Roger Diez: Big racing weekend on tap | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Big racing weekend on tap

Roger Diez

This weekend is perhaps the biggest of the racing season. Unfortunately, some competitors will be sitting it out due to injuries. First there was Aric Almirola’s fractured vertebrae at Kansas, putting him on the sidelines for an indefinite period. The following week Sebastien Bourdais had a frightening crash during Indy qualifying, resulting in a broken right hip and multiple fractures of his pelvis. The good news is he’s had surgery and been released from the hospital, but he’s got a long road to recovery. It will be six to eight weeks before he can put weight on his right leg, and lots of rehab after that. But he hopes to be back in the car by the end of the season. James Davison will replace him for Sunday’s Indy 500, but no word yet on a replacement driver for the remainder of the season.

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This seems to be the season of substitutes in all three major racing series. We noted above Davison will fill in for Bourdais at Indy. Regan Smith will be in the No. 43 Richard Petty Racing Ford, taking the place of the injured Almirola, and Jensen Button will come out of retirement to fill former teammate Alonso’s seat in the McLaren Honda at Monaco while the Spaniard tries to win at Indy.

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Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will start the 101st Indy 500 from the pole Sunday. His four-lap average speed was 232.164 mph, the fastest pole speed in more than 20 years. The record was set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996 at 236.986, using much higher boost than today’s engines. Ed Carpenter and last year’s winner Alexander Rossi will start alongside Dixon in the front row. Formula One ace Fernando Alonso will make his first Indy start from the middle of row two. Honda-powered teams pretty much ruled qualifying, but the race is an entirely different proposition.

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On Sunday, race fans will be treated to a trifecta of speed. The Monaco Grand Prix, arguably the most famous, glamorous, and difficult Formula One race of the season, will kick off the action at 5 a.m. on NBC Sports Network. Indy is next on ABC starting at 9 a.m., followed by the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, starting at 3 p.m. on FOX.

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Last Saturday’s NASCAR All-Star race showcased some confusion about the option tire rules, with Clint Bowyer’s crew chief electing to “mix and match” tire compounds by taking two, and Brad Keselowski’s team trying to mount the option tires twice, only to be told they were a one-use-only set. Kyle Larson continued to show he’s a contender for the 2017 Cup title, winning the first two stages. But Kyle Busch demonstrated his mastery of the restart when the green flag waved for the 10-lap final sprint. Busch took home the $1 million check, Larson was second, and seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson was third in the final after winning stage three.

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The All-Star race was a tune-up for Sunday’s Coke 600 for most Cup competitors. It’s the longest race of the season at 600 miles and goes from daylight to twilight to dark, which gives the crew chiefs both headaches and strategic opportunities. Kevin Harvick will start from the pole with Kyle Busch alongside, Chase Elliott third and Matt Kenseth fourth. Noticeably missing from the front of the field is Larson. Practice crash damage repairs delayed getting the car to tech inspection, and qualifying began before the car was cleared to compete. Although the damage was somewhat self-inflicted in this instance, getting cars through NASCAR’s “room of doom” in a timely fashion has been an ongoing issue this year. Whether it’s caused by more stringent requirements in the inspection equipment, crew chiefs pushing the limits up to (and sometimes beyond) the edge, or a combination of both, it needs to be addressed. As a fan of any sport will tell you, when officiating begins to affect the sport’s outcome, it’s time to address the rules or their enforcement and let the competitors play the game. Are you listening, NASCAR?