Without hesitation, the Speedway Cup Series Season 11 chase commences at California. The front two rows are maintained by Craig Lee's Dodge on the pole, then a Honda, Chevrolet and Toyota. This would be the first time since week 1 that four different manufacturers occupy the first four qualifying spots. Tim McDonnell's Honda flew by Craig on the bottom lane of turn 1 on the 8th lap, beginning the first of 23 lead changes. By lap 30, it became a six-car breakaway between Championship contenders Craig, Tim, Ken Pettit, & Tony Pizzaro... with Scott Jackson and Cristian Torres tagging along. Dave Miller started from the pits and remained in the rear of the field all night until he was forced to park on lap 67. A set of mid-race green flag pitstops caused Craig and Cristian to lose the draft, narrowing the race to a four-way battle. Tim and Scott took 2 tires on the final pit stop, while Ken and Tony took 4. the R2W teammates were able to run the leaders down as Ken Pettit crossed the finish line in clutch-style for his first victory of the season. Ken minimizes the gap to only 3 points behind leader Tim McDonnell, with Tony Pizzaro 2 points behind and Craig Lee only 6. Dave Miller starts the chase off with a meager 10th place DNF.
Week 10 at Michigan would begin with Ryan Heuser grabbing QSM's second straight pole. Scott Jackson, Tim McDonnell and Craig Lee led most of the race early on, but eventually points-racing came into play. Ryan Heuser took the lead after the first pit stop on lap 19 and stayed in the top 4 for from lap 28 to lap 70. An impressive feat despite racing in a 10-car pack for most of the race. Points leader Tim McDonnell and Scott Jackson would tangle on the frontstretch midway through, but both cars remained unscathed. From this point on, Tim, Tony Pizzaro, Ken Pettit and Craig Lee would race exceptionally hard with each other, keeping Ryan 'Rocketman' Heuser in front. As Tim and Tony raced for championship points, Ryan was going to get the most help from the two drivers behind them. On the final lap Tony looked to the outside, giving Tim the inside lane behind Ryan heading into turn 3. Ryan would win his first race of the season, with Tim narrowly beating out Tony and broadening his points lead to 3.
Quicksilver Motorsports would grab their third straight pole starting the evening at Lowe's Night. Ever since Ryan Heuser started racing late into the regular season, the QSM boys have set fire to the starting grid. Ryan's positive energy still hasn't been a hindrence to points leaders Tim McDonell and Tony Pizzaro, who start 6th and 3rd respectively. After leading the initial laps, Craig would give he lead up to Tony and Tim who fly by on the outside lane to no surprise. Just when things seemed to be getting comfortable, Tim and Craig touched coming into turn 1 and both nearly spun out, each losing the draft. Tim's loose Honda bottomed out the next lap, spinning into the infield pavement without bringing out a caution. It eventualy became a five-car breakaway between Tony, Ken Pettit and Scott Jackson. All three would lap Tim after his destroyed tires failed him early on. After green flag pit stops were finished, Tony and Ken broke away from Scott giving more draft help to Craig, Ryan and John Battista attempting to run them down. Tim's cautiousness through the corners would put him a second lap down, practically handing the points lead to Tony after a dismal performance at one of his most hated race tracks. His heartbreaking night would lead to zero laps led and an eventual 8th place finish. He would bottom-out again with 35 laps to go, bringing the 5 remaining lead lap cars to an intense 32-lap shootout. Ryan would go 3-wide between Tony and Tim, handing him the lead for 2 laps before Tony took back over. Ryan Heuser was the man to beat with less than 2-to-go and a full load of grille-tape, but a 3 wide accident coming out of turn 2 took his chances away. Scott Jackson dove underneath Tony coming into turn 4 on the final lap, but Tony pinched him enough to grab the momentum off turn 4 and win his 4th race of the season. Coming to the final race at Talladega, Tony has a points lead of 6 over Tim McDonnell, 10 over Ken Pettit, and 11 over Craig Lee.
