Roger Diez: NASCAR heats up with All-Star race
For a moment I thought we would have a new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup winner at Kansas last Saturday night, but Alex Bowman’s Hendrick Chevy couldn’t hold off the charging Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski, who got a fantastic restart in overtime to take his third win of the season. Bowman finished second for the third race in a row, and seven of the top 10 finishers were Chevrolets. Keselowski is now tied with Kyle Busch at three season victories. But Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, sits atop the playoff leaderboard with 478 points to Busch’s 469. A winless Kevin Harvick is third at 440, Chase Elliott has 423 and a single win, while Keselowski sits fifth with 421. With 12 races into the season, only six drivers have posted wins.
This weekend points don’t matter but winning is worth a cool $1 million. Yes, it’s the All-Star race at Charlotte, where everyone will be going for broke. Seven active drivers have won the event in the past: Jimmie Johnson four times, Harvick twice including last year, and Logano, Denny Hamlin, both Busch brothers, and Ryan Newman once each. The Monster Energy Open rolls off at 3 p.m. today with the All-Star race scheduled for two hours later. Fifteen drivers are eligible to start the four-segment All-Star event with stages of 30, 20, 20, and 15 laps. They will be joined by the winners of the three stages of the Open, plus the winner of the fan vote.
Simon Pagenaud put his rain-driving expertise to good use in the Grand Prix of Indy last Sunday, carving his way from sixth place in the last 20 laps to pass a struggling Scott Dixon on the penultimate lap to take his first win of 2019. Pagenaud and Will Power are tied at three wins apiece for this event, the only two drivers to win it. Pagenaud was driving for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports for his first win, and for Penske for the other two, while all three of Power’s victories have been for Penske.
This weekend is qualifying for the Indy 500. Practice was less than ideal for Formula One champion and 24 Hour of Lemans winner Fernando Alonso in his quest for racing’s triple crown. Alonso crashed on Wednesday, doing serious damage to Team McLaren’s primary car. He was unhurt. Other drivers fared much better, with Marco Andretti logging a lap at 230.851 miles per hour in the draft. The fastest of three drivers who topped the 230 mark. Ed Carpenter Racing’s Ed Jones set fast time without a tow, 224.957, on Thursday. Only seven times in the race’s history has the pole sitter topped 230. The record is 236.986 set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996 with high turbo boost. Topping 230 this year will be problematic, I’m afraid. If you want to watch today’s qualifying, you’ll have to get the IndyCar mobile app or subscribe to NBC Sports Gold. Sunday’s last row and fast nine qualifying sessions will air on NBC, as will the 500 itself on May 26.
Mercedes continued its domination of Formula One competition last week in Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas started from pole with Lewis Hamilton alongside, the fourth front row lockout for Mercedes in five races. At the checker it was Hamilton in front of his teammate by 4.07 seconds for the fifth Mercedes 1-2 finish of the year. The win, his third of the season, put Hamilton into the points lead with 112 points to Bottas’ 105. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is third with 66, and Ferrari teammates Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc fourth and fifth with 64 and 57 points respectively. Mercedes has 217 points in the constructor’s championship, well ahead of Ferrari’s 121 and the 87 of Red Bull. The series will race at Monaco on May 26.