In local racing news, Fernley 95A Speedway opened Friday night, with results available here next week. Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon is scheduled to race next weekend in conjunction with OctaneFest.
There were three notable things about NASCAR racing last week: Rain, penalties and Chase Elliott.
The Coke 600 was delayed by rain on Sunday, the Charlotte Xfinity race experienced a two-day delay, and Thursday’s Cup race started late due to rain. I hope Sunday’s Bristol race stays dry!
Penalties were almost as annoying (especially to those who received them). In addition to the usual slaps on the wrist for loose lug nuts, two teams were penalized big time at the Coke 600. Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, car chief, and engineer all drew four-race suspensions after a ballast block came adrift on the pace laps. That’s a big no-no. Hamlin lost eight laps waiting for another to be located and installed, finishing 29th.
After winning at Darlington‘s 500K on Wednesday, it was definitely a “hero to zero” moment for Denny. Jimmie Johnson was also a victim of a rule violation when his No. 48 Camaro failed post-race inspection. The penalty negated Johnson’s second-place finish, his best in the last three seasons. He was stripped of all points (including his two stage wins) and scored in 40th place.
Finally, Chase Elliott. By now, he should have three wins under his belt in the last three races. But in the Toyota 500 on May 20 he was leading comfortably late in the race when a caution bunched the field. On the restart Elliott was running a strong second behind Hamlin when Kyle Busch sent him into the inside wall. He finished 38th while Busch went on to take second. The Coke 600 was another heartbreaker when a late caution led to a bad strategy call. He pitted from the lead for tires but those behind him didn’t, and he restarted eighth on a green/white/checker. He worked his way to third behind Brad Keselowski and Johnson at the checker. (He was elevated to second with Johnson’s penalty).
But last Wednesday there were no late-race caution, and Elliott became the sixth driver to put himself into the 2020 playoff field. Starting 18th on the final restart with fresh tires, he worked his way to the front and pulled away, taking the checker ahead of Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.
Next up is Bristol, airing at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox Sports 1. Hamlin is the most recent Bristol winner, but the Busch brothers have won the last four races at the .533-mile oval.
The brothers have won an amazing 14 of the last 36 Bristol races for an average of almost 40%. Kyle has three of the last five Bristol victories and eight all told, while Kurt has won six times including once in the last five. Last fall was Hamlin’s second Bristol win, and five other current drivers have won there. Matt Kenseth has three, Johnson, Keselowski, and Joey Logano two apiece, and Kevin Harvick one. Not surprisingly Kyle Busch is the favorite with the oddsmakers at 4-1 to win. Logano is next at 13-2; Hamlin, Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. 8-1. Chase Elliott is 9-1, Keselowski 13-1, and Kurt Busch 14-1, with Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman 16-1. Keselowski will start on the pole Sunday with Logano third.
Looking ahead, the NTT IndyCar series opens their season next Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Coverage on NBC starts at 5 p.m. The next schedules NHRA race, the June 19-21 Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, is listed as “postponed,” and according to their website it appears the July 17-19 Mile High Nationals is the next live event.