Roger Diez: Good weekend if you’re a fan wrecks
Special to the Appeal
Those who enjoy watching wrecks had a field day last Sunday. Not only was the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series racing at Talladega, where the “big one” is virtually guaranteed, but the Formula One race in Baku, Azerbaijan was also a wreck-fest. Perhaps the most spectacular of the F1 mishaps was the crash between Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen when Verstappen got a bit too aggressive in blocking Ricciardo’s attempt to pass. The race stewards reprimanded both drivers for the incident. It reminded me of the old Red Bull days when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber used to take each other out on a regular basis. Ah, teammates. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton went onto win the race, his first victory of the season. The win vaulted him into the point lead in the championship standings, four points ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. After winning the first two races of the season, Vettel hasn’t finished in the top three since.
Talladega didn’t disappoint crash aficionados either, with the “big one” involving 14 cars coming 22 laps from the finish and taking out several contenders for the win. When the reduced field again took the green, Penske Ford driver Joey Logano held off the rest of the field to the checker, leading a race-high 70 laps overall. Fords featured prominently up front, taking six of the top seven spots. Only Hendrick Chevy driver Chase Elliott in third place broke up the Ford domination. Fords have won six of the 10 races run so far this season. Toyota has three, all courtesy of Kyle Busch, and the lone Chevy victory went to Austin Dillon in the season-opening Daytona 500. With the Talladega victory, Logano punched his ticket to the 2018 playoffs and moved into second place in points behind Kyle Busch.
Chevrolet’s fortunes could change this weekend, however. The series makes its first visit of the season to the concrete Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware. It’s perhaps the best track for seven-time NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson, who has 11 wins there including four of the last 10. He last won at Dover a year ago. Besides Johnson, other Dover winners in the field include Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman with three apiece, although Newman’s last Dover victory was in 2004. Martin Truex Jr. has tamed the Monster Mile twice, and one-time winners are Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski. All three of NASCAR’s top series are at Dover this weekend, with the Camping World Truck series race run last night. The Xfinity race starts at 10:30 a.m. today, with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race scheduled for the green flag at 11 a.m. Sunday, airing on Fox Sports 1.
Both Formula 1 and IndyCar are dark this weekend, but the NRHA Mello Yello series is in action in Atlanta for the Southern Nationals. Steve Torrance goes into the weekend leading Top Fuel by 77 points over Tony Schumacher, with Doug Kalitta a further 24 points behind. Jack Heckman leads the Funny Car standings with Courtney Force second, 41 points in arrears. J.R. Todd is another 22 points back in third. The tightest race is in the Pro Stock division. Points leader Bo Butner holds a slim 17 point margin over Vincent Nobile, and Erica Enders is third, just 11 points behind Nobile. Final eliminations air on Fox Sports One beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday.