Buescher latest driver to close in on Chase | NevadaAppeal.com

Buescher latest driver to close in on Chase

Roger Diez

After an extremely busy race schedule last weekend, two major series will be on hiatus for a bit. The IndyCar series Mid-Ohio round last Sunday was the series’ last until August 21, and Formula One will not race again until August 28. Simon Pagenaud beat Penske Racing teammate Will Power to the checkered flag at Mid-Ohio, scoring his fourth IndyCar victory of the season and extending his point lead to 58 over Power. Lewis Hamilton provided German F1 fans with mixed feelings at Hockenheim, taking the win for Mercedes but beating out his teammate and German favorite Nico Rosberg. Hamilton is now 19 points ahead of Rosberg in the title chase.

Not taking this weekend off are the NHRA Mello Yello series and NASCAR’s Sprint Cup. In last Sunday’s NHRA round at Sonoma Raceway, J.R. Todd won Top Fuel honors, Jon Force topped Ron Capps to take the Funny Car win, the Pro Stock victory went to Greg Anderson, and the Pro Stock Motorcycle winner was L.E. Tonglet. The weather-plagued NASCAR Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono was delayed until Monday due to rain and finally ended 22 laps short of the scheduled distance due to heavy fog. Rookie Chris Buescher took a gamble on fuel and the weather and came up a winner. It was the first Cup victory for the 2015 Xfinity series champion. But Buescher now has to advance to the top 30 in points to make the win eligible for a Chase berth. He’s currently in 31st.

Assuming Buescher makes the Chase, there are now 12 drivers with regular season wins and four Chase slots to be filled on points. That could change this weekend at Watkins Glen, where anything can happen. A.J. Allmendinger is my top pick of non-winners to take the checker at the Glen as he did in 2014 to score his only Cup victory. Tony Stewart’s five wins at the Glen top the NASCAR stats. Jeff Gordon has four Glen victories, and will get another shot to tie Stewart on Sunday, as he will sit in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for at least two more races. Kyle Busch has won at the Glen twice, and Joey Logano is the most recent winner, taking the checker last August. The race will air on the USA Channel due to the Olympics.

I’m a huge proponent of rules in racing, particularly those that pertain to safety and fairness. But sometimes the rule makers seem to stick their heads where the sun don’t shine. I recall a rule in IndyCar a few years back prohibiting the leader from choosing his line into the first corner. I thought that was the dumbest rule ever made, and I’ve seen some pretty dumb ones. But perhaps the stupidest thing I ever saw was this year’s rule in Formula One that prevented teams from talking to drivers on the radio, even about safety issues with their cars! That one raised such a hue and cry among teams, racing press, and fans the FIA finally pulled its head out and rescinded the ban completely at the German Grand Prix last weekend. It was rare and wonderful to see common sense prevail for once. Now we need to start lobbying NASCAR to stop issuing such harsh penalties for loose lug nuts discovered in post-race inspection. Several crew chiefs have received one-race suspensions plus fines for the infraction, which I think resembles giving a jail sentence for overtime parking. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. OK, rant over. Carry on.

Looking at Chase scenarios as the Sprint Cup regular season enters the final five-race stretch, four drivers are locked in with multiple wins; Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch with four each, and Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth with two apiece. Kevin Harvick leads the point standings and has a win, so he’s safe although not officially locked in yet. In fact, most drivers with wins will lock in following the Glen, since we can have four more new winners without bumping anybody. And with the news Junior is out for two more races, it’s all but certain he’s not going to be in the 2016 Chase.