MOTORSPORTS: Busch having a great season
For the Nevada Appeal
Kurt Busch’s string of poles was broken at Infineon last weekend, but I’m pretty sure Kurt didn’t mind when he saw the checkered flag on Sunday.
Busch became the 11th winner in 16 races this season. While Kurt was putting on a dominating performance in his Penske Dodge, there was lots of entertaining action further back in the pack. Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart took “boys, have at it” to a new level, both freely admitting intentional bumping in post-race interviews. Back when I was racing at Sears Point (as it was named then) in SCCA competition, that sort of activity was severely frowned upon. If a couple of sports car drivers had done what those two did, they’d have been immediately black-flagged and probably suspended for a few races. Different sanctioning bodies, different rule. In any case, I hope they consider the score even, because Daytona is no place for retaliation.
The NASCAR Nationwide series also put on an entertaining show at Road America in Wisconsin.
The race was decided in triple overtime, with Reed Sorenson going to victory lane after road course ringer Ron Fellows was judged to have passed Sorenson under caution on the last lap of the third green-white-checker. Some of the road-racing specialists didn’t fare all that well, with a very disgruntled Max Papis ending his race in a tire wall after Jacques Villeneuve put him there with an overly optimistic pass attempt on the next-to -last restart. Villeneuve ended up third, while Michael McDowell finished 12th after he fried his tires in the late stages of the race. Personally, I would love to see Road America added to the Cup schedule. Maybe in place of the second Pocono race?
Strategy for tonight’s Sprint Cup 400-miler at Daytona should be interesting. Will we see a continuation of the two-car tango that has become the standard for restrictor-plate races, or a return to big drafting packs? Who will team up with whom if the two-car draft is the hot ticket? The Hendrick team seems to be pretty well set, with all four in the top eight after qualifying. Mark Martin on the pole for the 50th time in his career. And who will be desperate for a win in order to position themselves for a Chase berth? Tonight’s race marks the start of the 10-race run to the playoff season, the Chase for the Championship. Naturally, it has been dubbed the Race to the Chase, and the new point system combined with the new Chase eligibility rules should make things very interesting. Jeff Gordon, coming off a second-place at Infineon, sits ninth in points, but with a win under his belt he’s pretty much assured of a Chase birth. Brad Keselowski also has a victory, but is two spots out of Chase eligibility in 22nd. Other contenders for Chase positions who are currently on the bubble or out of the top 12 include Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, and Juan Pablo Montoya. By the way, if Gordon manages to win tonight, it will be his 85th victory, putting him into sole possession of third place on the all-time win list behind Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty and David Pearson.
The IndyCar Series was also on track last weekend, at the very fast Iowa Speedway 7/8 mile oval. Marco Andretti scored the second win of his career, and it was the second time this season that a Penske or Ganassi car hasn’t won. Are some of the other teams finally catching up with the two dominant teams in the final year for the current IndyCar design?
There’s no sign in Formula 1 of anybody catching up with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Vettel won again last weekend at Valencia after getting the pole again, despite a rule change that many thought would slow him down. That’s six wins and seven poles in eight races, if you’re keeping track. That is an all-time record in Formula 1, and would be a dominant performance in any form of motorsport.