Roger Diez: A weekend that will be hard to top

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

Last weekend’s racing had more twists and turns than a pretzel, and I’m not talking about the track shapes. Two dominating leaders crashed out of races, a resurgent team scored two podium finishes, and a winner and runner-up were disqualified. I can’t wait for this weekend’s action.
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Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was leading the French Grand Prix handily when a mistake put him into a tire barrier, ending his race. Max Verstappen went on to win while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of teammate George Russell, a double podium for the Silver Arrows and their best result on the season. The race marked Hamilton’s 300th F1 start and his 187th podium finish.
This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix is the last F1 outing before a four-week summer hiatus. Verstappen and Red Bull are handily leading in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships with Leclerc and Ferrari still a potent competitor and Mercedes continuing to improve.
Hamilton has seven wins in Hungary and Verstappen has yet to win there. But given the respective performance of their cars it could be Max’s year to finally taste victory. Qualifying airs Saturday at 7 a.m. on ESPN2 with the race on ESPN on Sunday at 6 a.m.
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The NTT IndyCar series’ Iowa doubleheader was almost a Team Penske benefit, as Josef Newgarden and Will Power diced for the lead on Saturday, finishing one-two. Newgarden was dominating again on Sunday when the rear suspension broke, putting him into the wall and later to the hospital with a possible concussion.
Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward benefitted from Newgarden’s crash, holding off Penske’s third driver, Scott McLaughlin, for the win.
The series races Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with Santino Ferrucci on tap to drive the No. 3 car if Newgarden is not cleared to race. Will Power is the master of the Brickyard road course with five wins, most recently last year. Colton Herta won there this spring, and Newgarden and Scott Dixon won in 2020. Broadcast time for Saturday’s race is 9 a.m. on NBC and Peacock.
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It has been 63 years since a NASCAR Cup winner has been disqualified, but it happened at Pocono last Sunday as both first finisher Denny Hamlin and second finisher Kyle Busch were disqualified in post-race inspection when an illegal modification to their cars’ front fascia was discovered. Joe Gibbs Racing declined to appeal the penalty. The DQ elevated Chase Elliott to winner status, his fourth of the season and a 105-point margin in the season standings over second-place Ross Chastain.
This weekend NASCAR is sharing the spotlight with IndyCar at Indy, the second year for the mixed doubleheader. Part-timer A.J. Allmendinger won last year’s inaugural event with Ryan Blaney second followed by Kyle Larson, Elliott, and Matt DiBenedetto in the top five.
Allmendinger is entered for Sunday’s race and is a threat to win again. Opening odds have Elliott favored at 4-1 with teammate Larson at 15-2. Chastain is 8-1, Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick share 12-1 odds, Chase Briscoe and Kyle Busch are at 14-1, and Almendinger is 16-1. Justin Haley is my dark horse pick at 125-1.
Saturday’s TV schedule includes Cup qualifying at 6:30 a.m. on USA and the Xfinity series race at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. Sunday’s Cup race airs on NBC at 11:30 a.m.
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In other racing news, the rumored Chicago street race has been confirmed for the 2023 NASCAR Cup schedule with the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car series also on program. And in an unprecedented move, Chip Ganassi Racing has filed a civil lawsuit against driver Alex Palou to prevent him from racing for Arrow McLaren SP next season. Stay tuned.

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