The NASCAR Cup season is now seven races in, and there has yet to be a repeat winner. Last Sunday at Richmond, 41-year-old Denny Hamlin broke the 12-race string of under 30 winners and scored Toyota’s first Cup win of 2022.
It was a race of strategy with tire wear determining the outcome in the final laps as William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. fell victim to tires “falling off the cliff.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the race was the new pit stop choreography that Joe Gibbs Racing debuted. The new method produced several low nine-second pit stops, and with more practice we’ll likely see sub-nine-second stops this season. There were also no lost wheels, an indication the teams are coming to grips with the new single lug nut wheels.
This week it’s the Martinsville “paper clip” where Martin Truex Jr. has won three of the last five races (just like Richmond). Other recent Martinsville winners who are still winless in 2022 are Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kyle Busch.
Is one of those five likely to keep the different winner string alive? The oddsmakers think it’s a good bet, with Truex the favorite at 5-1, Elliott 7-1, and Busch at 8-1 along with teammate Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. Logano is at 10-1 as are Kyle Larson and William Byron.
The Camping World Trucks raced Thursday and the Xfinity series Friday with the Blue Emu 400 Cup race airing on FS1 at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The NTT IndyCar series takes to the track on the streets of Long Beach this weekend in conjunction with the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car series.
There are six former winners in the IndyCar field, with Colton Herta the defending champion. Alexander Rossi and Will Power have each won twice while Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, and Helio Castroneves have one win apiece.
Qualifying airs Saturday on Peacock at 12:05 p.m. with the race on NBC and Peacock Sunday at noon. The USA network will broadcast the IMSA race Saturday at 2 p.m.
This weekend is the third Formula 1 race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix. Ferrari has been dominant so far this year, currently leading the constructor points by a 40-point margin. After scoring no points in Bahrain, Red Bull won in Saudi Arabia with defending champion Max Verstappen overtaking Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in the closing laps.
The once all-conquering Mercedes team has been struggling with handling issues and will be bringing an upgraded chassis to Australia. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton sits fourth in points behind new teammate George Russell with the team second in constructor points, one ahead of Red Bull. Actually an enviable position for most teams, but not for Mercedes.
Aside from their problems, the new technical regulations seem to have had the desired effect, with cars able to follow more closely and the teams much closer in performance. The race will air at 10 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
Finally, rumors and random data:
• The recent announcement of the Las Vegas Formula 1 race in 2023 is just the tip of an iceberg of additional changes coming to the series. A 30-race season may be in the future with some traditional venues no longer on the schedule.
• IndyCar tested the new 2024 engines from both Honda and Chevy at the Indianapolis road course, with the new powerplant said to develop 800 horsepower and 900 with a future hybrid component.
• Dodge may be returning to NASCAR. Robby Gordon is expected to unveil a Next Gen Dodge example at Watkins Glen for a possible 2023 or 2024 NASCAR Cup debut.