Roger Diez: Passing fancy move causes a stir | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Passing fancy move causes a stir

Roger Diez

Controversial late-race passes became the topic of discussion last weekend. Saturday night, the Verizon IndyCar series raced at Gateway in St. Louis for the first time in 14 years, and the Penske cars took the first four starting spots to begin the race. At the end it was Penske teammates dueling for the win when Josef Newgarden stuffed his car inside of leader Simon Pagenaud, and going onto take his third victory in the last four races and four total on the season. Pagenaud, who lost momentum from the pass, ended up third behind Ganassi driver Scott Dixon. “Simon gave me a lane to work with,” said Newgarden after the race, but Pagenaud seemed to disagree, characterizing Newgarden’s move as a nice road course pass but neither appropriate nor safe at 190 mph. With just two races remaining in the season, Newgarden has a 31 point lead over Dixon. The other three Penske drivers occupy the next three spots, and all have a mathematical chance of taking the championship. The series races at Watkins Glen this weekend and ends the season with a double-points race at Sonoma in two weeks.

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The second incident was in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America last Sunday. Coming to the white flag, Jeremy Clements, winless in 256 series starts, was closing on leader Matt Tifft. As they rounded the final corner headed for the white flag, Clemens made contact and both cars spun. But Clements got re-fired and took off before the third-place car came by, holding on for the win and giving his low-budget family-owned team the victory of a lifetime. Not incidentally, he also punched his ticket to the playoffs. The series races today at Darlington.

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There was no such drama in the Formula One race at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, as Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton dominated. Setting new qualifying and race records, Hamilton easily romped to his fifth win of the season and pulled to within seven points of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the drivers’ championship.

This weekend the F1 circus travels to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, giving the Ferrari team extra incentive to perform well for the home crowd.

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After its final break of the season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series is back for an unbroken run to the championship race at Homestead on Nov. 19. This weekend it’s Darlington, one of the oldest tracks on the circuit, and the Southern 500, one of the oldest races for the series. It’s a weekend when many teams bring out retro paint schemes, harking back to the glory days of the 1970s and ’80s. While not a retro paint job, Joey Logano’s No. 22 Penske Ford will be in the livery of the American Red Cross to remind fans to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. All NASCAR competitors this weekend will carry stickers reminding fans to donate, and the NASCAR Foundation has pledged to match donations.

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So who will win at Darlington? Will it be a driver already qualified for the playoffs, or will we see a new contender lock himself in? There are seven past Darlington winners in the field, and Jimmie Johnson is the only multiple winner. He has three Darlington wins, the most recent in 2012. Last fall’s winner Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch have each scored one Darlington victory. Known variously as “The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” and famous for the “Darlington Stripe,” Sunday’s race promises to be a test of NASCAR’s new five minute repair rule for crash damage.

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In other NASCAR news, Hendrick Motorsports has announced William Byron will take over the No. 24 Chevy for 2018, and Chase Elliott will be aboard the No. 9 machine, a number made famous by his father, 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott. Jeff Gordon declared himself proud Byron is taking over his former number, and says the young man will do well. The Hendrick stable for 2018 consists of three up-and-coming youngsters, Elliott, Byron, and Alex Bowman, led by grizzled veteran, seven-time champion Johnson. A potent combination.