Roger Diez: No beating around this Busch
With Kyle Busch’s win last Sunday at Pocono, the “big three” are now the “big two and a half.” Busch and Kevin Harvick now have six wins apiece to Martin Truex Jr.’s measly four. Between all three, they’ve won 76 percent of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup points races this season, and the odds of more than half the playoff field qualifying on wins just get slimmer and slimmer. The best news out of Pocono was a lot of young drivers got top 10 finishes: Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, William Byron, and Chase Elliot all scored good results. The fact three of them were driving Hendrick Chevrolets is even better news. Maybe the new Camaro body is finally coming right.
Thirteen drivers had to start at the back due to failing post-qualifying inspection. It was NASCAR’s second try at the procedure after being criticized for too many cars not being able to qualify. The first time only three cars had inspection issues, so it seems the teams pushed the tolerances a bit too far at Pocono. Let’s see how things shake out this weekend at Watkins Glen, the second road course race of the season. Like Daytona and Talladega, road courses are where unexpected winners pop up. A.J. Allmendinger comes to mind, with a win at the Glen in 2014 and a strong performance at Sonoma earlier this season until a missed shift blew the engine. Other active drivers who have won at the Glen are Truex Jr. (2017), Denny Hamlin (2016), Joey Logano (2015), Kyle Busch (2013, 2008), and Harvick (2006). Drivers who have won at Sonoma but haven’t conquered the Glen are Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Kasey Kahne. I wonder if Chevy’s new-found speed at Pocono, which is basically a high-speed “roval” will translate to the fast Watkins Glen road course this weekend.
And speaking of high speeds at Pocono, I’ve never been more happy to see a window net come down than I was after Bubba Wallace’s 150-plus mph crash into the wall there after his brakes failed at the end of the Long Pond Straight. If it hadn’t been for the SAFER barrier and recent safety improvements to the cars, the outcome could have been much worse.
Alexander Rossi’s win from the pole at Mid-Ohio last Sunday got him closer to points leader Scott Dixon, 448 points to Dixon’s 494. Rookie Robert Wickens, mired behind lapped cars, lost his second potential win of the season to Rossi. Wickens finished second ahead of Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden, again demonstrating he’s a future star in the sport. With just four races remaining in the season, Rossi could easily take the championship lead from Dixon. Also in the hunt are Newgarden with 434, Power at 307, Ryan Hunter-Reay with 399, and even Wickens at 380.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton further extended his championship lead over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel in Hungary, the last race before the four-week summer hiatus. Hamilton won from the pole, while teammate Valtteri Bottas got a bit banged up trying to hold the Ferraris at bay. Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen took second and third, respectively, while Bottas rallied for fourth. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 24 points, and Mercedes has a 10-point advantage over Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.