Roger Diez: Can racing top last weekend’s?
Last Sunday featured some of the most dramatic racing I’ve seen all year. From the beating and banging and the late race duel in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen to Mercedes’ strategy call and Lewis Hamilton’s late race charge through the field, I was on the edge of my seat most of the time.
Watkins Glen is one of two natural road course races on the Cup schedule, but it is very different from Sonoma. The Glen is much higher speed with less elevation change and fewer tight corners than the more technical California track. But the same driver discipline applies, as Chase Elliott demonstrated in the closing laps when he had Martin Truex Jr. breathing down his neck. Elliott drove a perfect race, winning for the second year in a row. He and Truex were the class of the field, in a race of their own with everybody else running for third. But back in the pack there were some hurt feelings and bent sheet metal. Kyle Busch tangled with not one, but two Chevy drivers, William Byron and Bubba Wallace. He came off far worse against Bubba, who ended a flurry of collisions with the decisive punch at the end of the front straight that spun Busch and drew raucous applause from the grandstand. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Blaney also had issues, with Johnson demonstrating his displeasure with a body check afterward. All great fun, at least for the fans watching.
This weekend all three NASCAR traveling series are in action. The Monster Energy Cup NASCAR and Gander Outdoor Truck series will be at the very fast two-mile oval of Michigan while the Xfinity series races on the road course at Mid-Ohio. The trucks races last night, and the Xfinity and Cup contests will air on NBC Sports Network at noon — Xfinity today, Cup Sunday. Fords and Chevys have dominated at Michigan in recent years, with Ford taking the last three races there and Chevy the previous three. Logano won this June, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer took the two races in 2018, and Kyle Larson swept both races in 2017. This could be Larson’s chance to salvage a miserable season and lock into the playoffs. Larson is only 46 points above the cut line with only Bowyer and Johnson behind him and just four races to go in the regular season. All three need to either win or finish well for the next four or find themselves out in the cold come Las Vegas.
Young Max Verstappen grabbed his first Formula One pole in Hungary last Saturday and got a good start. Mercedes’ Hamilton stayed with him, but it became apparent just past mid-race that he would not be able to reel in the flying Dutchman. So, Mercedes called an audible and brought Hamilton in for a second pit stop and a set of medium compound tires. He overcame a huge time deficit, carving his way through the field as Verstappen’s aging hard compound tires lost grip. Hamilton made the pass for the lead four laps from the end and went on to take his eighth F1 victory of the season and seventh Hungarian Grand Prix win. Verstappen came home second, 18 seconds back, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was a further 23 seconds in arrears in third. The series will now be on summer break, returning at the end of August.
Locally, Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon is back in action with points race #8. Racing starts at 6 p.m. Also, there’s a swap meet going on at Fernley 95A Speedway beginning at 7 a.m. It’s $25 for vendors and free for buyers. If it’s legal, you can sell it.