Roger Diez: Seven races left in NASCAR regular season

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

The question “Who can beat Kyle Larson?” was answered Saturday at Pocono, and the answer was the left front Goodyear Eagle on his No. 5 Chevy.
Larson was on his way to a sure win when the tire in question let go, handing the victory to teammate Alex Bowman. A Kyle took the Sunday win, but it was the other one, Kyle Busch.
Across the pond the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix was a Max Verstappen runaway for Red Bull, with Mercedes second and third. F1 is back at the same venue, the Red Bull Ring, this weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix, while NASCAR and IndyCar are both on road courses.
With seven races to go in the NASCAR regular season, the points for the regular season championship couldn’t be tighter. A winless Denny Hamlin holds a slim 2-point lead over Larson, who will likely go into the postseason with a huge advantage in playoff points.
This weekend the Xfinity and Cup series are both at Road America, a 4-mile long, 14-turn natural road course in rural Wisconsin. The Xfinity series has a 10-year history there, but it will be the first race at the facility for the Cup cars. With no experience for the Cup teams and a missed 2020 race for Xfinity, there will be practice and qualifying for both series.
Cup drivers Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are entered in the Xfinity race which will see 43 cars vying for 36 starting positions. The oddsmakers favor Chase Elliott to win the Cup race at 11-4 odds with Larson next at 9-4. Martin Truex Jr. is at 7-1, Kyle Busch 15-2, Joey Logano, Hamlin 12-1, and everybody else 20-1 or worse. My dark horse pick is Daniel Suarez, going off at 125-1.
Xfinity qualifying is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on with Cup practice at 9:30, both on NBCSN. The Xfinity race airs on NBC at 11:30. Cup qualifying airs on NBCSN at 8 a.m. Sunday with the race on NBC at 11:30.
On Sunday, we will see if the Red Bull team is now fully ascendant over the former juggernaut, Mercedes. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will go head-to-head for the third consecutive week. Verstappen has won three out of the last four races with teammate Sergio Perez taking the fourth. Max has four wins on the season to Lewis’s three, and Sunday’s race may indicate how the rest of the season will go. It will air at 6 a.m. on ESPN.
The NTT IndyCar series is at Mid-Ohio this weekend and Rinus Veekay and Felix Rosenqvist will be back in their cars, recovered from injuries.
Chip Ganassi Racing drivers have won eight of the 15 races at the venue under the current sanctioning body, with Scott Dixon taking six of them. Other former winners in the field are Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, and Colton Herta.
Could we see the eighth different winner of the season take the checkered flag on Sunday? The season is shaping up as a battle between the old guard and the young guns, and so far, the youngsters are winning.
Speaking of Chip Ganassi, he will have more time to devote to his IndyCar and sportscar teams next season, because he will no longer be a NASCAR team owner. The Ganassi has sold his NASCAR operation and its two charters to Trackhouse racing, which will take over operations on Jan. 1. Trackhouse currently fields the No. 99 Chevy for Daniel Suarez. So the two seats at the new Trackhouse team are now in play in the game of musical chairs we call silly season.


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