Roger Diez: Can anybody beat Kyle Larson?

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

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The question reverberating through the NASCAR Cup garages at Pocono is, “How do we beat this guy?”
The guy in question is one Kyle Larson, who is amassing wins and playoff points week after week. He’ll be on the pole for Saturday’s Cup race and is the top pick of the oddsmakers to extend his winning streak.
Last Sunday at Nashville was Larson’s fourth race win in a row, including the All-Star event. Only eight drivers in the sport’s modern era (since 1972) have won four in a row and all but two are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Jimmie Johnson (not yet in the HOF) is the most recent driver to accomplish the feat, during his 2007 championship run.
Larson has yet to win at Pocono, and he’s going to have to beat two masters of the tricky triangle to score his first victory there.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have won five of the last seven Pocono outings between them, with Hamlin’s four victories there tops among active drivers. Busch has three Pocono victories to his credit and a third Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex, is the only other multiple winner in the field with two. All three Penske drivers have won there once, as have Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Chris Buescher.
Hamlin is the second favorite at 7-1 with Busch and Chase Elliott both at 8-1 odds. Truex, Harvick, and William Byron are all at 10-1.
The Camping World Trucks race at 9 a.m. Saturday on FS1 and the Cup race airs at noon on NBCSN. Sunday, it’s the Xfinity series at 9 a.m. and Cup at 12:30 p.m., both on NBCSN.
Josef Newgarden suffered his second consecutive heart-breaker at Road America in last Sunday’s NTT IndyCar race. He led the whole race, but on the final restart after a caution his transmission malfunctioned, dropping him to 21st at the finish.
Alex Palou held on for the win, his second of the season, which put him atop the point standings by 38 over second-place Pato O’Ward. Could we see a first-time IndyCar champion at season’s end? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Formula 1 is in the second of three consecutive weekends of racing, and two teams are head and shoulders above the rest.
Last Sunday in France, tire strategy saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen chase down and pass Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for the win two laps from the finish. Second Red Bull driver Sergio Perez rounded out the podium with a strong third place.
The next two weekends will be at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Last year the two Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, split the back-to-back weekends there. But Red Bull has added motivation to win on the home court, and it would not be surprising to see them sweep both races.
This weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix will air on ESPN at 6 a.m.
NBC has now replaced FOX as the broadcaster for the remainder of the NASCAR Cup season, and we have seen the last of Jeff Gordon in the booth for FOX.
Gordon will not return next season, as he has taken a position as vice chairman at Hendrick Motorsports, effective Jan. 1. The four-time champion is also a part owner of the company and heir-apparent become head of the organization when founder Rick Hendrick retires.
I, for one, will miss his insights from the booth, and especially his camaraderie with fellow driver Clint Bowyer, who joined the FOX broadcast team this season. There is no information on who, if anyone, will replace Gordon at FOX.


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