Roger Diez: Seems like everybody is on a track
Another busy week of racing behind us, and another ahead as all the major series try to make up for lost time. NASCAR is at Texas Motor Speedway, IndyCar is at Iowa Speedway for the second doubleheader in a row, Formula 1 is in Hungary, IMSA has the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the NHRA is at Lucas Oil Speedway in Indianapolis for the second weekend in a row.
Last week was a busy one for NASCAR. At Kentucky, Austin Cindric took his first oval win in the Xfinity series on Thursday, then backed it up with another victory the next night! Cole Custer won the Kentucky NASCAR Cup race in a wild finish, becoming the first rookie to win a race this year and breaking the Kevin Harvick/Denny Hamlin stranglehold on series wins. Not only did it punch Custer’s ticket to the playoffs, but also got him an invite to Wednesday’s All-Star race at Bristol. With some 20,000 fans in the stands (and very few facemasks in sight), there was minimal bumping and banging for a Bristol race. Aric Almirola, William Byron, and Matt DiBenedetto transferred from the Open and Clint Bowyer won the fan vote, but none of them were a factor in the All-Star. Chase Elliott held off Kyle Busch to make the Elliott family the second father/son duo to win All-Star. Dad Bill won in 1986. The other two-generation winning family of course is the Earnhardts, with Dale Sr. winning in 1987, 1990, and 1993 and Dale Jr. taking the checker and the big money in 2000.
This week all three major NASCAR series are in Texas, with the Gander Trucks and Xfinity series Saturday and the NASCAR Cup series Sunday. Xfinity races at noon and the Trucks at 5 p.m. The Cup and Xfinity coverage is on NBCSN with FOX Sports 1 airing the Trucks. The Vegas sports books have Harvick as the favorite in the Texas Cup race at 3/1 odds with Kyle Busch and Hamlin at 6/1. Martin Truex Jr. is at 8/1, and at 10/1 are Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Elliott. Pole sitter Almirola joins Kurt Busch at 25/1, and the odds drop off pretty rapidly after that. Place your bets accordingly.
Things are pretty much back to normal in Formula 1, with Mercedes finishing 1-2 at the second race at the Red Bull Ring. Hamilton grabbed the pole in very wet conditions on Saturday, but Sunday was warm and dry. Mercedes leads the constructor’s points with 80, more than twice the 39 points of nearest rival McLaren. Valtteri Bottas leads the driver points with 43 and Hamilton has 37 for second. This weekend the series is in Hungary, where I expect Mercedes will again be the class of the field. McLaren, after a couple of dismal seasons, is on the rise and Red Bull looks strong, while Ferrari seems to be struggling. ESPN will carry the Hungarian GP, airing at 6:10 a.m. Sunday.
The NTT IndyCar series staged a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader last weekend at Road America, and Chip Ganassi’s team emerged undefeated on the season. Scott Dixon won on Saturday to complete the hat trick… three starts, three wins. And on Sunday teammate Felix Rosenqvist made a last lap pass to take the victory for the team. Friday night was the first of dual races at Iowa Speedway, with the second Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Can Ganassi maintain the momentum, or will Penske or Andretti or another team spoil their streak? Tune in and find out.