Roger Diez: Good week for street course fans

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

If you’re a fan of road and street course racing, last weekend was heaven on earth. NASCAR was at Watkins Glen, IndyCar raced on the streets of Nashville, and IMSA competed at Road America. They were all highly entertaining.
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First off, the Nashville IndyCar race. If it was a movie, I’d have panned it for an overly fantastic plot. A driver vaults over another car on the first restart, makes repairs, gets a penalty, then with nearly empty fuel tanks holds off first the fastest car in the field and then a seven-time champion to take his second win of the season.
That could never happen! But it did, and former Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson was the guy who did it. Unfortunately the tight, twisty, narrow track wiped out a third of the field before race’s end and occasioned two red flags and numerous caution periods. One might call it “IndyCarnage.”
But the capacity crowd seemed to love it, and the venue will likely be a fixture on the schedule for the foreseeable future. Polesitter Colton Herta was the star of the show, leading from the green flag, leading 39 laps, and light-years faster than anyone else. But he crashed heavily while chasing down Ericsson in the closing laps and will be racing this weekend with high motivation to atone for his mistake.
The NTT IndyCar series races Saturday on the road course at Indianapolis, part of a crossover weekend that will see the NASCAR Xfinity series also race Saturday and the NASCAR Cup cars Sunday for the first time on the Indy road course.
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Watkins Glen saw the Fords of Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano leading the early laps in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race, but at the end it was a pair of Hendrick Camaros in another one-two finish for the team.
Oddsmakers’ favorite Chase Elliott had to start at the back due to inspection issues, but he worked his way to the front and made the final laps exciting as he tried to reel in teammate Kyle Larson. At the checker it was Sonoma all over again, with Larson taking the win from Elliott by about three seconds.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Larson and Hamlin are now tied in points for the regular season championship, which carries a bonus of 15 playoff points to the winner.
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It was another win for Cadillac in the three-hour IMSA race at Road America, with the Whelan Engineering Cadillac DPi prototype taking the victory over the Mazda Motorsports DPi. Porsches won both GT categories, the Weather Tech Racing 911 RSR-19 in GT Lemans and the Pfaff Motorsports 911 GT3R in GT Daytona.
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This weekend’s race details on the 2.439, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course are as follows: IndyCar Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on NBCSN. 85 laps, 207 miles. Xfinity Pennzoil 150 at 1 p.m. on NBCSN, 62 laps, 150 miles. NASCAR Cup qualifying at 6 a.m. Sunday on CNBC, and the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at 10 a.m. on NBCSN. 82 laps, 200 miles.
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Finally I’m sad to report that longtime racing broadcaster Bob Jenkins passed away Aug. 9, of brain cancer. Jenkins was a fixture on both Indy car and NASCAR broadcasts for over 20 years.
Working on ESPN NASCAR broadcasts with former Cup champions Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett, the trio became one of the most popular broadcast teams in motorsports. He was also the voice of ESPN’s “Thunder” series of midget and sprint car races, and he hosted the network’s “Speedweek.”
Bob Jenkins was 73. Godspeed, Bob.

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