Roger Diez: Busch brothers disagree on ‘teamwork’ definition

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

Unlike basketball and hockey, NASCAR doesn’t have a statistic for assists. But if they did, Ross Chastain would be on the books with one after last Sunday’s Atlanta Cup race.
As sibling rivalry between the Busch brothers soared to new heights on the track in the closing laps, Chastain occupied the line Kyle wanted to run, then gave Kurt a courteous “push” after being lapped. Kyle was his usual charming self in a post-race interview, whining “that’s the kind of driver he (Chastain) is.” Brother Kurt characterized it as “teamwork.” Tomato, tomahto.
Kurt took the win and is now locked into the playoffs, the 12th driver to do so. With five more races and only four spots left in the playoff field, could we see 16 different winners in the playoffs for the first time?
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This weekend NASCAR is on the flat 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the Xfinity series race at noon Saturday and Cup the same time Sunday, both on NBCSN. Kevin Harvick may have his best chance to win Sunday. He leads active drivers with four New Hampshire wins including two of the last three.
Brad Keselowski is the defending champion here with two overall wins, the same as teammate Joey Logano. Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, and both Busch Brothers have three apiece.
If there’s another different winner Sunday, it makes the points race at the cut line even more important. To add to the suspense, the next two weekends are idle, so teams have extra time to worry, strategize, and prepare.
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Formula 1 is back in action this weekend with a change in format. It is the first time the series will qualify via a Saturday 100-kilometer sprint race.
Friday’s traditional qualifying session set the grid for Saturday’s 17-lap, 62-mile sprint around the 18-turn, 3.66 mile Silverstone circuit. The finishing order will determine the grid for Sunday’s championship race and points will be awarded to the top three sprint finishers – three points for first, two for second, and one for third.
This race could be the turning point of the season for the Mercedes team, which has uncharacteristically lost five races in a row, all to Red Bull. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is 32 points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Even if Hamilton sweeps the sprint race, the Grand Prix, and sets fastest lap, he can’t catch Verstappen this weekend as he would net a maximum of 28 points. His team is in similar straits, 44 points in arrears to the Red Bulls. With only this race and Hungary before the August hiatus, Mercedes needs to regain momentum or face an ignominious end to the season.
The sprint race airs Saturday at 8:30 a.m. on ESPN2 and the British Grand Prix is on ESPN at 7 a.m. Sunday.
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Finally, if you haven’t been following the Saturday night SRX (Superstar Racing Experience) series on CBS, you’ve been missing some very entertaining racing. An update of the old International Race of Champions (IROC), the series pits legends of the sport against local hot shoes on short tracks, both dirt and asphalt.
Saturday is the finale of the six-race season, but principals Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham are already negotiating an expanded season of 13-14 races for next year. Stewart himself is competing, along with Indy Car and NASCAR stars as well as champions from other series.
Four-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves, CART champion Paul Tracy, NASCAR champions Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott, and Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip are just a few of the names in these 700 horsepower identically-prepared race cars. Tune in Saturday at 5 p.m. on CBS – you’ll be glad you did.

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