Roger Diez: NASCAR heads to short-track

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

The NASCAR Cup continued two streaks at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas last Sunday. The first is the streak of non-repeat winners (including three first-time winners) on the season. The second is the string of wins by drivers under 30, which is now at 12, stretching back into the final six races of 2021.

Ross Chastain fits all the criteria, winning his first Cup race at age 29, plus scoring the first win for the Trackhouse team. The win was not without drama as last-lap contact between Chastain and veteran road racer A.J. Allmendinger ended with A.J. 33rd, mired in a gravel trap.

The Next Gen car performed extremely well on the twisty, 20-turn course, but there were no lap time comparisons to last year’s race due to the very different weather conditions. The next opportunity to compare the performance differential on a road course will be June 12 at Sonoma.


Next up is Richmond on Sunday, the first of a string of short-track races. Joe Gibbs Racing has owned Richmond in recent years, winning eight of the last 12 races at the ¾ mile oval. Kyle Busch is tops among active drivers with five Richmond wins, including a sweep of both races in 2018. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending Richmond winner, taking three of the last five races there. The third Gibbs driver to win at Richmond is Denny Hamlin with two victories, the same total as Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano driving for Team Penske. And Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson each have one Richmond victory.

Busch, Truex, and Logano have the best chance to break up the under 30 streak, and if they win each would also score their first of the year, keeping that string alive. And in a couple of side notes for Richmond – Bubba Wallace will be without crew chief Bootie Barker, his jackman, and rear tire changer for four races due to his lost wheel at COTA; and Allmendinger is entered for Richmond, so is payback for Chastain in the cards?


It's too early to tell, but could the Formula 1 season be another two-man race for the title? The two I refer to are defending champion Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. They have one win each in the first two races, with the once all-conquering Mercedes team scratching their collective heads over their new car’s poor performance.

Lewis Hamilton managed a podium at Bahrain and overcame a dismal 16th place qualifying position to finish in the points in 10th, while new boy George Russell has scored a fourth and a fifth, but those results are far from acceptable to the team. In Saudi Arabia Hamilton used his phenomenal tire management skills to climb as high as sixth, but a poorly timed virtual safety car and a blocked pit lane kept him from pitting with the others and dropped him to his eventual 10th place.

The Mercedes power unit seems not to have the advantage over the competition as in previous years. This is borne out by the other three Mercedes-powered teams which finished 12ththrough 17th in Bahrain and worse yet in Saudi Arabia with the exception of Lando Norris’ McLaren in seventh. And in a tribute to the safety of the 2022 Formula 1 chassis, Mick Schumacher survived uninjured after a horrific 170 mph crash in his Haas in qualifying. The car could not be repaired in time for the race.

Next up for F1 is the Australian Grand Prix on April 10. Oh, and don’t forget to get tickets for the November 2023 F1 race in Las Vegas!


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