Roger Diez: Harvick the favorite in New Hampshire this weekend
This weekend is relatively quiet on the racing scene, with two major series in action. The NASCAR Cup series is racing on the flat one-mile oval at Loudon, New Hampshire Sunday with coverage on NBC Sports Network beginning at noon. As has been the practice since the series resumed racing, there is no practice or qualifying prior to the race. NASCAR has announced that it will keep that format in force for the remainder of the 2020 season. ESPN will cover the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which is scheduled to start at 6:10 a.m. Sunday.
A random draw puts Aric Almirola on the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race in New Hampshire with Denny Hamlin starting alongside. Ten drivers of the 38 starters have posted wins at the one-mile oval with Kevin Harvick leading the pack. Harvick has won four times at New Hampshire including the last two outings and three of the last five. Five drivers have three wins each – Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Clint Bowyer have two wins apiece, and Brad Keselowski has won once. Not surprisingly, Harvick is the oddsmakers’ favorite at 4-1. Hamlin and Kyle Busch are the next highest ranked at 9-2 and 7-1 respectively. Keselowski and Chase Elliott are both at 9-1 with Logano 12-1 and pole sitter Almirola 20-1.
The odds on the British Grand Prix are probably a bit different. Given that Mercedes has won six of the last seven British rounds and Lewis Hamilton has won five of those, you’re probably not going to get better than even odds on Lewis. The only break in that string of victories was in 2018 when Sebastian Vettel won. But both Ferrari and Vettel seem to have lost a step this season, so my money’s on Hamilton or Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The IndyCar series is idle this weekend, but there is doubleheader at Mid-Ohio next weekend, followed by Indy 500 qualifying the following weekend and the race itself on Aug. 23. It is the first time the race has been held on a date rather than the Memorial Day weekend. And there are a couple of NASCAR/IndyCar crossovers to talk about. Cole Pearn, who was crew chief for Martin Truex through his championship season and the transition to Joe Gibbs Racing, is coming out of retirement to take a position in IndyCar. Pearn has been hired by Ed Carpenter Racing and will be the lead engineer for Conor Daly’s No. 47 U.S. Air Force sponsored entry in the Indy 500.
And Jimmie Johnson has finally gotten his IndyCar test. After two COVID-related cancellations, Johnson finally took to the track in the Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Felix Rosenqvist machine. Johnson did about 125 laps in total, spinning twice while finding the car’s limit. Both he and the team were pleased with the test’s results. CGR managing director Mike Hull, race engineer Julian Robertson, Chip Ganassi, and most importantly five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon were all impressed with Johnson’s performance. Johnson had earlier joked that if his lap times were four seconds off the pace, it would be a short-lived endeavor. Although the team did not release his times, Hull said that they were definitely “in the ballpark” even under less than ideal conditions.
Although he had previously expressed no interest in running an Indy car on ovals, the addition of the Aeroscreen has enhanced safety to the point where Johnson is now considering an attempt at the 2022 Indy 500. No matter what, I think we’ll definitely see him in a few IndyCar races next season.