Last weekend a third driver locked into the next round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs and a record-breaking win streak ended in Formula 1. This weekend Formula 1 is in Japan and NASCAR races at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was an awful, no good, very bad weekend for Red Bull in Singapore. Neither championship leader Max Verstappen nor teammate Sergio Perez advanced to Q3 on Saturday, qualifying 11th and 13th. Verstappen also faced penalties for impeding other cars but got off with a reprimand. Perhaps not coincidentally, the sanctioning body began cracking down on flexible wings. Could this be related to Red Bull’s poor performance?
In any event, Carlos Sainz took pole and went on to win, surviving the most competitive and exciting half-dozen laps of the whole season as he held off Lando Norris’s McLaren and the Mercedes cars of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. Russell’s last lap crash elevated Hamilton to a podium finish in third, as well as to third place in the drivers’ championship standings. Verstappen managed a fifth-place finish and Liam Lawson scored his first F1 points in 10th in only his third race. Lawson is sitting in at Alpha Tauri for Daniel Ricciardo, who broke his hand in a practice accident at Zandvoort.
Coming up this weekend is the Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka. Verstappen is the defending champion while Hamilton has five wins in Japan. Qualifying is Friday night and the race will air on ESPN at 11 p.m. Saturday.
Denny Hamlin dominated at Bristol last Saturday, advancing to the Round of 12 with a win. But four drivers were eliminated from the playoffs including two former champions and three Daytona 500 winners.
Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael McDowell will not contest for the 2023 championship. Both Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace drove strategic races to point their way into the next round, which begins this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Also at Bristol, Corey Heim won the Craftsman Truck race, locking himself into the Phoenix championship round and Justin Allgaier took the Xfinity win, advancing him to the Round of Eight.
Going into the Round of 12, Truex is tied with William Byron at 3,036 points due to Truex’s regular season championship win. Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson are the most recent winners at Texas, while Kyle Busch has the most wins there with four. Hamlin has three Texas Victories while Ryan Blaney is last year’s All-Star race winner there. Non-playoff drivers with Texas wins are Harvick with three and Logano and Austin Dillon with one each.
The oddsmakers have Larson as the favorite for Sunday’s race, tied with Hamlin at 9-2 odds. Byron is 7-1, Truex and Reddick 8-1, and Christopher Bell 11-1. Blaney and Busch are tied at 12-1 and Chris Buescher is 15-1. Chase Elliott is the first non-playoff driver, tied at 16-1 with Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace is at 18-1.
Qualifying airs Saturday at 11:20 a.m. and the Xfinity Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 is at 12:30 p.m., both on USA. Sunday, USA will also broadcast the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 for the Cup cars at 12:30 p.m.
Finally, a sad note. Sherry Pollex, longtime companion of Martin Truex Jr., has passed away from cancer at age 44. Although they are no longer together, Pollex and Truex were very active in the fight against cancer. They founded Catwalk for a Cause, a charity fashion show that involved the NASCAR community in raising over $4 million to combat the disease.
Pollex and Truex received the Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing in 2017.