Roger Diez: Harvick’s road rage incident in NASCAR | NevadaAppeal.com

Roger Diez: Harvick’s road rage incident in NASCAR

Roger Diez

Kevin Harvick looked like a sure prospect to win his fourth race in a row last Sunday until road rage got the best of him. Both Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip, who should know, judged Harvick wanted to teach Kyle Larson a lesson about racing him hard, but the lesson backfired with Harvick in the wall and finishing 36th, nine laps down. To his credit, Harvick took responsibility for the incident, but termed it a mistake instead of deliberate. I’m going with Gordon and Waltrip.

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That opened the door for Martin Truex to show the sort of form that won him the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title. Truex survived several restarts, crew chief Cole Pearn called a perfect strategy, and the race ended with Truex in victory circle. He also won the first two stages for a maximum points day and a ticket to the playoffs.

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This weekend the Cup series and the Camping World Truck series are at Martinsville, a far cry from the wide two-mile Auto Club Speedway. Known as “the paperclip,” Martinsville is basically two drag strips connected by a pair of tight corners at either end. Just .526 mile in length, it’s the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit, so expect a lot of pushing, shoving, and frayed tempers once the race starts. Short tracks are traditionally the places NASCAR drivers settle grudges, so there might even be a little payback involved. The trucks will race Saturday, with Cup qualifying to follow, and the Cup race on Sunday.

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Two active drivers have been dominant at Martinsville; Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Johnson has nine wins and Hamlin five, but most remarkably the pair combined to win every Martinsville race from October 2006 to October 2010. The Busch brothers have two Martinsville victories each, and Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman have each won once.

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Hopefully NASCAR’s two biggest problems won’t rear their ugly heads this weekend. I’m talking about cars failing inspection and being unable to qualify, and air gun failures. NASCAR’s heart was in the right place in mandating the new air guns to cut costs, but perhaps it shouldn’t have gone with the lowest bidder. After several teams suffered failures during races, NASCAR has stepped up its maintenance and rebuilding schedules for the guns. Not so simple is the fix for the optical inspection station, which seems to be the reason so many cars are failing. I understand NASCAR’s desire to curb cheating, but perhaps it’s made the tolerances a bit too tight. It hardly seems fair when a third of the field misses its chance at qualifying.

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This weekend also marks the start of the Formula One season, which kicks off in Australia. Look for the Mercedes and Ferrari teams to continue their rivalry from last year, but indications are Red Bull may be on a par with them this season. Also, with a new engine supplier, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso said he’s confident his team will be competing for wins by mid-season. If you watch the race tonight, you’ll notice a big visual change to the cars. It’s the “halo” device, which is intended to keep dangerous debris out of the cockpit and eliminate accidents like those that injured Felipe Massa and killed Justin Wilson. However, F1 officials discovered an unintended consequence of the halo, and have adjusted the positioning of the start lights so the entire grid will be able to see them. I consider that a minor inconvenience compared to the added driver protection the device provides.