin Allgaier -22
  6. Brian Vickers -45
  7. Kyle Larson -53
  8. Brian Scott -65
  9. Parker Kligerman -69
  10. Trevor Bayne -69
Editorial XFINITY

One Year Later and Nationwide at IMS is Still a Bad Idea

When the NASCAR Super Weekend was first announced for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I was open-minded and wanted to give it a chance. But as soon as Brad Keselowski kissed the bricks after winning a Nationwide Series race, it tarnished the entire weekend, leaving me wishing they had just stayed away entirely.

The inaugural Indiana 250 was quite the spectacle.

It was glitzy, glamorous and star-studded — by far the most prestigious Nationwide Series event of all-time. But like most stock car races at Indianapolis, it didn’t provide a lot of passing and left fans wanting a little more punch.

As the years pass, the first Nationwide race at IMS will likely be more remembered for the shenanigans on the final restart that appeared to cost Elliott Sadler the win and instead propelled Keselowski to victory lane.

The most disappointing aspect about the entire affair is that they had a good thing going seven miles down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway. While the Sprint Cup teams built momentum towards the main event on Sunday at IMS, the Trucks and Nationwide teams put on two of the best races of the season at the popular short track.

It was the perfect blend of everything NASCAR represented between two legendary, but very different racing facilities.

But in their efforts to restore crowds to their pre-2008 numbers, NASCAR granted Indianapolis a Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM race, subscribing to the theory that quantity of events will somehow trump the quality.

A year later and the Brickyard 400 is another season removed from relevancy, becoming simply another stop on the schedule, complete with a Nationwide add-on that is dominated by Cup Series regulars who have no business kissing the bricks as the winner of a ladder division race.

By providing an extra opportunity to kiss the bricks, NASCAR has established that anyone can feel like they’ve won the Brickyard 400, and it lessens the impact of actually winning the ‘big one’ on Sunday.

That right should be reserved for winners at the highest level of their disciplines, like Sprint Cup, the Rolex Series and the Indianapolis 500 — not races intended for development drivers, but filled with Sprint Cup talent.

After all, the winner of the Freedom 100 doesn’t kiss the bricks.

If the idea to move the race to IMS was to strengthen the Nationwide Series, wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to give the tour its own identity and signature races like the recently department events at Mexico City and Montreal?

And if the plan was to enhance the content available at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then why not allow them to race on the road course alongside or instead of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series — anything to provide a more entertaining race and give the Nationwide Series its own identity.

An extremely deserving driver will win the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, but he won’t be the first driver to kiss the bricks this weekend. As a result, personal face time with the yard of bricks just doesn’t mean as much one year after the first NASCAR Super Weekend.


Editorial XFINITY

NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Competing in the Nationwide Series – Is it fair?

One of the hottest topics that have ensued in the NASCAR community is the continual debate about Sprint Cup drivers competing in the Nationwide Series.

Is it fair?

There are many different views on this and I wanted to share my thoughts about it. Even though I am not totally against Cup drivers racing in the series, I believe that there should be a very limited amount of these races in which they are allowed to compete.


In my opinion, if this series is meant to be a platform to propel up-and-coming drivers to the top-tier of NASCAR racing (Sprint Cup), contingent upon their desire to advance to the next level in the future, then this is who should be competing a majority of the time.

It was interesting to see that over the span of three years (2011-2013) a majority of the NASCAR Nationwide wins were by Cup regulars competing in those events. In 2011, full-time Cup drivers won 28 of the 34 races with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards accounting for eight wins each that year. In 2012, these drivers won 17 of the 33 races with Joey Logano leading the charge with nine wins.

Although the Nationwide Series has only run 18 races in the 2013 season, a Cup driver has won 13 of those races with Kyle Busch leading the way with seven wins thus far.

What should be done to change these stats so that they reflect the names of more Nationwide regulars?

The main suggestion, as I alluded to earlier, is that there is a limited amount of races allowed for competition featuring the Cup drivers. They should only run five or six Nationwide Series races with it being a mix of the different types of tracks – i.e. no sole racing on just 1.5-mile tracks.

