Roger Diez: Busy racing weekend on tap
A busy racing weekend is in store. All three NASCAR divisions, IndyCar, and Formula are all active, and locally Fernley 95A Speedway is back in action. All racing classes are scheduled, in addition to the Gordon Russel Sr. memorial race for the Nevada Prostock Association. Tonight’s event is part of the $1,000 Challenge series. With $1,000 on the line for the winner, there should be a big field of Pro Stocks on hand. Gates open at 3 p.m., racing starts at 6.
In 20 years of writing the motorsports column for the Appeal, I believe this year I have written the words “rain-delayed” or “rain-shortened” more times than I ever have in a single season. And there are still almost three months of racing to go!
Last Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Bristol race finally finished up late last Sunday afternoon, and last Sunday’s Indycar series’ Pocono contest was run on Monday morning. I think it’s the first time this year it has happened to two major national series on the same weekend, but there have been plenty of instances where single events were delayed or shortened. For instance, recently Pocono’s second NASCAR race was delayed by rain and shortened by fog, giving Chris Buescher his first victory.
Last Saturday night NASCAR squeezed in 40 laps in a brief dry window before calling it a night and rescheduling for last Sunday morning. Come race time last Sunday, the rain was still coming down. But finally tenacious fans were rewarded with a really good race that saw Kevin Harvick take his second win of 2016, improving his seeding in the Chase. And Buescher came home fifth, vaulting him into 30th place in points and making him Chase eligible. Kyle Busch had the dominant car all day, leading 256 of the 500 laps, but a suspension part failure caused a spin and Justin Allgaier finished the job. Allgaier’s contact caused enough damage to put Busch out of the race.
for good. A number of other contenders suffered damage and limped home to finish well down the order. One of those was Kyle Larson, who was hoping to have a good points day to stay in the top 16 and be Chase eligible. He finished 24th and is now tied for 16th in points with Kasey Kahne for the final Chase berth. There are just three races to go before the Chase field is set, and Larson, Kahne, A.J. Allmendinger, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Ryan Blaney are all within striking distance of making the playoffs on points. One driver who will not be in the Chase is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will not drive the No. 88 car for this weekend’s Michigan race nor for Darlington the following week. Although Junior is still 21st in points, missing two more races will almost certainly put him far enough back that even if he returns at Richmond and wins, he’ll be out of the top 30. Alex Bowman will sub for Junior this Sunday, with Jeff Gordon back in the car at Darlington.
On this busy race weekend, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series are both at Michigan and the Xfinity series is at Road America. The Verizon Indycar series is returning to Texas to complete the rain-postponed Firestone 600, and Formula One is back from its summer break with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. So will we see more weather interruptions this weekend? Michigan looks to be cloudy but with only a slight chance of rain, while there’s a 60 percent chance for Road America. So we could see a repeat of the rainy Mid-Ohio Xfinity race. The Indy cars may have an issue in Texas tonight, with a 40 percent chance of precipitation predicted, while weather is always iffy and changeable at Spa. The Weather Channel says a 40 percent chance of precipitation, but F1 has rain tires. Mercedes driver and points leader Lewis Hamilton will start from the pit lane at Spa due to multiple powerplant component changes. Hamilton will be praying for rain to help him work his way through the field.