Last weekend was a busy one for race fans. The NASCAR Cup playoffs are even more uncertain, the 2022 IndyCar title race is over, Formula 1 experienced a rare finish under the safety car, and silly season got even sillier.
It has been an unusual beginning to the NASCAR Cup playoffs. Two races into the Round of 16, and both races have been won by a non-playoff driver. Bubba Wallace hopefully silenced a few critics with his Kansas victory, holding off his boss, Denny Hamlin, in the closing laps. Wallace has switched from the No. 23 to the No. 45 for the playoffs to garner points in the owners’ championship, but other than the number, it’s basically the same car he’s been racing all season.
This weekend it’s Bristol, baby! Will we see another non-playoff driver in victory circle Saturday, or will Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, or another driver below the cut line lock in? Busch has eight wins at the fast half-mile, and Harvick has three victories there. Tune into the USA Network at 4:30 p.m. for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
Will Power powered to third place in the NTT IndyCar finale at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, finishing behind 2021 champion Alex Palou and Penske teammate Josef Newgarden. But it was good enough to win his second series championship, 16 points ahead of Newgarden (560 to 544). Newgarden had the drive of the race, starting dead last and finishing second behind Ganassi driver Palou. Jimmie Johnson finished 16th, equaling his fifth-best career result and indicated he will be back in the No. 48 for next season, either full- or part-time. He might also run selected sports car races in IMSA or the World Endurance Championship, including a possible seat in the NASCAR Project 96 car at Le Mans. Stay tuned for further news.
Max Verstappen scored his fifth consecutive Formula 1 victory at Monza on Sunday, but it was behind the safety car. When Daniel Ricciardo stalled on course eight laps from the end, it took several laps to remove his car. Then, following the rule book concerning lapped cars, the lap count expired before the field could be set for a restart. I’m sure Lewis Hamilton had flashbacks to last year’s Abu Dhabi season finale, where the rules were bent, costing him his eighth championship. With six races to go, he can kiss that goodbye this year, as well, as he cannot gain enough points to beat Verstappen. Max could very well clinch the title at the next race in Singapore on Oct. 2. On another note, Nyck De Vries scored two points for Williams in his F1 debut, subbing for Alex Albom, who was out with appendicitis.
The biggest domino of all fell in NASCAR’s silly season last week. Rumors proved to be true, as Richard Childress Racing announced that Kyle Busch would drive the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro for the team in 2023 and beyond. It has been known for most of the season that Busch would be out at Joe Gibbs Racing unless a sponsor was found to replace Mars. When Richard Childress Racing rumors started flying, the joke was, “What team that wanted to punch Kyle Busch would hire him?” The reference was to the 2011 dustup between Busch and Childress, who actually did punch Busch … several times. Of course, the answer to the joke was “every team.”
But in the end, the two patched up their differences and Busch will team with Austin Dillon and possibly Tyler Reddick in a third car. Reddick is headed for a Gibbs satellite team, 23XI Racing, in 2024, but may be at loose ends next season. You can’t make this stuff up.