If there is a strict limitation placed on the Cup drivers then it would give the series regulars a fighting chance to grab the checkered flag on a more consistent basis. They would be competing with others on the same level playing field.

Right now, it’s like Joe Frazier getting in the ring with Yogi Bear – get the picture? It wouldn’t be a fair fight at all.



Logano’s “Off Week” Spent in Chicagoland’s Victory Lane

By Jerry Bonkowski

Special to NASCAR Wire Service

JOLIET, Ill. – Some drivers take a vacation on an off week from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, go to the beach, play golf or just take it easy.

Not Joey Logano. Instead of relaxing on the final off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series, he decided to race in Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

It was a wise move on Logano’s part, as he took the lead on the final restart and led the final 15 laps to win his second NNS race of the season. His other win was June 1 at Dover International Speedway.

“I was okay doing nothing on the off-weekend, but you can’t say no to RP (team owner Roger Penske),” Logano said with a laugh.

“At the start of the race, I thought we had a third-place car, but we made some adjustments and got it a lot better,” Logano said.

Race leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Penkse Racing teammate Logano battled hard on the final restart, with Logano finally storming past Hornish coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 186 and never looked back.

“That was a big momentum switch for us after two bad races last weekend at New Hampshire,” Logano said. “We’re looking forward to getting to Indianapolis next weekend, we’ll be running both races and hopefully we can get some momentum from this win going forward there.”

Hornish finished second, followed by Austin Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers.

“We would have liked to win, but you can’t complain too much with it being a 1-2 Penske finish, it was a really good thing,” Hornish said.

More importantly for Hornish, he regained the lead in the Nationwide Series points standings, passing former leader Regan Smith. Hornish now leads Smith by seven points.

“We’ve gone from being 58 points behind after Michigan to seven ahead,” Hornish said. “What we do now is try to figure out where to go from here.”

Sadler dominated early in the race from the Coors Light Pole, but struggled at the end. Still, finishing fourth was a shot in the arm, especially after being wrecked out late in last Saturday’s NNS race at New Hampshire.

“(We) should have been in victory lane, but I tried to be too greedy and keep my car too low and it bit us there at the end,” Sadler said. “We’ll have to take what it gave us, fourth-place and we’ll go on to Indy.”

The only driver in the top 10 who changed position in the standings was Allgaier, who dropped from fourth to fifth in the standings.

Sixth through 10th in the race were Parker Kligerman, Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Brad Sweet and Matt Crafton.

When Mike Bliss lost a tire on Lap 171 of the scheduled 200-lap event, all leaders pitted on the next lap, all taking four tires.

Sadler exited the pits in the lead, followed by Hornish, Logano, Dillon and Allgaier. Vickers, however, suffered a slow pit stop and dropped four spots to eighth.

Four laps later, Sadler overdrove a corner and fell from the lead to fourth, followed quickly by a caution on Lap 179 when the motor in Reed Sorenson’s car blew up, spewing oil on the track.

Hornish won the pole in qualifying Sunday morning, his first pole of the season, with Sadler alongside him on the front row. Also of note was Travis Pastrana, who started fifth, his third top-five qualifying effort in his last four starts.

Hornish dominated in the early part of the race until he pitted on Lap 49 after a caution for Harrison Rhodes’ car. Hornish was penalized for entering pit road too fast and, even though he exited in second place, the penalty dropped him back to 20th place on the restart.

But there was some consolation in that Hornish’s teammate, Logano, managed to take the lead shortly after the restart.

Sadler held the lead at the halfway point (100 laps), but a slow pit stop a few laps later seriously cost Sadler and he dropped back to second as Austin Dillon took the lead.

Pastrana’s good start didn’t quite finish that way as he suffered a tire issue on Lap 114 that sent his car careening into the wall, bringing out the fourth caution of the race.

Points leader Regan Smith was involved in a solo spin into the infield grass on Lap 128, bringing out the caution, but his Chevrolet suffered minimal damage. Smith was running 12th at the time.

Kyle Larson did not pit, choosing to stay out on old tires and took the lead on the restart on Lap 134, but quickly paid for that decision, dropping 10 spots to 11th in the next eight laps.

