Roger Diez: NASCAR returns to Talladega this weekend
For the Nevada Appeal
Gardnerville’s Robert Miller nursed his ailing Pro Stock car to the checkered flag at Fernley 95A Speedway last Saturday night to capture his second Nevada Pro Stock Association series $1000 winner’s purse of the season. “My oil pressure was down to 30 pounds, and the temps were running 240 to 260,” said Miller after the race. He led wire to wire, but struggled to hold off a charging Antonio Aragon in the waning laps. Miller didn’t fare so well in the Modified main, hitting the wall in turn two, which led to his retirement. James Thibodeaux of Tonopah went on to win the Modified division. Last year’s track champion, Gardnerville’s Dwight Bolton shouldered early leader Rick Miller of Sun Valley aside to take the Street Stock win. And Alex Shutte of Redding, Calif., led the BCRA Midget contingent to the checkered flag. University of Nevada senior Sean Dodenhoff was third. Next up at Fernley 95A will be the third annual Richardson-Kay Dwarf classic, a two-day event on May 6-7. Racing action starts at 6 p.m. both days.
Last Sunday was a big day for back to back winners. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards and IndyCar pilot Simon Pagenaud each scored his second win in a row — Edwards at Richmond and Pagenaud at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Pagenaud held off a charging Graham Rahal in the late going, while Edwards executed a perfect bump and run to steal the victory from Kyle Busch on the last lap. Edwards is now the third two-time winner on the season, joining Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson as top seeds in the Chase for the Championship.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves to the famed Talladega Superspeedway track this weekend, the longest oval on the NASCAR calendar at 2.66 miles and one of two restrictor plate tracks on the schedule. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the master of Talladega among active drivers with six wins (his father had 10 victories there). Brad Keselowski has visited Talladega’s victory lane on three occasions, while Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, and Clint Bowyer have each posted two wins there. With a single Talladega victory on their resume are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, and David Ragan. Junior won the 2015 spring race with Logano victorious in the fall. Prior to last year, Junior had not won since 2004, when he ended a string of five wins in seven races, with four in a row between 2001 and 2003. But while it rewards drivers who can utilize the draft, Talladega can also rise up and smite even the best. The “Big One” is always lurking when cars are running inches apart at 200 miles an hour, and one tiny mistake can take out half of the field. I don’t advise putting any big bets down at your local sports book for that reason.
While Pagenaud took the Barber win, his teammate Juan Montoya had the drive of the race, coming from the back of the field to score a fifth-place finish. The series moves to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next, with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course next weekend followed by Indy 500 qualifying on May 21 and 22, and then the 100th running of the classic race on May 29. There should be a full field for the 500, with 34 or 35 drivers expected to run for a spot on the 33 car starting grid. In addition to the series regulars, there are a number of other part-time drivers entered for the 500. They include perennial 500 entrants Townsend Bell, Pippa Mann, Brian Clauson, Alex Tagliani, Sage Karam, and Buddy Lazier. There’s also a special entry, Stefan Wilson. Wilson will be running for KVSH Racing with the same No. 25 his brother Justin Wilson was using when he lost his life at Pocono last season. It’s Stefan’s first attempt at qualifying for the Indy 500, although he has had one IndyCar start previously.
Finally, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat is looking for a good result in his home grand prix at Sochi on Sunday. Kvyat’s Red Bull was third in China two weeks ago.