Roger Diez: Dover victory lifts Kyle Busch into second place
Kyle Busch’s Dover victory last Sunday vaulted him past Kyle Larson to second behind Martin Truex Jr. in the point standings, and set the field for the next round of playoff races. Busch passed young Chase Elliott, who led the most laps, on the final circuit, using lapped traffic to make the move. Elliott will advance to the next round, as will Truex, Busch, Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray. Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, and Kurt Busch are now out of contention for the 2017 championship.
The next round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoffs will begin Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, home track for the bulk of NASCAR’s teams. Jimmie Johnson, as usual, is the most prolific Charlotte winner. He’s made seven trips to victory circle, most recently last fall. Kahne is also very good here with four wins, although he’s no longer. Harvick has three Charlotte wins in the book, all within the last seven seasons. Kenseth and McMurray have two victories each here, and one-time winners are playoff contenders Truex and Keselowski as well as non-playoff drivers Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, and Kurt Busch. But as they say on the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future results. I’d keep a close eye on young Mr. Elliott on Sunday. With two second-place finishes in the last three races, he’s fast and hungry. Truex and Larson, who have been the drivers to beat all season, will be strong, as will Kyle Busch looking to take his third playoff win.
After the Singapore disaster, Ferrari needed an outstanding result in Malaysia, but it was not to happen. A mechanical issue left Sebastian Vettel sitting in the garage during qualifying, so he would start dead last. Then teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a similar issue on the formation lap, and was unable to start the race. To Vettel’s credit he limited the damage by charging through the field to fourth, only two places behind championship rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday with the second win of his F1 career. It was the highlight of an otherwise dismal season. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo came home third to take the final podium spot, and celebrated with his customary champagne toast from his driving shoe. Ferrari’s bad day got worse after the checkered flag. Maneuvering to pick up extra rubber on their hot tires to ensure making post-race weight requirements, Vettel zigged when Williams driver Lance Stroll zagged, causing severe damage to the Ferrari’s left rear suspension. The two drivers disagreed on who was at fault.
And in some sad news, NASCAR legend Robert Yates passed away last week after a battle with liver cancer at age 74. Yates was a famed engine builder and team owner in NASCAR’s top series for 30 years, from 1977 to 2007, building engines for Junior Johnson and other teams. In 1989 he started his own team, fielding cars for Davy Allison, Ernie Irvan, and Dale Jarrett. In his storied career, Yates won 77 races as an engine builder for other owners, and another 57 as team owner. He won five Daytona 500s either as an owner or engine builder as well as two Cup championships, in 1983 as an engine builder and in 1999 as an owner. Yates was selected for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2018. In addition to his competitive accomplishments, he was known as one of the best-liked members of the NASCAR family. Although not active in the NASCAR garage in recent years, he is fondly remembered and will be missed. Godspeed, Robert.
Finally, Fallon’s Rattlesnake Raceway has announced the track’s 2017 champions. They are: IMCA Modified – Cory Sample; Street Stock – Crystal Kontny; Hobby Stock – Cody Morris; Mod Mini – Jesse James; Pure Stock (Gen X) Sienna Burgess. In Outlaw Karts, the 2017 champions are: 500cc – Jacob Dias; 250cc – Blake Rauscher; Beginner Box Stock – Logan Goffinet. Congratulations to all!