Of the four qualifiers in the Dash 4 Cash race-within-a-race promotion – Michael Annett, Brian Vickers, Brian Scott and Austin Dillon – it was Dillon who captured the $100,000 top prize for the second straight week and heading into the final Dash race Saturday at Indianapolis.

It was the third of four races in the Dash 4 Cash. Elliott Sadler won the first event at Daytona three weeks ago

“We had a good run,” Dillon said, adding with a chuckle. “That check goes to my grandfather (Richard Childress).”

NOTES: The race had an abbreviated start when Joey Gase blew his motor on the first lap, spewing oil all over the track, bringing out the first caution flag of the day. … Austin Dillon is going to be a very busy man in the next week. After racing Sunday, he has upcoming races Wednesday (trucks race at Eldora Speedway), the NNS race at Indianapolis on Saturday and his first Brickyard 400 on Sunday.

1. (7) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 200, $85615.

2. (1) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 200, $67150.

3. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $53775.

4. (2) Elliott Sadler, Toyota, 200, $43775.

5. (6) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 200, $33150.

6. (10) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 200, $28950.

7. (8) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 200, $27235.

8. (16) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200, $26170.

9. (12) Brad Sweet, Chevrolet, 200, $25050.

10. (4) Matt Crafton(i), Chevrolet, 200, $26050.

11. (9) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 200, $24125.

12. (22) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 200, $24275.

13. (13) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $22750.

14. (15) Joey Coulter(i), Toyota, 200, $22225.

15. (17) Dakoda Armstrong(i), Chevrolet, 200, $17150.

16. (18) Michael Annett, Ford, 200, $21750.

17. (21) Nelson Piquet Jr. #, Chevrolet, 200, $21625.

18. (5) Travis Pastrana, Ford, 199, $21950.

19. (14) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 199, $21375.

20. (23) Johanna Long, Chevrolet, 199, $21750.

21. (33) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 198, $21300.

22. (35) Chad Hackenbracht(i), Toyota, 197, $20975.

23. (19) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 196, $20825.

24. (34) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 196, $20700.

25. (30) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 196, $21035.

26. (28) Kyle Fowler, Ford, 196, $20425.

27. (29) Blake Koch, Toyota, 195, $20275.

28. (20) Eric McClure, Toyota, 195, $20100.

29. (40) Dexter Stacey #, Ford, 195, $13975.

30. (27) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 175, $20125.

31. (11) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 172, $19700.

32. (39) Harrison Rhodes, Ford, Engine, 45, $19580.

33. (37) Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, Electrical, 36, $19460.

34. (25) Tanner Berryhill, Toyota, Track Bar, 20, $13340.

35. (38) Carl Long, Ford, Handling, 14, $13214.

36. (31) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, Vibration, 13, $12275.

37. (24) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 11, $12240.

38. (32) Ken Butler, Toyota, Wheel Bearing, 10, $12186.

39. (36) Matt Dibenedetto, Dodge, Electrical, 6, $12070.

40. (26) Joey Gase, Toyota, Engine, 1, $12030.


Average Speed of Race Winner: 125.684 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 23 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.291 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 32 laps.

Lead Changes: 12 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: S. Hornish Jr. 1-48; E. Sadler 49-53; J. Logano(i) 54-56; E. Sadler 57-101; A. Dillon 102; J. Logano(i) 103-107; A. Dillon 108-130; K. Larson # 131-134; J. Logano(i) 135-145; E. Sadler 146-176; J. Logano(i) 177; S. Hornish Jr. 178-185; J. Logano(i) 186-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): E. Sadler 3 times for 81 laps; S. Hornish Jr. 2 times for 56 laps; J. Logano(i) 5 times for 35 laps; A. Dillon 2 times for 24 laps; K. Larson # 1 time for 4 laps.

Top 10 in Points: S. Hornish Jr. – 632; R. Smith – 625; A. Dillon – 624; E. Sadler – 612; J. Allgaier – 610; B. Vickers – 587; K. Larson # – 579; B. Scott – 567; T. Bayne – 563; P. Kligerman – 563.