Roger Diez: Drivers can’t beat around the ‘Busch’ | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Drivers can’t beat around the ‘Busch’

Last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Bristol was dominated by Ford drivers, but when the checkered flag flew it was a Toyota in front. “Kyle (expletive) Busch won,” from Clint Bowyer on the radio summed it up. Bowyer led 24 laps, but Ryan Blaney led the most laps with 158. Combined with teammates Joey Logano at 146 and Brad Keselowski with 40 laps led, the Penske Fords led nearly half of the 500-lap race. It was Busch’s third victory of the season, putting him 27 points ahead of teammate Denny Hamlin and 35 ahead of Logano in the standings.

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The series moves on to Richmond this weekend for a Saturday night race. Coverage on FOX begins at 4:30 p.m.. If you’re of the same mindset as Clint Bowyer, you won’t be happy to hear Busch leads all active drivers at Richmond with six wins, including both of last season’s races. Hamlin has three wins, most recently in 2016. Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson also have three Richmond victories, but none in the last five years. Two time winners are Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Clint Bowyer, while Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Newman have one apiece.

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The NTT IndyCar series ran its third race of the season last Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. 2016 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato ran a near-perfect race to take the win, leading 74 of the 90 laps. Sato is the third different winner so far this season, scoring the fourth win of his series career. The victory bumps Sato up to third in the point standings behind leader Josef Newgarden and second place Scott Dixon. In other IndyCar news, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso tested an Indy car for McLaren in preparation for this year’s Indy 500.

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The Formula One circus moves east this weekend for the Heineken Chinese Grand Prix, the 1,000th race of the modern era in F1. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton leads the stats in China, with six poles and five wins. But Ferrari has made significant gains, as evidenced by Charles Leclerc’s dominating performance in Bahrain until he had engine issues. His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, has four poles in China, three with Red Bull and one with Ferrari, but has yet to stand at the top of the podium there. Daniel Ricciardo won last year for Red Bull, but is now driving for Renault and having reliability issues.

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Locally, Fernley 95A Speedway’s rain-delayed season opener is Saturday. Gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6.

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Finally, I’m concerned about the future of racing as we know it. Not too long ago, NASCAR Cup races limited the field to 43 cars, and there were always more than that number attempting to qualify. NASCAR dropped the maximum to 40 last year, but seldom raced with a full grid. Bristol used to fill the stands, but last weekend, there were completely empty sections, with gaps in the sections that were being used. It’s not just NASCAR, either. Although IndyCar car counts are up from the last few years, they’re still far short of what they were 20 years ago, and the Indy 500 is no longer a sure sellout.

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I think part of the reason is both NASCAR and IndyCar have become basically spec series, with nearly identical cars. Gone are the days when stock cars were stock cars, and ingenuity was on full display at Indianapolis. But car counts and spectators are also down at local tracks across the country. The kids who used to go to the track and aspire to be racers now would rather sit home and play video games. Is there a solution? I certainly don’t have one. But I hope somebody does before the sport dies from lack of interest.