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Drivers debate when, or if, to employ blocking



Published: Sun, April 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, VA.

Tony Stewart says never. Joey Logano says late in the race. Jimmie Johnson says to protect a victory in the final laps, except, perhaps, if Stewart is behind him because of the potential consequences.

Theories on blocking and when it is acceptable vary widely in the NASCAR garage.

The topic has become a hot one since the last race two weeks ago in California, where an infuriated Stewart confronted Logano’s crew and accused the young driver of blocking him late in the race.

“I don’t like blocking. I never have, I never will,” Stewart said at Martinsville Speedway. “It’s our jobs as drivers to go out there and try to pass people. That is what racing is about. We didn’t have blocking 10 years ago. I don’t know where all of a sudden it became a common deal or some people think it’s alright to do now and think it’s common practice. I don’t believe it should be common practice.”

Others disagree, especially when trying to hang on for a victory.

“Those are decisions we all make on the track and when you are in the sport long enough, you realize what those decisions could lead to and, honestly, who you throw a block on,” Johnson said.

“They could come back and haunt you, so as we are trying to win a race, win for our team, win for our sponsors, there are these other elements that you may not consciously think of, but there is this quick snapshot that flashes through your mind when you throw a block,” he continued, adding that if you see Stewart approaching in your rear view mirror, “you probably expect something is going to happen.”

Blocking can be keeping a car in front of you by continually positioning your car in front of theirs, or taking away their preferred line around the track by adopting it for yourself, even if it’s not your preferred line. The thinking is if a driver is gaining on you, taking away his line can slow that.

At Martinsville, where the Sprint Cup Series will race 500 laps on Sunday, cars typically swing wide heading into the turns at each end of the track, then hug the inside curb. A blocking maneuver by a leader might cut down that wide swing, forcing a challenger to drive higher up in the turn away from the curb.

It helps to know a fellow competitor’s views, and tendencies, he said.

“He has made that known over the years, so there are guys that you probably don’t want to do that to,” Johnson said of Stewart. “But then again, at the end of the race I feel like things go to the next level and they change and to defend for a win, you have to take some extreme measures at times.”

Sauter surges to win truck race

MARTINSVILLE, Va.

Johnny Sauter passed Jeb Burton for the lead on a restart with 234 laps to go Saturday and won the NASCAR truck race at Martinsville Speedway, his second victory in as many races in the series this season.

Sauter earned his eighth career victory in the series, and second at Martinsville.

“Two for two starting out. This is unbelievable,” Sauter said in Victory Lane.

He got there by passing Burton, the pole-sitting rookie making just his seventh start in the series, on the outside following a restart with 17 laps to go, and then holding on as the field behind him shuffled. Matt Crafton rallied to finish second, and Burton was third, followed by Timothy Peters and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Allen Johnson races to victory

LAS VEGAS

Allen Johnson raced to victory in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, the special Pro Stock bonus event, Saturday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

In other racing action at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) earned No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.

Veteran Pro Stock driver Johnson claimed his second victory in the K&N Horsepower Challenge by holding off Erica Enders-Stevens in the final round. Johnson, who earned $50,000 for the victory, also defeated Greg Anderson and teammate Jeg Coughlin in earlier rounds.

Hunter-Reay grabs pole at Barber

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.

Defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has won the pole at Barber Motorsports Park.

Hunter-Reay grabbed the top starting spot for today’s race with a lap of 1:07.0871 around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile permanent road course. He beat two-time defending race winner Will Power.

Hunter-Reay also ended the Penske Racing pole streak at Barber. Penske drivers Power and Helio Castroneves had won all three poles and all three races at Barber.

Power qualified second and was followed by rookie Tristan Vautier, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Castroneves.

AJ Allmendinger will start 10th in his IndyCar debut today.


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