Roger Diez: Big Three continue to lead the pack |

Roger Diez: Big Three continue to lead the pack

Roger Diez

The Big Three continue its stranglehold on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title race, as Kevin Harvick scored a dominant win last Sunday at Michigan, leading 108 of the 200 laps and sweeping all three stages. The coolest thing about the race was the participation of Harvick’s six-year-old son Keelan in the victory celebration. The youngster got to pick up the checkered flag, ride along on the victory lap, and spray a hapless bystander with water in Victory Circle. It doesn’t get any better than that. The other two Big Three members had mixed results. Kyle Busch finished a respectable but unappreciated third while Martin Truex Jr.’s rough day yielded a 14th place. Austin Dillon had the highest-finishing Chevy in fourth, with Chase Elliot in ninth the only other Camaro in the top 10.

With just three races left until the playoffs begin, Kyle Busch looks to be the odds-on favorite to win the regular season title. Busch has 986 points, 62 ahead of Harvick’s 924. Although behind in regular points, Harvick has amassed 40 playoff points to Busch’s 35 and Truex’s 27. Those points can be important in overcoming a bad race in the playoffs. Harvick also has the lead in stage wins, 12. That’s as many as Busch’s five and Truex’s seven combined. Eight drivers have now qualified for the post-season with victories, and chances are this will still be the case after the Brickyard 400. It will be the first time since NASCAR went to a post-season championship format that so few many drivers will get in on points alone.

This weekend it’s one of those potential game-changer races. It’s Bristol, Baby! Fans of the “rubbin’ is racin’” and “have at it, boys” style of racing will love it. The guys responsible for fixing all the bent sheet metal, not so much. Including the last two Bristol outings, Kyle Busch has won seven times there, the record among active drivers. Brother Kurt has five Bristol wins to his credit, but the last one was 12 seasons ago. Jimmie Johnson scored the second of his two Bristol wins in April of last year. Other recent winners include Joey Logano (2015 and 2014), Harvick (2016 and 2005), Matt Kenseth (2015 and 2013), Kasey Kahne (2013), Denny Hamlin (2012), and Brad Keselowski (2012 and 2011). Of the last 10 Bristol races, Toyota has won four with three apiece going to Ford and Chevy.

Speaking of Kasey Kahne, he announced last week 2018 will be his final season in full-time Cup competition. Kahne won 18 races in 527 starts in NASCAR’s top series, and will get 13 more tries before the season ends. Xfinity ace and former Cup driver Elliott Sadler will also retire at the end of the season. The changing of the guard in NASCAR’s top ranks is an ongoing process, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few more departures, both voluntary and involuntary, before the 2019 season gets underway.

There’s also a significant departure in another major series. Fernando Alonso announced he’s leaving Formula One at the end of the season. It’s likely he’ll move to IndyCar for 2019, potentially with assistance from McLaren. Alonso ran the 2017 Indy 500 and impressed competitors and fans alike. But he hasn’t driven the new IndyCar.