Roger Diez: Formula One wraps up racing season
The 2019 racing season draws to a close Sunday, as Formula One holds their finale at Abu Dhabi. This will be the 11th annual race at the desert venue, and Mercedes has been the dominant team, winning the last five outings. Lewis Hamilton leads the driver stats with four wins, three with Mercedes and one with McLaren, while Sebastian Vettel has three victories, all for Red Bull. Ferrari has never won at Abu Dhabi, but this could be the year, provided the two teammates can avoid taking each other out. The team is still smarting from the self-inflicted double-DNF in Brazil, where Vettel cut off his younger teammate. The resulting contact sidelined both red cars and led to a team meeting that was less than pleasant. Part of the problem is that while Vettel is the presumed number one driver, Charles Leclerc has outperformed him this season, scoring 249 points to Vettel’s 230 and two wins to the German’s single victory. Might we see a co-equal driver situation at Ferrari in 2020?
The NASCAR season is over, with the only item remaining on the schedule the Dec. 5 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup awards banquet in Nashville. Yes, the big year-end bash has left Las Vegas for Music City this year. While most of the awards have already been decided, there’s one you can still help finalize — the Most Popular Driver award. Yes, voting for this honor will be open on NASCAR.com through Dec. 4, so as they say in Chicago, vote early and often. The 10 finalists, in alphabetical order, are: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace.
The 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver lineup is beginning to solidify. There will be no changes to the Hendrick, Gibbs, Penske or Ganassi lineups. Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41, while the rest of the team remains untouched. DiBenedetto will replace the retiring Paul Menard at Wood Brothers, and his ride at Leavine Family Racing will see Erik Jones at the wheel in 2020. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is out at Roush-Fenway Racing, to be replaced by Chris Buescher. Stenhouse will take over Buescher’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Ford in a straight swap. David Ragan is retiring from full-time Cup competition, and John Hunter Nemechek will take over the No. 38 Ford at Front Row Motorsports. There will be changes to some of the lower tier teams as well, and those will be covered at a later date.
The National Hot Rod Association has also wrapped its season. Steve Torrance is the 2019 Top Fuel champion with Doug Kalitta second, 33 points behind and Brittany Force 52 points back in third. Funny Car honors go to Robert Hight, who nipped Jack Beckman by a mere eight points in the standings. Matt Hagan was a distant third, 74 points in arrears. In Pro Stock it was Erica Enders taking the title, 21 points ahead of Jeg Coughlin Jr. in second. Bo Buttner was third with a 111-point deficit to Enders. And the 2019 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion is Andrew Hines, with 26 points in hand over second-place Jerry Savoie, with Matt Smith down by 46 points in third. Congratulations to all the champions and runners-up.