Roger Diez: Plenty of Power in Indy 500
June 1, 2018
The biggest racing weekend of the year is in the record books, and it provided milestones in major racing series across the world. Will Power won his first Indy 500, vaulting him to the top of the Verizon IndyCar series point standings, two points ahead of Alexander Rossi. It was also the 17th Indy 500 win for Roger Penske as a team owner. In Monaco, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo dominated the proceedings, setting fast time in practice and qualifying and winning the race despite a nagging engine problem. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was second ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, paring Hamilton's championship lead by three points to 14. And Kyle Busch ran away from the field in NASCAR's longest race, the Coke 600 at Charlotte. So dominant was Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota many thought it must surely be illegal. But the car passed all requirements in post-race inspection. It was Busch's first points race victory at Charlotte, giving him a win on every track where the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series currently competes.
The IndyCar series moves onto Michigan this weekend for a doubleheader street race, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit. There will be two full points races, one Saturday and one Sunday. Two of NASCAR's top series, Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup, will compete on Pocono's "tricky triangle" with Xfinity racing today and Cup on Sunday.
Pocono is the only track where the NASCAR Cup cars run twice so close together, in June and July. Before 2016 the second race was in August. Eleven currently active drivers have won at Pocono, the most recent being Ryan Blaney in last year's June race and Kyle Busch in July. It was the only Pocono win for both drivers. Other one-time Pocono victors include Chris Buescher, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski. Kasey Kahne has won twice at the tricky triangle. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch have three apiece, and Denny Hamlin leads the pack with four wins. Kevin Harvick has no Pocono wins to his credit, but that could very well change on Sunday given the performance shown by the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford this season. Last Sunday Harvick was on his way from starting dead last to challenge Busch for the win until a blown tire and crash ended his day.
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Will Power leads the Penske team into Detroit with his Indy 500 crown, the 2014 series championship, and 34 Indy car wins in 11 seasons. He also has 51 poles, third to only legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. Despite these accomplishments, history isn't on Power's side to win the 2018 title in the series. The last time the Indy 500 winner also took the championship was in 2010, although Juan Pablo Montoya came close in 2015, losing the title in a tiebreaker. Power now leads the point standings, although by only two, but most of the season is still ahead. Perhaps this double-race weekend will be an indication his season has turned around.
Finally, by now all racing fans are aware the stars of the sport almost universally begin at a young age in karts. We have a marvelous track in the area, Desert Park Raceway in Stead. It's a .699 mile, nine-turn road course layout that teaches young drivers car control and racing skills. Karters will take to the track there next weekend, including Carson City's Tanner Schultz, who's currently fourth in the point standings in the Junior 2 LO206 class. I announced Northern Nevada Kart Club (NNKC) races there in the 1990s, and the races entertaining. Who knows, you might even spot racing's next big star there.