It was a Monster at Fernley
Fernley 95A Speedway hosted a Monster Truck show last weekend, much to the enjoyment of the large crowd on Saturday and the somewhat smaller one on Sunday. It was fascinating to watch a six-ton vehicle leap 20 feet into the air, and the wheelie contest between Bounty Hunter and track owner Dan Simpson’s sprint car was equally entertaining. The chain races provided some comic relief, and Simpson allowed he might consider adding them to the track’s regular racing programs.
Carson City’s Mackena Bell finished 23rd at Iowa last weekend, ahead of two of her Revolution Racing teammates and behind the other two. She went into Watkins Glen for last night’s race 16th in points, looking for a resurgence in what has been so far a disappointing season. Growing up on short dirt and asphalt ovals, Bell’s road course experience is limited, so Watkins Glen and the next race at Virginia International will be a challenge. Bell qualified 21st for Friday night’s race but results were not available at press time.
As the opportunities to make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship ebb away, more drivers seem to be piling up multiple wins. A case in point was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory at Pocono last weekend, where he battled with Kevin Harvick in the closing laps to take his third win of the season. He joins teammate Jimmie Johnson and Penske driver Brad Keselowski as the only three-time winners so far this season. With only five races to go and 11 drivers with at least one win, all those drivers who have scored a victory so far are safely in the Chase unless they happen to fall out of the top 30 in points. At the moment Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, and Kurt Busch are one-race winners but down in the point standings at 21st, 22nd, and 23rd respectively. Sunday’s road course round at Watkins Glen is probably the best opportunity for a so-far winless driver to score a victory. Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr., and Tony Stewart are three good road racers who haven’t won yet, but a lot of folks with one or more in the win column are also formidable on a road course. Qualifying for both Nationwide and Sprint Cup take place this morning, with the Nationwide series race coverage starting at 11 a.m. today and Sprint Cup coverage Sunday at 10 a.m. Qualifying will be aired on ESPN2, the Nationwide race on ESPN, and the Sprint Cup race on ABC.
In sponsorship news, a severe cutback in its marketing budget has caused the National Guard to drop sponsorship of both Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR and Graham Rahal in the IndyCar series for the 2015 season. This is somewhat ironic, given the piece that was aired last Sunday during the IndyCar broadcast, featuring both drivers immersing themselves in Guard activities with soldiers.
Last week’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was interesting. At a track notoriously difficult for passing and the field scrambled by a wet qualifying session, Scott Dixon used strategy to come from the back of the pack to take the first win of the season for the Target Ganassi team. Sebastian Bourdais backed up his Toronto win with a strong second at Mid-Ohio, but it was a disastrous points day for Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who had electrical problems on the pace lap. Although the team finally got the car running, he was laps down and never in contention. Teammate Will Power re-took the points lead from Castroneves and leads by 548 to 544 with three races remaining in the season. Ryan Hunter-Reay is a distant third, 59 points behind Castroneves, and Dixon’s win gave him a mathematical chance at another championship. However, this season there’s a catch. The final race at California Speedway on Aug. 30 is a double points race, making it worth as much as the Aug. 17 Milwaukee round and the Aug. 24 Sonoma contest combined. So the title chase is guaranteed to be settled at the final race of the season.