Roger Diez: A little brotherly love on the track
It was an all-Busch brothers show at Kentucky last Sunday, with Kurt winning Stage 1 and the race, and Kyle taking Stage 2. The final laps gave a whole new meaning to the term sibling rivalry, with a brotherly love tap as they came off turn four on the last lap. But both hung on for a one-two finish, with big brother Kurt outlasting little brother Kyle to score another win for Chevy. The victory makes the elder Busch the eighth driver to lock into the playoff field, with just seven races to go until the regular season ends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Brickyard 400. Fords qualified in the first three positions at Kentucky, but the highest-finishing Ford in the race was Clint Bowyer in fifth. Chevy and Toyota had two top-five finishes each, including Busch’s win. Kentucky had the smallest field of the season, with just 36 cars taking the green flag.
Speaking of one-two finishes, the Formula One Mercedes team is back on track with Lewis Hamilton leading teammate Valtteri Bottas to the checker and scoring a record sixth British Grand Prix victory. The team also had a front-row lockout in qualifying, with Bottas .006 second quicker than Hamilton. With only the German Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix to go before the four-week summer break, Hamilton and Mercedes have the rest of the field in a hammerlock. He leads the drivers’ championship race with a 39-point advantage over Bottas, while Mercedes tops Ferrari by 61 points in the constructors’ championship. The series is dark this weekend and then finishes the first half of the season with back-to-back weekends.
Simon Pagenaud scored the NTT IndyCar series win in Toronto for Team Penske, running on fumes at the end of the race. When teammate Will Power crashed into a tire barrier on the last lap, the full-course caution ensured the victory for Pagenaud. The win puts Pagenaud very much into the championship fight, in third 39 points behind leader Josef Newgarden and 35 behind second place Alexander Rossi. After the tight confines of the Toronto street race, the series moves to the equally tight 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway oval. Coverage of the race begins at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Network.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series visit NASCAR’s easternmost venue this weekend, racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s flat one-mile oval. Coverage of the Xfinity race begins Saturday at 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, while Cup coverage starts at noon Sunday, on the same network. Kevin Harvick is the defending champion of this race but is winless so far in 2019. Harvick has posted three wins at New Hampshire, so this may be his chance to lock into the playoffs. However, there are other three-time New Hampshire winners in the field; both Busch brothers, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Newman. Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer have two wins each there, and Brad Keselowski has one New Hampshire victory. The oddsmakers favor Kyle Busch (5-2), Martin Truex Jr. (4-1), Harvick (6-1), Keselowski (9-1), and Logano (10-1). If you want a good dark horse bet, try William Byron (80-1), Ryan Newman (200-1), or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (300-1).
The Chevrolets have been showing strength in the last few races. In addition to Kurt Busch’s victory in Kentucky, Chevrolets took the top four spots in the rain-shortened Daytona race two weeks ago, had the win and three top fives at Chicagoland on June 30, and took a second place at Michigan. It would not surprise me to see a Camaro taking the checkered flag tomorrow.