The 2024 NASCAR season began with an unusual schedule change. With predictions of a biblical deluge in Southern California last Sunday, NASCAR called an audible and crammed the entire Busch Clash program into one day on Saturday. Heat races and the last-chance qualifier were canceled, and the 23-car grid was determined by qualifying runs. 2023 Cup champion Ryan Blaney took the provisional to start dead last. The Toyotas were strong with Ty Gibbs leading 84 of the 150 laps and Denny Hamlin leading 58 and taking the win. The only other lap leaders were the Fords of Joey Logano (8) and Brad Keselowski (1). Kyle Busch had the highest finish for Chevrolet in second. Blaney came from the back to take third, Logano was fourth, and Kyle Larson was fifth in the second highest-finishing Chevy. And, appropriately for an event named the Clash, there were a few clashes during and after the race. Joey Logano had a heated discussion with Ty Gibbs; Ross Chastain expressed his displeasure with Tyler Reddick; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. exited his car to yell at John Hunter Nemechek during the mid-race break. Kevin Harvick made his transition from racecar to broadcast booth, seamlessly blending in with Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer. The new bodywork on the Fords and Toyotas might have provided them an advantage on the short quarter-mile oval, but will likely have much more effect next week at Daytona.
The news broke after press time last week, so I wasn’t able to comment on perhaps the biggest story ever in Formula 1. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of the season to join Ferrari. Hamilton has had frustrating seasons the last two years as Mercedes has not provided him with a car to score wins, although Hamilton managed to finish third in the drivers’ championship. But he has been winless since 2021, an intolerable situation for the driver who has won 103 F1 races. I hope Mercedes will give him a better car this season, but he will be leaving regardless. Ferrari scored the only non-Red Bull race win in 2023 with Carlos Sainz taking the victory in Singapore. The big question this season is whether anyone can compete with Red Bull. Last season was a record-setting one for Red Bull, scoring double the points of second-place Mercedes.
In other news, Formula 1 has rejected Michael Andretti’s attempt to field a team in the series beginning in 2025. The three-page decision cited a number of factors, first that Andretti’s team’s association with General Motors did not include a supply of power units initially. F1 expressed concern about the timetable of those units being available. Andretti has been negotiating with Renault for an interim unit. Although a guarantee of available GM power units on the application would have helped, F1 was also concerned about the viability of a new constructor and new power unit being viable, noting that attempts by new constructors over the last few decades have been largely unsuccessful. The rejection was summed up in the sentence, “We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant.” They did, however, hold out hope that they would look differently at a team with a GM power unit in 2028. Andretti was reportedly not pleased with the decision.
Finally, a distraction that Red Bull didn’t need with pre-season testing coming up in two weeks. Red Bull officials have confirmed that team boss Christian Horner is under investigation by the team for unspecified “inappropriate conduct.” Horner, who has been at the helm since the team’s F1 debut in 2005, has denied any wrongdoing.