Roger Diez: Kyle Larson collecting praise and points

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

Kyle Larson and the whole Hendrick organization are in the process of demoralizing the entire NASCAR Cup field, as Larson added last Sunday’s All-Star race to his latest string.
The NTT IndyCar doubleheader in Detroit saw yet another first-time winner in Race 1 and the first multiple winner of the season in Race 2 as the Penske organization came up short late in both events.
And a new series, SRX, debuted on CBS Saturday night, the brainchild of racing legends Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart.
Speaking of Stewart, he weighed in last week on Larson’s versatility. Larson spends his time between NASCAR Cup races competing and winning in sprint cars, midgets, and dirt late models. Stewart said, “Kyle Larson is better than I was,” high praise from NASCAR, USAC, IRL champion who has won in everything.
I became a Stewart fan when I saw him turning competitive laps in a prototype sports car with a broken suspension in the Rolex 24 at Daytona years ago. And I hope Larson tries his hand at the endurance classic soon, because I’m sure he’ll be just as spectacular.
The NTT IndyCars took to the tight and twisty Belle Isle street course in Detroit for a doubleheader last weekend. Ex-F1 driver Marcus Ericsson scored his first win in the series on Saturday when leader Will Power’s Penske Chevy wouldn’t start after a late-race red flag. Power’s teammate Josef Newgarden lost the Sunday race when young Pato O’Ward passed him with two laps to go, scoring his second win of the season. O’Ward now leads the points race by one over Alex Palou. The top six in points are an even mix between veterans and young guns with Scott Dixon third, Newgarden fourth, Rinus Veekay fifth, and Simon Pagenaud sixth. The series races again Sunday at Road America, airing at 9 a.m. on NBCSN.
The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity races also will be seen on NBCSN this weekend, as the broadcast handoff from FOX took place after the All-Star race. This weekend all three of NASCAR’s top series are at Nashville with Xfinity airing at 12:30 p.m. today and Cup the same time on Sunday. It will be the first time at the 1.33 mile concrete oval for the Cup cars although the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series have been racing there since 2001.
Although it’s the first Cup outing there, the oddsmakers have made the bold prediction that Kyle Larson will win. He’s at 11-4 odds, Martin Truex Jr. is 11-2, Chase Elliott 15-2, and Denny Hamlin is at 8-1 to win his first race of the season. Kyle Busch is also 8-1, William Byron 10-1, and four drivers are at 12-1: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, and Kevin Harvick.
With just 10 races remaining in the regular season, there are 11 drivers who have qualified for a playoff berth with a win. Hamlin, still winless on the season, leads the regular season points race by 47 over Larson, who tops the projected playoff points with 2036.
The winner of last year’s second Road America IndyCar round, Felix Rosenqvist, has not been medically cleared from his Belle Isle crash, so ex-F1 driver Kevin Magnussen will replace him, joining former Haas F1 teammate Romain Grosjean for the race.
Since the series resumed racing at the 4-mile road course in 2016, Scott Dixon has won twice including last season’s first half of a doubleheader. Other former winners are Power, Newgarden, and Alexander Rossi.
Finally, Formula 1 returns to the track this weekend in France, the first of a three-week string of races. Can Mercedes regain their winning form? Will Red Bull continue to lead the way? Is Ferrari back on top? Tune in to ESPN at 6 a.m. Sunday to find out.


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