Roger Diez: Fords remain strong in NASCAR | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Fords remain strong in NASCAR

Roger Diez

Brad Keselowski took his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win of the season last Sunday at Martinsville, tying him with Kyle Busch for 2019 victories. Six races into the season, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin have each won once to put them in the playoffs. The Fords were strong at Martinsville, taking six of the top 10 spots. The lone Chevy in the top 10 was the No. 9 of Chase Elliott, who finished second. Three Toyotas rounded out the front end of the field.

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The NTT IndyCar Series made its first appearance at the Circuit of the Americas, with a surprise winner in victory circle. Penske driver Will Power dominated most of the race starting from the pole. He led every lap until a mechanical failure during a pit stop put him on the sidelines. This handed the race lead to 18-year-old second generation IndyCar driver Colton Herta, and the rookie held off 2017 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden to win by 2.7 seconds. Herta went into the record books as youngest winner in series history. The victory was also notable for the youngest team owner, George Steinbrenner IV, the 22-year-old co-owner of Harding-Steinbrenner Racing. Honda-powered cars took eight of the top 10 spots, with Newgarden’s Penske Chevy best in class in second.

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This weekend, all three NASCAR touring series are in action at Texas Motor Speedway, and Formula One is in Bahrain for the second race of the season. Twelve of the last 13 races at Texas have been won by only four currently active drivers. Logano has a single win; Kevin Harvick has scored twice, including last November; Kyle Busch has three Texas wins, most recently last April; and Jimmie Johnson won in November 2017 and five other times in the past 13 Texas races. Oh, and he scored one in 2007 as well, for a total of seven. Among other active drivers, Hamlin won both Texas contests in 2010, Kurt Busch scored in November 2009, and Ryan Newman visited victory lane in 2003. If the Hendrick guys can dial some speed into their Camaros, Johnson might just find his old Texas form. But the Fords are strong and Harvick is overdue for a win. Among the Toyota contingent, I’d put my money on Martin Truex Jr.

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Mercedes is the heavy favorite going into Sunday’s Bahrain round of the world championship of motorsport. Valtteri Bottas has found a new spark, and dusted teammate Lewis Hamilton in Australia, so intra-team rivalry may be heating up. The Ferraris were disappointingly slow in the first race, but Max Verstappen’s Red Bull almost reeled Hamilton in in the late going. I’m looking for another Mercedes pole and win, with another podium for Mad Max. Daniel Ricciardo, after a disappointing debut with Renault, will have a new and improved chassis for Bahrain. And Williams, embarrassingly slow in Australia, is short on spares for the weekend. So their drivers will have to be extra careful not to damage the cars… and in racing, careful equals slow.

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NASCAR has released the 2020 schedule, and there are some major surprises. The regular season will end at Daytona on Aug. 29, the race replacing the traditional Fourth of July date which will move to Indianapolis; the season will end, not at Homestead, but at ISM Raceway in Arizona; Pocono will host a doubleheader on July 28-29; the playoffs will commence at Darlington, and the Bristol night race is now on the playoff schedule.

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Also, NASCAR recently announced a Superspeedway rule change for both Talladega Cup races and the Daytona July Cup race. The rear spoiler and rear ride height will both increase; spoiler from eight to nine inches, rear ride height from 11 to 12 inches.