Roger Diez: Playoff chase to be laid at Brickyard
September 8, 2018
Kyle Larson demonstrated at Darlington last weekend at least one team has the Camaro chassis working well. Larson dominated the Cup race, winning the first two stages. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to close the deal when Brad Keselowski beat him out of the pits for the final restart and went onto victory. Larson finished third. Keselowski swept the weekend with a victory in both Cup and Xfinity, his first wins in either series at the track. The Brickyard 400 on Sunday will close out the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup's regular season and lock in the field for the playoffs. With Keselowski's Darlington win, 10 drivers have now scored at least one victory on the season. With Alex Bowman, 68 points above the cutline in 16th, the playoff field is set unless we have a new winner at Indy who isn't already in on points. Jimmie Johnson is the most prolific victor among active drivers at Indy with four wins, the last one in 2012. Kyle Busch has won twice, in 2015 and 2016. Kasey Kahne scored his single Indy victory last year, and other one-time winners are Ryan Newman (2013), Paul Menard (2011), Jamie McMurray (2010) and Kevin Harvick (2003). Given his performance last week at Darlington, you might want to put a couple of bucks on Larson at your local sports book.
With the announcement Furniture Row Racing is closing its doors at the end of the year, silly season intensity just got cranked up a couple of notches. Speculation is Joe Gibbs Racing, the team's partner and supplier, will bring the operation in-house. After all, you'd be crazy to split up a driver/crew chief team that has won 17 Cup races (including four this season) and the 2017 championship. But since NASCAR limits owners to four teams, somebody has to go, and that somebody is likely Daniel Suarez. When he moves to another team, the dominoes will continue to fall throughout the garage. It's going to get interesting.
The IndyCar series was back at Portland International Raceway after an 11-year hiatus for the top U.S. open-wheel series. It was a race where luck and strategy played big parts, with 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato taking his first IndyCar checkered flag on a natural road course. Championship contender Will Power experienced gearbox problems that left him laps down, and point leader Scott Dixon recovered from a first-lap multicar wreck to finish fifth. Amazingly, 18 of the 25 starters ended the race on the lead lap. So heading into the season finale at Sonoma next Sunday the championship fight is down to just Dixon and Alexander Rossi. They're just 29 points apart with double points on the line (100 to win) at Sonoma.
Recommended Stories For You
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton further consolidated his championship points lead last Sunday at Monza, much to the chagrin of the assembled Ferrari fans. Hamilton tangled with his arch-rival Sebastian Vettel on the first lap. Vettel rejoined at the back of the field and worked his way to fourth at the checker. The point spread is now 30, 256-226 for Hamilton and Vettel, while Mercedes leads Ferrari in the constructor's title race 415-390. The series races in Singapore next weekend.
Fernley 95A Speedway will be back in action next Saturday, with racing slated to begin at 6 p.m. More on this next week.
Finally, Robert Wickens, seriously injured in the Pocono IndyCar race, has been moved to Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he will undergo more surgery on his lower extremities. You can purchase Wickens hats, T-shirts, and stickers at Toronto Motorsports, and proceeds will go toward his care.