Last weekend was a busy one, with a different Formula 1 winner at Monza, two drivers advancing in the NASCAR playoffs, and a young gun taking the Portland IndyCar victory. This weekend is the IndyCar season’s penultimate round and an elimination NASCAR Cup race at Bristol.
Team McClaren turned Formula 1 on its head at Monza, with Daniel Ricciardo leading from the start and heading up a 1-2 finish for the team. Some will say he won because the two top contenders tangled, but he had the race under control from the green flag. Lewis Hamilton can thank the F1 safety initiative that mandated the cockpit halo a couple of seasons ago, as it kept Max Verstappen’s right rear tire out of his cockpit and arguably saved his life after the pair collided while negotiating turn one. The stewards assessed a three-spot grid penalty against Verstappen at next week’s Russian Grand Prix at Sochi. Neither scored points at Monza, and Verstappen remains with a five-point advantage in the drivers’ championship.
Joe Gibbs Racing dominated at Richmond last Saturday night, finishing 1-2-3 and at times occupying the front four places. Martin Truex Jr. held off teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch to score the win and punch his ticket to the Round of 12. Kyle Larson also advanced on points, riding his massive regular season playoff point advantage. This weekend’s Bristol race will see four drivers eliminated from the playoffs, with Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Michael McDowell below the cut line and Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman straddling it. Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, and Kevin Harvick look safe barring a disaster. Interestingly, only six playoff drivers have wone at Bristol, but the Busch brothers dominate that group. Kyle has won Bristol eight times and Kurt six. Harvick and Brad Keselowski have three Bristol wins each, and Logano and Hamlin have two apiece. But it’s Bristol, baby, and anything can (and will) happen. The race airs at 4:30 p.m. today on NBCSN.
Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou went from the front to the back, and back to the front to win the IndyCar series Portland race last Sunday. A first-turn kerfuffle put pole sitter Palou at the rear of the field for the restart, but with strategy and brilliant driving he found himself back in the lead when the checkered flag fell. The win put him back on top of the points battle with 477, just 25 ahead of fellow young gun Pato O’Ward. A pair of veterans, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon are in the hunt with 443 and 428 points respectively, and F1 veteran Marcus Ericsson has a slim mathematical chance at 402. This weekend the series races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, my old home track. NBC will broadcast the race at noon Sunday.
The NASCAR Cup 2022 schedule has been released, and there are a few interesting notes. There are six road course races on the schedule including the Indianapolis road course which had mixed reviews and some technical issues this season. The All-Star race returns to Texas Motor Speedway, and there will be another Bristol dirt race in April. I hope NASCAR will let the teams run this year’s cars, because I have a hunch that the Next Gen car will be totally unsuitable for dirt. But the biggest surprise is the location of the Clash on February 6. It will run inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has been there before, and I was on the announce team when the old Southwest Tour series raced outside the coliseum in the 1998 LA Street Race. But racing inside the stadium? That’s going to be very interesting. Tickets are now on sale.