Roger Diez: Reviewing the busiest day in racing | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Reviewing the busiest day in racing

Roger Diez

Last Sunday was racing’s busiest day of the year, and it provided thrills, spills, and excitement. The day featured two first-time race winners, red flags, a safety car, a rain delay, and two nail-biter finishes.

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The Formula One race at Monaco kicked off the day’s events, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel winning handily ahead of teammate and polesitter Kimi Raikkonen. It was the first Ferrari win at Monaco since 2001. Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo took the third podium spot, with the vaunted Mercedes silver arrows finishing fourth (Valtteri Bottas) and seventh (Lewis Hamilton). It was Mercedes’ worst outing at Monaco in memory.

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Takuma Sato, veteran of Formula One and IndyCar racing, outdueled three-time Indy champ Helio Castroneves to take the checkered flag and have his face emblazoned on the Borg-Warner trophy. Sato switched from A.J. Foyt to Andretti Autosport this season, which proved to be a good move for both driver and team. The race wasn’t without issue, however. Scott Dixon was lucky to escape from a frightening crash when his airborne car came down on a safety barrier and catch fence, literally tearing the car to pieces. Thanks to continuous safety improvements to the cars and the track, he limped away with only a slightly injured ankle. When the race resumed, Honda engine failures became the story as both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Fernando Alonso suffered exploded powerplants. Alonso was in position for an excellent finish and possibly the win after leading laps. More crashes and engine failures decimated the field, leaving only 19 of the 33 starters running at the finish.

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at the end of the day came down to a fuel economy run after an almost two-hour rain delay. Jimmie Johnson looked like he had the race in the bag until his tank ran dry a lap and a half short of the finish. Austin Dillon crossed the line ahead of a closing Kyle Busch, then ran out of gas before he could do a burnout to celebrate his first Cup victory. The team had to push the car to victory circle. Busch proved himself to be a sore loser with a surly comment and a mic drop after the race. Dillon is now in the playoffs in his iconic No. 3 Chevy.

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Formula One has a bye this weekend, but the Verizon IndyCar series makes up for it with a doubleheader at Belle Isle in Detroit. There will be complete points races both Saturday and Sunday. Indy winner Sato goes into the weekend tied for second in the point standings with defending series champ Simon Pagenaud at 234 points apiece. They’re just 11 points behind leader Castroneves’ 245. Filling in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais at Detroit will be former F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez. And it was also announced Tony Kanaan will replace Bourdais at the Lemans 24 hour race, driving a Ford GT for Chip Ganassi Racing. It will be Kanaan’s first Lemans start, although he co-drove a Ganassi Ford GT to a fifth in class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

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And all three of NASCAR’s top series are in action at Dover this weekend. The Camping World Trucks raced Friday, the Xfinity series is on tap for this afternoon, and the Monster Energy Cup cars will compete Sunday. Dover is a Jimmie Johnson playground with 10 wins the bank for the No. 48 Lowes Chevy. Johnson’s first win was in 2002, his most recent in 2015. Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman have each won three Dover Cup races, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch have two wins each, and Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski have visited the Dover victory circle once. Going into the halfway point of the “regular” Cup season, Truex sits atop the point standings with 491 and two wins. Kyle Larson has one win and 486 points, while Keselowski sits third at 409 and two victories. Harvick and Kyle Busch sit fourth and fifth respectively in the point standings at 388 and 386, but neither has won yet in 2017.