The NTT IndyCar season wrapped last Sunday, and a second driver locked into the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs. This week’s Bristol race will determine the four drivers who will not advance to the next round, and Formula 1 is back in action in Singapore.
This year’s NTT IndyCar season finale was an anti-climax with the championship already settled in favor of Alex Palou. Early in the race it appeared that Palou would close out his championship season with another win, as he led early on. But one of the race’s many yellow flags fell at an inopportune time, shuffling him back to mid-pack.
His Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon used racecraft and his phenomenal fuel-saving ability to surge to the front. Dixon took the checker, winning for the first time at the Monterey track, seven seconds ahead of fellow New Zealander Scott McLaughlin. Palou recovered to take third, finishing the season with 656 points to Dixon’s 578. McLaughlin was a further 90 points back, just four ahead of Pato O’Ward. Josef Newgarden’s disastrous race at Laguna dropped him from third to fifth in points, five behind O’Ward.
For 2024 Laguna Seca moves from the end of the schedule to second in the order on March 24, following the season opener at St. Petersburg on March 10. The new street circuit in Nashville will close out next year’s schedule Sept. 15.
Tyler Reddick only led two laps in last Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, but the second one was good for the win in overtime. Kyle Larson was the lap leader with 99, but finished fourth behind Reddick, Denny Hamlin, and Eric Jones. Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
The big loser was regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. who was out after only three laps when a right rear tire failed. Rear tire failures became an issue during the race, but only three cars failed to finish. Truex’s 36th place finish put him seven points below the cut line, joining Bubba Wallace (-19), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-22) and Michael McDowell (-40) in negative territory going into Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Cup cars will go 500 laps around the high-banked half mile oval, which usually features tight racing, a lot of contact, and frayed tempers. Chris Buescher won the Bristol night race last year, one of seven drivers in the field who have accomplished that feat. Kyle Busch has won it three times with Kevin Harvick, Hamlin, and Logano two-time winners. Larson and Brad Keselowski join Buescher with single wins each.
Opening odds for Saturday’s race favor Larson at 11-2 with Hamlin and William Byron both at 15-2. Christopher Bell is at 8-1, Keselowski 17-2, and Chase Elliott 10-1. Busch, Buescher, and Harvick are 11-1, 12-1, and 13-1 respectively, while four drivers share 14-1 odds. They are Truex, Logano, Ross Chastain, and Ryan Blaney. USA will broadcast the race beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Formula 1 also has a night race this weekend. But since it’s in Singapore, it will air here in the usual early morning timeframe. The biggest question of the race is how large Max Verstappen’s margin of victory will be. The Red Bull driver is in a class by himself this season, and chances are he will clinch the drivers’ championship in the next two or three races. That means that he will be 2023 champion by the time the series arrives at the Circuit of the Americas next month, with five races still to go.
Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix will air on ESPN at 5 a.m. with qualifying Saturday at 6 a.m. on ESPN2.