Roger Diez: Bowyer ends drought after snow in Martinsville | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Bowyer ends drought after snow in Martinsville

Roger Diez
Clint Bowyer, center right, celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., on Monday.
AP | FR 171594 AP

The long drought is over for Clint Bowyer, who broke a 190-race winless streak on Monday at Martinsville. Yes, Monday. After rain canceled Saturday’s qualifying session for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup cars, a blanket of snow rendered the track useless for racing on Sunday. And Goodyear doesn’t make snow tires for NASCAR’s premier series, so both the Cup and Camping World Truck races were moved to Monday. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota was the car to beat early on, winning stage 1, while Ryan Blaney took his Penske Ford to the front after the restart and won the second stage. But Bowyer’s Ford came into its own and dominated the final stage to win the race overall ahead of Kyle Busch, who finished behind yet again to one of the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers.

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Six races into the season, NASCAR has run a restrictor plate track, a short track, one-mile and two-mile ovals and a couple of 1.5-mile tracks, just about every configuration but a road course. And it’s apparent the Ford teams are way ahead of the rest, even though the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are first and second in the point standings. With the exception of Austin Dillon punting Aric Almirola to take the Daytona win, Chevy teams are struggling with the new Camaro bodywork. The Ganassi drivers, particularly Kyle Larson, seem to be the best of the bowtie bunch. But the once dominant Hendrick teams are struggling, even seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. There’s only so much you can do in the wind tunnel and the simulator, and NASCAR’s current lack of testing opportunities doesn’t lend itself to rapid development of a new model.

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The two biggest problems plaguing the Cup series this year are still awaiting resolution. Since there was no qualifying at Martinsville, we don’t know how many cars, if any, wouldn’t have passed the optical inspection station. And there was a serious air gun failure, as a gun literally came apart in the tire changer’s hand. Pit Reporter Vince Welch showed the gun on TV, and it’s a mystery how the tire changer managed to complete the stop and get the lug nuts tight. Pure adrenaline, I imagine.

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All the major auto racing series’ are off for the Easter holiday, so it’s a quiet weekend for race fans. However, all hell breaks loose next week. NASCAR is at Texas Motor Speedway, the IndyCar series races in Phoenix, Formula One takes to the track in Bahrain, and NHRA is staging the first four-wide Nationals at Las Vegas.

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Locally, Fernley 95A Speedway will open its 2018 season on the 3/8 mile clay oval on April 7. Reports from the March 17 test and tune indicate the track is in excellent racing shape, so fans are in for some exciting action. Due to the early onset of darkness this time of year, action is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Stock cars, Modifieds, and chain racing are on the program.

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Formula One opened its season in Australia last weekend, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton appeared to be the odds-on favorite after shattering the old qualifying record by more than two seconds to take the pole. Hamilton rocketed away from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the start and pulled away steadily until pitting for tires. However, a computer glitch in the Mercedes pit, coupled with a virtual safety car situation, saw Vettel exit the pits ahead of Hamilton after his tire stop. The Mercedes stayed in touch until Hamilton’s tires gave up the ghost in the waning laps, and Ferrari drew first blood in this season’s war. Hamilton finished second with Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen on the podium in third. Ferrari now has the lead in the constructor’s championship race and Vettel sits atop the driving championship standings heading into Bahrain next weekend.