NASCAR season at halfway point | NevadaAppeal.com

NASCAR season at halfway point

Roger Diez
For the Appeal

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series is at the halfway point in the “regular season” of 26 races leading up to the Chase for the Championship. With 13 opportunities remaining to lock in a Chase berth with a win, it’s beginning to look like at least a few drivers are going to make it on points. True, we only have nine winners of a possible 16 so far, but most of those who have already won are likely to do so again. Jimmie Johnson won his fourth race of the season last Sunday, and two-time winner Kevin Harvick finished in the top two yet again. Look at the drivers who lead laps and consistently run up front. Many of them are already 2015 winners: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Some or all of these will win again before we go into the Chase. So who do I think will join the winners’ circle? My top picks are Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson. And who knows, there may even be a dark horse who comes out of nowhere, especially at the road courses.

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So with four wins already, is Johnson on his way to his seventh championship, putting him into a tie with the legendary Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt? With 74 wins, Johnson is only two victories away from tying Earnhardt Senior’s record. His 10th win at Dover last Sunday also put him in rarified company, one of only five drivers in NASCAR history to score that many victories at a single track.

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The Sprint Cup series is at Pocono this weekend, the first of two visits to the “tricky triangle.” Earnhardt Jr. swept both races there last year, and a Hendrick Racing driver has won the last five Pocono rounds. Altogether the Hendrick organization has 17 wins at the track, more than twice as many as the next best team, Joe Gibbs Racing. If someone other than a Hendrick driver wins Sunday, it’s likely going to be Hamlin, who has four wins and three poles at Pocono or this weekend’s polesitter, Kurt Busch.

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NASCAR showed at Dover it’s serious about the rule drivers should remain in their cars after an accident. Both Jennifer Jo Cobb and Trevor Bayne both received fines for getting out of their vehicles before safety crews arrived. Cobb, a Camping World Truck series driver, was fined $5,000, and Sprint Cup competitor Bayne received a $20,000 fine. Both drivers are on probation for the rest of the year.

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There were a couple of surprise winners in the IndyCar Dual in Detroit last weekend. Saturday’s race was shortened by weather with Carlos Munoz declared the winner when the event was called. On Sunday four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais beat Takuma Sato to the flag in a sprint race after a late red flag. Munoz and Bourdais were the seventh and eighth different winners in nine races, with Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya the only repeat victor thus far. Tonight the IndyCar series takes on the superfast Texas Motor Speedway.

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Finally, if you’re in the mood for some live racing action, Fernley 95A Speedway is open for business this evening with the seventh points race of the season for IMCA Modified, Pro Stock, Street Stock, Dwarf, Super Stock 4, and Pure Stock divisions. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6 p.m.