Plenty of drama still to come in NASCAR
The battle for the Sprint Cup Championship is providing all the drama NASCAR could hope for, even if it provided some of it itself at Talladega. In a patented NASCAR spur-of-the moment rule change, the number of green/white/checker attempts was reduced from three to one. So the one and only attempt apparently turned into two when the first was aborted after the green light went on but before the leaders reached the start/finish line.
Some, particularly Joey Logano, questioned this decision, but to no avail. On the second first attempt, Kevin Harvick gave new meaning to the term “Harvicking” that was coined during last year’s Chase. With a sick engine, Harvick would have dropped to the back of the lead lap and been in danger of being eliminated from the Chase, unless there was a caution. Guess what? Harvick triggered the “big one” and drove away to finish 15th and advance to the Eliminator Round. Harvick maintained he was just trying to get out of the way when he hit Trevor Bayne, and NASCAR has stated an investigation revealed no intent to cause the wreck. Other drivers, including Bayne, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, aren’t so sure. Kenseth and Hamlin were both eliminated from the Chase, as was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who might well have won the race had the caution not come out. Logano was barely ahead when the caution flew, giving him a clear sweep of the Contender Round, winning all three races. Ryan Newman was the fourth driver eliminated from the Chase at Talladega.
Drivers left standing for the next round are Penske teammates Logano and Brad Keselowski; Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch; Stewart-Haas teammates Kurt Busch and Harvick; lone remaining Hendrick Racing driver Jeff Gordon; and Martin Truex Jr., of Furniture Row Racing.
It’s on to Martinsville this weekend for a 500 lapper at the famed “paperclip” short track. We can expect to see more than the usual fireworks Sunday, as the remaining eight Chase drivers try to secure a place in the season finale at Homestead by posting a win. However, there are 35 other drivers who also want to win, and possibly some scores to be settled. Kenseth owes Logano a “favor” for knocking him out of the Chase at Kansas with a last-lap bump and run. Kenseth, Hamlin, Bayne, and a few others may feel Harvick has a little payback coming as well, and a short track is the ideal venue for venting those frustrations because of the relatively low speeds. It should prove to be an interesting afternoon.
The Formula One circus paid a visit to Texas last weekend, unfortunately at the same time as another visitor, Hurricane Patricia. Although downgraded to a tropical storm, Patricia and one of her friends still dumped enough rain on the Circuit of the Americas to cancel or cut short practice sessions and the final qualifying session. Fortunately, the weather cleared somewhat for last Sunday’s race, which began with the two Mercedes of pole sitter Nico Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton starting on the front row. Hamilton was in a position to clinch the championship with a race win, provided Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel came home third or worse. At the checker, it was another Mercedes 1-2 finish, Hamilton in front and Vettel the last man on the podium. So congratulations to Hamilton, now a three-time world champion.
Formula One returns to Mexico City this weekend for the first time in 23 years. The race will take place at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, named for famed Mexican racing brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriquez. The track features the longest straight in F1, and with the low air density at more than 7000 feet (resulting in less drag) the cars are expected to reach a top speed of nearly 225 miles per hour.