Roger Diez: Joe Gibbs Racing has been dominant
With Kyle Busch’s fourth win of the season at Pocono last Sunday, Joe Gibbs Racing further increased the team’s stranglehold on the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season. Of the 14 points races run, JGR cars have won nine — Busch’s four, three for Martin Truex Jr., and a pair of victories for Denny Hamlin. Erik Jones is the only winless JGR driver thus far. The Penske Team is a distant second with four wins — Brad Keselowski’s three and a single for Joey Logano, with Ryan Blaney shut out. What’s most disheartening for the Ford and Chevy teams is Toyotas are at a severe numerical disadvantage. Only five Toyotas are in the 2019 points race, versus 14 Fords and 15 Chevrolets. Only Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega has kept JGR and Penske from sweeping the season. If this pattern continues, we’re looking at half of the playoff field qualifying on points rather than locking in with a win.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series are at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, and there may be hope for some other teams based on recent history. Stewart-Haas Ford drivers Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer each won at Michigan last year, and Ganassi Chevrolet ace Kyle Larson won the three prior outings there. Penske pilot Logano won in 2016, Matt Kenseth in 2015 for JGR, but previous wins other JGR drivers are in the far more distant past. I’m looking for a breakthrough this weekend from the likes of Harvick or Aric Almirola for Ford or Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kurt Busch or Larson for Chevy. Maybe that will shift the season’s momentum a bit. The race airs on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday.
The NTT IndyCar series’ first night race of 2019 will run Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s the fifth race in four weekends, but then the teams get a well-deserved break. Last weekend’s doubleheader at Detroit was a mixed bag with a rain delay and a rare unforced error by five-time series champion Scott Dixon that resulted in his first DNF in two years. But Dixon came back on Sunday to score the win, his first of 2019. A pair of top-five finishes by Alexander Rossi moved him to second place in the season points, just 15 behind leader Josef Newgarden. You can catch the Texas race Saturday on NBC Sports Network beginning at 5 p.m.
Formula One is racing in North America this weekend at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Mercedes has won every race so far this season — four for Lewis Hamilton and two for Valtteri Bottas. But will that change tomorrow? The long straights and high-speed sweepers of this circuit favor the Ferraris with their greater horsepower rather than the cornering advantage or the Mercedes. Team boss Toto Wolff expressed concern about this disparity, despite an engine upgrade for all Mercedes-powered cars this weekend. Much like the situation in NASCAR, this could be the race that allows a different team to become a winner. ABC will carry the race live at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, with repeats at 5 p.m. on ESPNEWS and 9 on ESPN2.