Roger Diez: Last night for Fernley racing
Saturday is the final race of the season for Fernley 95A Speedway, with IMCA Modifieds, B Mods, Pro Stock, Hobby Stock, Gen-X, and Dwarfs on the schedule. There’s a slight chance of rain in the forecast, but just a little rain will make the track even faster. Gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6.
Big Three are back on form, finishing 1-2-3 at Richmond. Kyle Busch took the win after starting 39th, Kevin Harvick was second, and Martin Truex Jr. third after winning the first two stages. It was Busch’s 50th Cup victory. The race was remarkably clean for a short track, with only 23 caution laps, the fewest since 1997. Busch and Brad Keselowski are now locked into Round Two of playoffs with wins, while Truex and Harvick are locked in on points. In danger of elimination are Clint Bowyer, four points below the cut line, Jimmie Johnson six points back, Erik Jones, minus 21 points, and Denny Hamlin minus 29. Currently in transfer spots but on the bubble are Ryan Blaney (+4) and Alex Bowman (+5).
The Charlotte ”roval” is up next, and it’s a totally unknown quantity. The configuration has 18 turns and uses about 95 percent of the oval. Just past start/finish is a tight left hander into the infield followed by a short chute and a gentler left where cars re-enter from the pit lane. This leads into what is basically a rectangle consisting of turns 3, 4, 5, and 6. Next come a series of left/right/left hairpins, turns 7, 8, and 9, which lead into oval turn 1, which is turn 10 of the roval. The cars continue on the oval to the end of the back straight, where there’s a bus stop-type chicane similar to those on the Daytona road course or Watkins Glen. Oval turns 3 and 4 become roval turns 14 and 15, then a tricky left/right/left chicane just before start/finish to complete the lap. Playoff drivers have said, “It’s awkward, slow, and weird.” “There’ll be a lot of DNFs.” “75 percent of the drivers who’ve tested there have crashed.” “Crashfest.” “Wreckfest.” and “Crazy race.” Among the drivers who have crashed in testing are Blayney, Bowman, Busch, William Byron, and Bubba Wallace. At least they know what not to do!
Formula 1 is racing in Sochi this weekend for the seventh running of the Russian Grand Prix. Mercedes has owned this race since it began. Most recently Valtteri Bottas won in 2017, Nico Rosberg in 2016, and Lewis Hamilton in 2014 and 2015. The two previous Russian Grand Prix winners were Georgy Sovorin in 1913, and Willy Scholl in 1914, both driving Benzes. I don’t expect to see either of them on the grid this weekend.
If Hamilton can take the checkered flag on Sunday for his third Russian GP victory, his fifth drivers’ championship will almost be a lock, barring two or more DNFs in the remainder of the season. And given Mercedes’ legendary reliability and Hamilton’s driving prowess, I don’t expect that to happen.