Joey Logano punched his ticket to the championship round in NASCAR Cup at Las Vegas last Sunday, but the big story of the race revolved around the drama between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson. Bubba won the first stage, and was battling with Larson when he was forced into the wall. Wallace turned down the track and hit Larson in what appeared to be retaliation. This took both drivers out of the race as well as innocent bystander Christopher Bell, who had just advanced to the Round of Eight with his Roval win.
Bell is now behind the eight-ball, 23 points below the cut line and needing another miracle to make the final round.
NASCAR suspended Wallace for this weekend’s Homestead race, but no fine or points penalty has been announced. For his part, Bubba issued an apology to his team, Bell, and Toyota, but Larson was notably missing in the statement. John Hunter Nemechek will replace Bubba in the No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota this weekend.
The incident brought back memories of Matt Kenseth deliberately wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville in 2015 and Jeff Gordon taking out Clint Bowyer at Phoenix in 2012. Kenseth received a multi-race suspension for his actions, but Gordon escaped that particular penalty, receiving a $100,000 fine and loss of 25 points.
Recent winners at Homestead are still in playoff contention. William Byron is the defending winner, Denny Hamlin won in 2020 and Logano in 2018. Recent non-playoff Homestead winners are Kyle Busch (2019 and 2015), Martin Truex Jr. (2017), and Kevin Harvick (2014).
Opening odds on the race have Tyler Reddick favored at 7-1 with Hamlin 8-1 and Ryan Blaney 9-1. Larson, Logano, Ross Chastain, and Chase Elliott are all 10-1 while Bell, Byron, Truex, and Busch are 12-1. My dark horse pick is Aric Almirola at 100-1.
The Camping World Truck race from Homestead airs at 10 a.m. Saturday on FS1 followed by the Xfinity race on USA at 1:30 p.m. NBC will broadcast Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 Cup race at 11:30 a.m.
This weekend Formula 1 makes its second visit to the U.S. with the Aramco United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Although Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has secured the 2022 World Drivers’ Championship, there are still a few close battles for the final standings. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez is second in points, just one point ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and Mercedes driver George Russell is only five points clear of Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz, 207 to 202.
And although there’s wide separation at the top of the constructor’s championship points, only 13 counters separate Alpine from McLaren for fourth. And it’s the constructor championship standings that determine year-end payouts for the teams.
Qualifying airs on ESPNews Saturday at 3 p.m. and ABC will air the race at noon Sunday.
In other news, Kurt Busch has announced his decision to abandon full-time racing after 23 years in NASCAR. Busch is also one of the few drivers to attempt the Memorial Day “double” of the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Expect to see him run a limited schedule of big races in 2023.
Also, despite rumors of Kevin Harvick leaving Stewart-Haas Racing next season, the oldest full-timer in NASCAR at 46 says he’s not going anywhere. Harvick’s contract with SHR runs through 2023.
And in Formula 1, Pierre Gasly will move from Alpha Tauri to Alpine for next season’s record 24-race schedule. Daniel Ricciardo is in serious talks with Mercedes as their reserve driver with an eye to replacing Lewis Hamilton in 2024 if the latter should decide to retire.