Another busy race weekend on tap
June 7, 2014
It's another busy race weekend, with NASCAR Sprint Cup at Pocono, IndyCar, and Camping World Trucks in Texas, and Formula 1 in Canada.
Bowman Gray Stadium lived up to its nickname "The Madhouse" for Mackena Bell last weekend. After qualifying 18th, she was caught up in an early-race accident but recovered to finish 13th. The wreck-strewn race airs on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 this morning, if you're up early and reading this.
To no one's surprise, Jimmie Johnson scored his second win of the season and his ninth victory at Dover last Sunday. Kyle Busch demonstrated more maturity than I've seen in a while, actually heeding his crew's pleas not to retaliate after being wrecked by Clint Bowyer. Bowyer, who has experience with such a scenario, wisely hid in a cluster of cars until cooler heads prevailed. Johnson is now one of three drivers locked into the Chase, along with two-time winners Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, as the Sprint Cup series heads to the tricky triangle at Pocono for the second time this season.
So far, 10 drivers have scored victories in the first 13 races, qualifying them for the Chase. With 13 races to go until the Chase begins, competition for the six remaining slots will be fierce. If there aren't 16 winners after Richmond, the Chase field will be filled on points. Matt Kenseth is currently the highest-scoring non-winner, in fact leading the point standings by two over Jeff Gordon, 463-461. Kurt Busch, meanwhile, needs to score more points. He is 27th with one win, and to make the Chase he needs to be in the top 30. He has a 53-point cushion now, but a couple of bad races could put him in jeopardy. So who else is likely to score a victory that hasn't already done so? My money is on Kenseth, followed by rookie Kyle Larson, and then Tony Stewart. Kasey Kahne is the only Hendrick driver yet to win, but he'll need to get rid of his bad luck monkey to make the Chase this year; likewise Roush-Fenway Ford driver Greg Biffle.
The IndyCar series has been extremely busy, with tonight's Texas race the fourth event in three weekends. Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay had a rough doubleheader in Detroit last weekend. The two races were both Penske benefits, with Will Power taking the Saturday contest and Helio Castroneves dominating on Sunday. After the twisty, bumpy, strategically weird Detroit races, the super high-speed Texas oval will be a completely different sort of challenge. Ganassi driver Tony Kanaan was fastest in practice, but qualifying took place after press time.
Formula 1 fans can watch Sunday's race at a reasonable hour, since the series is making its first 2014 visit to North America. So far this season the Mercedes team has won every race, and Montreal does not appear as if it will be any different. The track is a favorite playground for Lewis Hamilton, who is locked in a fierce battle with teammate Nico Rosberg for first place in the driver's championship. The only question is who will take the final podium spot, Red Bull or Ferrari? So far this season, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo has performed much better than four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, which must make for some unhappiness on the team. And Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has also outperformed teammate and rival Kimi Raikkonen pretty convincingly so far.
Finally, congratulations to the recently-announced inductees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Drivers from the early days of the sport to be inducted are Fred Lorenzen, Joe Weatherly, and Rex White. Also included are Wendell Scott, the first African-American NASCAR star, and Bill Elliot.
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