The end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono was a real nail-biter, as one after another of the leaders ran out of fuel. First Joey Logano ran out three laps from the end; then Martin Truex Jr. dropped out of second with two laps to go; and finally Kyle Busch sputtered and slowed on the last lap. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth somehow managed to save enough of the precious fluid to not only take the victory, but do burnouts and drive the car to Victory Circle. It was Kenseth’s first Pocono win and the 33rd of his career. He’s now tied for 20th in the all-time standings with Busch and the legendary Fireball Roberts. The dry fuel tank foiled Busch’s efforts to win four Sprint Cup races in a row since his return to competition. It also dropped him to a 21st place finish, not good enough to get him into the magical top 30 in points. He currently sits 32nd.
Busch will be looking to start a new string of wins this weekend at Watkins Glen, where he has won twice. A victory would also give him a sweep of this season’s road courses for the second time (he did it in 2008) and put him into the top 30. However, he’s got some pretty motivated competition, as there are a number of drivers who are fast at the Glen and still looking for their first win of the season. Among them are last year’s winner, A.J. Allmendinger; Tony Stewart with five victories at the Glen; and Jeff Gordon who has four wins and would love to add another in his final season in Sprint Cup. All of Stewart’s wins have come since 2002, while Gordon has only won once in this century, in 2001.
Going into Watkins Glen with five races left to qualify for the Chase, several drivers have already clinched a berth. All drivers with more than one win are in, except for Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson has four wins, while Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, and Kurt Busch have two apiece. Drivers with a single win should clinch after this weekend, especially if Kyle Busch moves into the top 30. There’s still a possibility of 16 winners, and if Kyle makes it and there’s a new winner every week until Richmond, the lowest point-scoring winner would get bumped.
In IndyCar action, Graham Rahal became a multiple winner last Sunday with an emotional victory at Mid-Ohio. It’s his home track, and one where his dad Bobby won in an Indy car 30 years ago, and where his grandfather also raced. The race saw a record crowd at the track as well as the highest TV ratings the series has attained since moving to the NBC Sports Network. Rahal’s win moves him into second in the point standings, just nine behind Juan Pablo Montoya and 25 ahead of Scott Dixon. It’s a pretty significant accomplishment for this single car team to be in contention for the championship with the two most successful teams currently running in the series, Penske and Ganassi. There are just two races left on the season, Pocono on August 23 and the finale at Sonoma August 30, which is going to be a double-points race.
Speaking of Sonoma, the NHRA Mello Yello drag racing series raced there this past weekend on a west coast swing that moves to Seattle this coming weekend. Antron Brown won the Top Fuel category at Sonoma, Jack Beckman took top honors in the Funny Car final, Chris McGaha was the victor in the Pro Stock division, and Eddie Krawiec once again beat the field on his Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Locally, Hot August Nights is winding down. If you plan to be at the Atlantis for the activities there today, I’ll be at the Honor Flight Nevada booth. Stop by and say hello.