Roger Diez: NHRA joins the lineup with Gatornationals

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

Last week was a happy one for race fans, with Formula One, NTT IndyCar, and NASCAR Cup all in action. One race was a runaway, but the other two featured a late-race pass for the win. This weekend F1 and IndyCar are idle while NASCAR is at Phoenix and the NHRA opens its 2023 season with the Gatornationals in Florida.


Max Verstappen demonstrated in no uncertain terms that he and Red Bull are the benchmark for the 2023 F1 season. Starting from the pole, Verstappen only lost the lead during pit stops, taking the checker a comfortable 12 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez for a Red Bull 1-2 finish.

Fernando Alonso, in his first outing with Aston Martin, finished third a further 26 seconds in arrears with teammate Lance Stroll sixth. Mercedes managed a 5-7 result with Lewis Hamilton ahead of George Russell while an engine issue sidelined Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, causing the race’s only virtual safety car caution. Carlos Sainz brought the other Ferrari home fourth. The next race will be next Sunday in Saudi Arabia.


The infield looked like a junkyard by the end of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener for the NTT IndyCar series. A first lap crash took out five competitors including both Meyer-Shank entries, and saw the first of two cars getting airborne. By the end of the race only 16 of the 27 starters were classified as still running with 12 on the lead lap.

Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward looked to have the race in hand until a momentary engine glitch allowed 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson to pass for the lead two laps from the end. Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon was third. It was the Ganassi team’s second St. Petersburg win in 20 races.

The usually dominant Team Penske could only manage seventh, 13th and 17th place finishes. The series will return to action April 2 for the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.


Kyle Larson had the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas well in hand until a late caution led to an overtime finish. Teammate William Byron beat Larson out of the pits for the restart, and that was all she wrote.

Byron, who led 176 of the 271 laps, was the dominant car for much of the day. Alex Bowman joined Byron and Larson at the checker for a 1-2-3 Hendrick Chevy finish. The Toyotas of Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell rounded out the top five.

Three races into the season we have three different winners. Last season saw 15 different winners fill all but one playoff slot. Will 2023 equal or better that record? It’s far too early to predict, but it is evident that the Gen 7 racecar has significantly evened the playing field.


NASCAR closes out the spring west coast swing this weekend in Phoenix. With nine wins at the flat, one-mile oval in the desert, Kevin Harvick is looking to extend that to double digits in his final year in Cup. Harvick has been phenomenal at the track, winning every year between 2012 and 2016 and sweeping both Phoenix races in 2006 and 2014. His last win there was in 2018.

Joey Logano has three Phoenix wins including last November’s championship round, Kyle Busch has won twice, and one-time winners are Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin.

Logano and Ryan Blaney are the favorites at 8-1, Larson is 9-1, and Hamlin, Truex, Busch, Bell, Harvick, and Ross Chastain share 10-1 odds.

Josh Berry will sub on ovals for Chase Elliott, who will be out for six weeks. Jordan Taylor will drive the No. 9 Camaro at the Circuit of the Americas.


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