Mackena Bell’s NASCAR Nationwide series debut last Saturday at Phoenix saw her bring the car home in 29th place. She kept the car on the track, performed her pit stops well, and took the checkered flag ahead of some experienced drivers. She did as much as the car was capable of, and hopefully generated some interest among teams for next season. I’ll stay in touch with her and pass along any news about 2015.
Aside from Bell’s Nationwide debut, there was drama in the Sprint Cup race, as the bracket for the final four championship contenders came down to the last lap. Jeff Gordon looked like he was in for the Homestead finale when Ryan Newman made a desperate move on Kyle Larson for the extra point that would put him into the title fight. The move worked, although Newman said after the race he wasn’t proud of it. But he did what he had to do, and Larson was fairly philosophical about it.
Sunday’s season finale should be a wild one. The track is sold out, as fans are flocking to see which of the four will become a first-time Sprint Cup champion. If Newman finishes highest among the four without winning the race, he will become the first winless Cup champion in NASCAR history. He’s considered a bit of a darkhorse, however. Kevin Harvick has had the best season of the four, leading 2,083 laps and dominating a lot of races. Denny Hamlin has the best record at Homestead, with two wins, but his consistency suffers there. Joey Logano is having a breakout season, and has the best average running position of the four and mile and a half tracks. If you want to get a bet down on the race at your local sports book, here are the odds: Harvick — 14-1; Hamlin and Logano — 20-1; and Newman — 27-1. It doesn’t matter where the four finish in the 43-car field, because they are basically just racing each other. It’s like the story of the two guys being chased by a bear. On says to the other, “I don’t have to be faster than the bear; I just have to be faster than you!”
That said, there are drivers in the field with something to prove, particularly those drivers who have been eliminated from the Chase. Jeff Gordon was devastated when Newman’s last-lap pass at Phoenix eliminated him, and he desperately wants to win at Homestead to prove a point. I’m sure Jimmie Johnson also wants to do what he can to salvage what has been his worst season in years. Tony Stewart needs a win to keep his 15-year streak of at least one victory per season alive, and Homestead is his last chance. And Brad Keselowski will be another driver to watch. All in all, it will be an interesting race.
Congratulations are in order for Chase Elliott, who clinched the Nationwide series championship at Phoenix last Saturday. Elliott, 18-year-old son of “Awesome Bill” Elliott, is the youngest champion is series history.
The race for the driver’s championship in Formula 1 tightened up in Austin, Texas last Sunday. The Mercedes team again finished first and second, but Nico Rosberg’s win advanced him to within 17 points of leader Lewis Hamilton. Next weekend’s race at Abu Dhabi is a double points event, which makes Hamilton’s lead anything but secure. If Rosberg wins the final race, Hamilton has to finish second to take the title. If Rosberg finishes second, Hamilton must finish fifth or better. Third for Rosberg means sixth or better for Hamilton, fourth for Rosberg and Hamilton must be at least eighth to win the championship. Hamilton has to come in ninth or better If Rosberg finishes fifth, and if Rosberg is sixth or worse, Hamilton automatically wins. Barring mechanical gremlins, I’m betting on another Mercedes 1-2 and a second championship for Hamilton.