Before points come into play for the series finale, lets talk about some drivers who have came close but failed to win this season. The biggest surprise is Season 10 Champion Scott Jackson, who achieved second-pace finishes at Daytona, Michigan Banked, Zen Joltis 2012 and Lowe's Night. His last victory came at Indianapolis on January 9th. Jimmie Stevens is here to make a final attempt for victory as well. He and Scott Jackson have both failed to make the chase the season after winning their triumphant championships. A win tonight would certainly heal the wounds that this season has penetrated for them. Ben Geer has had a dismal season after winning the 6th man award for season 10. His best finish in seven races so far is 5th at Zen Joltis 2012, his favorite race track. He loves Talladega too, so this may be the time to get some momentm going before the new season. Only four drivers are still concerned about points for the current season: Tony Pizzaro, Tim McDonnell, Ken Pettit and Craig Lee. Tim needs to finish at least 5 spots ahead of Tony since Tony has the tiebreaker with his four victories. Ken and Craig need to prey that they crash as they are double-digits behind. Ryan Heuser gives QSM their fourth straight pole with Tim and Tony qualifying 2nd and 7th. The initial 17-lap run before the first caut
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Indianapolis Banked has become a mainstay in Speedway Cup since Season 8. Each race has produced three different winners in three thrilling races trailing back to the summer of 2013. Scott Jackson and Cristian Torres are looking to repeat their success at this race track and rack up their first wins of the season. Surprise pole-sitter and record setter Tony Long leads the field to the flag with a 45.789 second power-lap. The QSM tag-team of Ryan Heuser and Craig Lee would take the lead away on the high line before starting the second lap. Scott Jackson and Ken Pettit would tag each other in turn 1 bringing out the first caution of the race. Ken, Craig, Ryan and Tim McDonnell would exchange the lead multiple times riding behind Scott, who went a lap down after an internet issue. After the only set of green flag pit stops, Ken, Tim and Tony Pizzaro would come out in a conga-line seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Debris on the race track would trigger a late-race caution with less than 10 laps to go, giving the rest of the field a final chance for victory. Tim would look on the outside of Ken for the lead before tragedy struck. Problems would occur as Ken Pettit hits the apron, tagging teammate Tony Pizzaro and a rusty Ryan Heuser into the outside wall. Tim McDonnell would squeak by for his first Speedway Cup victory at Indianapolis Banked. He would also become the fourth Championship points leader in the seasons first five races.
As the standings start to spread out, we head towards our only international race of the season. Tim McDonnell and Tony Pizzaro are at a near stalemate for first place. Unfortunately, Tony will miss the race at his country of origin due to lingering foot fungus issues. Dave Miller would miss his second Speedway Cup Monza race in-a-row after losing his Italy plane ticket, rapidly minimizing his Championship hopes. This is good news for Scott Jackson, as he and Dave are currently tied for the final chase spot in the standings. The race would begin with Scott Jackson breaking the Monza Oval qualifying record with a 50.083 second lap time. Scott, Tim McDonnell, Ryan Heuser and Craig Lee would battle back and forth throughout the race for the lead. Several cautions led to intense pit strategy towards the end of the energetic event. The final green flag lap came down to Tim, Craig, Ryan and Ken Pettit fighting for the win. Ken and Ryan would grievously tag coming off of the final corner, handing the victory to Tim before the 'Hardracer' had his chance to make a move. Tim would become the second multiple and first repeat winner of the young season, all while taking a substantial 12-point lead in the standings.
North Carolina starts out with second-in-points driver Craig Lee on the pole. He leads 17 of the first 18 laps before bottoming-out between turns 3 and 4, dishing the lead out to Jimmie Stevens. Jimmie leads his first laps of the season after a long hiatus following his Season 9 Speedway Cup Championship. Tim McDonnell and Dalton Lucas tag each other in turn 1, sending the points leader hard into the wall. Luckily, he would rebound to a lead-lap fourth place finish despite the damage. Tony Pizzaro would take the lead away after the caution flag and pull away from the field for the next 85 laps, handing himself his second victory of the season and a well-needed rebound in the points.
Scott Jackson and Dave Miller are tied for the final spot in the chase heading towards the final event of the regular season. Zen Joltis 2012 is the destination, where both drivers have had success in the past. Scott does not want to be the second Speedway Cup Champion in-a-row to miss the chase the next season. Unfortunately, his recent lingering internet issues have lowered his confidence in finishing on the lead lap. Although Dave may seemingly have the advantage, Zen Joltis is always known for surprises. Points leader Tim McDonnell struggled, having to endure a tornado warning early on while finishing 12 laps down. Cristian Torres led the field to the green flag while Dave and Scott qualify 8th and 9th. Scott and Ryan Heuser would make contact on lap 17, damaging the back end of Ryan's machine without hindering the #38. After the restart, Tony Long attempted to take his second lead of the day when his engine blew in front of Cristian Torres, sending Tony in a violent barrel-roll against the turn 3 wall.11 drivers swapped the lead 22 different times in this race, but the most important one was on the final lap. Despite falling behind for the latter part of the race, Dave Miller remained in contention due to Cristian Torres's wild flip that brought out the caution. He was in 7th place on the final lap with Scott Jackson in second. Ben Geer and Ken Pettit made contact in turn 2 sending them both hard into the outside wall. Seconds afterward, Leaders Tony Pizzaro and Craig Lee tag while battling for the win, flying Tony high into the air and out of contention. Dave flew past Craig after the incident and ended up right behind Scott coming into turn 4. Scott would pull a block on the outside lane while Dave ducked to the inside, narrowly staying above the double-yellow line. Coming to the checkered flag, Dave took the lead for one second and ended up making the chase by a foot. He knocked out friend and former Champion Scott Jackson for a chance at the Championship by 1 point. What a race!
Here are the Points Standings after the first eight Season 11 events: