Roger Diez: Race for NASCAR Chase heats up
It’s a slow week in the racing world. Formula One and IndyCar still are on hiatus, the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have a rare weekend off, and NHRA has a bye week as well. The only national series action will be the NASCAR Xfinity series at the Mid-Ohio road course.
So, if you’re starved for a racing fix, check out the local dirt track action tonight at Fernley 95A Speedway. Gates open at 3 p.m. and racing starts at 6. Tickets are $12 for adults 13 and older, $8 for kids 6-12 and seniors over 63, and free for kids 5 and under and military with ID. Super Stock 4, Dwarf, Street Stock, Pro Stock, and IMCA Modified divisions are all on the program.
Last weekend’s NASCAR action at Watkins Glen was as exciting as usual. Joey Logano won Saturday’s Xfinity race and went into Sunday hoping to repeat last year’s sweep at the Glen. Unfortunately for him Denny Hamlin was in front at the checker after multiple crashes, two red flags, numerous cautions, and several pit road speeding penalties. But the action didn’t stop at the checker, as Martin Truex caught up with Brad Keselowski to express his displeasure for getting put into the wall on the last corner. And, there was a similar occurrence further back in the pack when A.J. Allmendinger deposited Kyle Larson’s car in the pit lane on the last lap as well. Both Keselowski and Allmendinger apologized, but that doesn’t give back the points lost. That incident could very well be the difference between Larson making the Chase on points or not.
At this point in the season there are 12 race winners in the Chase and four races to go before the Chase cutoff. So all those winning drivers are locked in at this point provided they finish at Richmond in the top 30 in points. Tony Stewart currently sits 26th, so he could theoretically fall out if he has a couple of bad races. Pocono winner Chris Buescher is just three points out of 30th after Watkins Glen, so he has to concentrate on points for the next four races to get into Chase contention and stay there. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 21st in points but will not make the next race at Bristol. So if he comes back at Michigan on August 28, he’s going to need a win and two outstanding point finishes in the final three regular-season races to make the Chase.
Racing is so much safer these days than it was when I started 40 plus years ago. Back then, we lost NASCAR, USAC, Formula 1, and NHRA drivers at an alarming rate. With the advances in safety over time, we’ve gotten somewhat complacent. But last week that complacency was shattered by the news sprint car and midget star Bryan Clauson suffered a fatal accident at Belleville Speedway in Kansas during a USAC Midget race last Saturday. It was Clauson’s 116th start in a season in which he had already scored 27 wins, eclipsing his 26-win run in 2013. His intention was to run 200 races this season, and he was on pace to do so. Clauson was a throwback to the barnstorming days of the 1950s and 1960s when racing legends like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Parnelli Jones raced the dirt tracks and bullrings around the country. He also raced as a development driver for Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team in 2007-2008, won a scholarship to Indy Lights in 2011, and competed in the Indy 500 in 2012, 2015, and 2016. Clauson leaves behind his parents, Tim and Di, sister Taylor, and fiancée Lauren Stewart. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway plans to hold a memorial service at a date to be announced.