Roger Diez: Larson tired of finishing second
Kyle Larson is well on his way to Mark Martin status in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup series. Despite having one in the win column, last weekend’s Dover race was his fifth second-place finish of the season. After totally dominating the race and leading 241 of the 400 laps, Larson lost out to the Master of the Monster Mile, Jimmie Johnson, on an overtime restart. It was Johnson’s 83rd Cup victory, tying him with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time win list in the series. It was his 11th Dover win, also an incredible achievement. Oh, and Johnson is now 2017’s first three-time race winner as well. We’re only halfway through the “regular season,” but it’s starting to look like an eighth championship for JJ is a real possibility.
The Verizon IndyCar series saw another driver join the ranks of 2017 winners on Saturday in the first half of a doubleheader. Then on Sunday, that same young American, Graham Rahal, became the first two-time winner of the year, taking both races and humbling the likes of the Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti teams. Rahal’s pair of victories vaults him into sixth in the point standings, the only driver not on a “big three” team in the top 10. The series races again tonight at the incredibly fast Texas Motor Speedway, their fourth race in three weekends.
Joining IndyCar at Texas, the NASCAR Camping World Truck series raced Friday night. NASCAR’s other two premier series are at the Pocono “tricky triangle” this weekend, with the Xfinity cars taking to the track today and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup teams racing Sunday. Eleven active Cup drivers have won at Pocono, with Johnson leading the pack at three visits to victory lane. Kurt Busch has won twice, as have Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Denny Hamlin. Drivers with one Pocono victory are Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, and the winner of last year’s rain-shortened July outing, Chris Buescher. But Pocono is ripe for a new face in the winner’s circle, and it could be Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, or even Erik Jones — all youngsters who are showing impressive speed and promise. And let’s not forget the increasingly frustrated Kyle Busch, who has yet to win at Pocono and who hasn’t yet posted a points race victory in 2017. Busch will be at a disadvantage this week, due to missing crew chief Adam Stevens as well as a first-string tire changer and tire carrier. All three were suspended for four races due to an incident at Pocono that saw Busch leave his pit with the left rear tire unsecured.
Richard Petty Motorsports has announced Darrell (Bubba) Wallace Jr. will drive the No. 43 Ford beginning this weekend at Pocono, filling in for the recuperating Aric Almirola. Roush-Fenway Racing has released Wallace to take the Cup ride and has suspended operations for the No. 6 Xfinity entry which he has driven the past two seasons. Wallace has five wins in the Camping World Truck series, and has been impressive in the Xfinity series, although results have been hampered by bad luck. Wallace came on the scene in the K&N Pro Series East several years ago as part of the Drive for Diversity program under the Revolution Racing banner. He was featured in a reality TV series, “Changing Lanes” along with Carson City’s Mackena Bell, who was also part of the Drive for Diversity program at the time.
Finally, there’s a new sheriff in town in Formula One. He’s dressed in red and is named Ferrari. After the Scuderia’s domination of both qualifying and the race in Monaco, the formerly dominant Mercedes team is scrambling to come up with a winning formula for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. After three seasons of being virtually unchallenged, the Mercedes Silver Arrows find themselves in second place in both the driver’s and constructor’s championship standings. Canada will indicate whether that condition is permanent or temporary.