Roger Diez: Crossing Delaware was interesting for NASCAR
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Dover, Delaware, last Sunday was nothing if not interesting. Eleven-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson didn’t even take the green flag, suffering a right front suspension failure in the pit lane. The race ended in overtime with Johnson’s teammate Chase Elliott taking the win and punching his ticket to the round of eight. Kevin Harvick won the first two stages and took the points lead away from Kyle Busch, but both of them are in good shape with 68 and 63 points above the cut line respectively. Drivers currently below the cut line are Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer, both minus 10; Kyle Larson, down 12; and Alex Bowman, 34 points in arrears. Bowman will certainly need a win to advance.
This weekend may be Bowman’s best chance of doing just that, because it’s Talladega, where anything can happen. Based on past performance, however, the Penske drivers seem to have an edge. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have won six of the last eight Talladega races, three apiece. Keselowski has five ‘Dega wins in total, most of all active drivers. Two-time winners include Jamie McMurray, Boyer, and Johnson, while Harvick, Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and David Ragan have each visited victory lane once. Avoiding the “big one” is, of course, largely a matter of luck, so any or all of the above-mentioned drivers could very well be in the garage or laps down by the time the checkered flag flies on Sunday afternoon.
The Formula One season is also winding down, with just four races to go. Last Sunday Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton led teammate Valtteri Bottas to the checkered flag at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. It was Hamilton’s fourth win in the last five at the track. It was also his fourth victory in a row, making his season total nine wins. Hamilton now has a 67-point lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, all but securing his fifth F1 championship. If Lewis wins the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas next Sunday and Vettel finishes third or worse, Hamilton will clinch the title. If Vettel wins and Hamilton finishes out of the points, then the remaining three races could get interesting.
Finally, here are a few interesting tidbits:
· Kasey Kahne announced he’s out of the No. 95 Levine Family Racing Chevy for the season due to ongoing health issues, cutting short his final NASCAR Cup season. Regan Smith will finish the season in the car. For 2019 the team will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota chassis, and will be affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing. Matt Debenedetto will drive.
· After a 17-year association, 81 wins, and seven NASCAR championships with Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus will work with William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Racing Chevy in 2019. Kevin Meendering, crew chief for JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler for the past three seasons, will take over crew chief duties on Johnson’s No. 48.
· NASCAR has announced it will do away with restrictor plates at Daytona and Talladega beginning in 2019. The despised plate will be replaced with tapered spacer, which will still reduce horsepower but will give better throttle response and control.
· Ryan Newman will take over driving duties in the No. 6 Roush-Fenway Ford for 2019. His former ride, the No. 31 Childress Chevy, will go to Daniel Hemric, who moves up from the Xfinity series.
· Drivers currently without rides for next season include A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and Martin Truex Jr. Kurt Busch says he has two contract offers but didn’t disclose any further information.