Roger Diez: Wall-to-wall racing ahead
If you thought last weekend had a busy racing schedule, just wait for the upcoming week. We have NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA, and Formula 1 all in action from this past Thursday to next Wednesday.
But first, let’s recap the tripleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend. IndyCar led off on Saturday, with Ganassi driver Scott Dixon breaking the Penske stranglehold on the Indy road course with a convincing win. Then young Chase Briscoe battled contenders late in the NASCAR Xfinity road course event, eventually taking the checkered flag. Five drivers battled to the flag, with lots of beating, banging, and position swapping. It was one of the best races I’ve seen in a long time. Then on Sunday the NASCAR Cup cars took to the oval for 400 miles. The narrow pit lane contributed to a scary accident, with a crewman injured but fortunately not seriously. Blown right front tires were an issue, particularly for Denny Hamlin whose tire failure ended his bid for win number five on the season while leading. Kevin Harvick took the lead and won handily on the final restart in overtime. The win ties Harvick with Hamlin at four victories each on the season.
The Formula 1 season finally got underway last Sunday at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Mercedes finished 1-2 on the track with Valtteri Bottas nursing an ailing car home for the win ahead of Lewis Hamilton. But a penalty dropped Hamilton to fourth behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren driver Lando Norris. It was the first podium finish for Norris. The race was notable for the number of mechanical failures sidelining almost half the field. The F1 circus returns to the same venue again this weekend, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will be eager to make up for the engine issue that put him out early last week. He appears to be the most likely driver to challenge the Mercedes duo.
NASCAR is at Kentucky Speedway this weekend for all three major series plus ARCA. The Xfinity cars ran their doubleheader on Thursday and Friday with Penske protégé’ Austin Cindric taking the Thursday win. The Friday race finished after our deadline. Today it’s the ARCA race at 11:30 a.m. with the Gander Outdoor Truck series racing at 3 p.m. And Sunday, the NASCAR Cup will race at 11:30 a.m. A winless Kyle Busch starts from the pole with two-time 2020 winner Joey Logano alongside, and Jimmie Johnson has been cleared to return to racing after two negative COVID tests. He’ll start 20th. And Wednesday the Cup series moves to Bristol for the All-Star race at 5:30 p.m. preceded by the All-Star Open at 4 p.m. All NASCAR action will air on Fox Sports 1.
The NTT IndyCar series is also back in action at north America’s longest road course, the 4-mile Road America circuit. It’s a two-race Saturday/Sunday affair with spectators. Fans entering the facility will be subject to a temperature check, given a face mask and small bottle of hand sanitizer, and encouraged to maintain social distancing. The NBC Sport Network will broadcast both races, on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 9 a.m. on Sunday.
NHRA is at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the Summernationals, with qualifying Saturday and Sunday on FS1 and finals starting at noon PDT on FOX. Spectators are allowed but will be screened and required to wear face masks.
Finally, there have been some changes to the NASCAR Cup schedule. Due to failure to successfully negotiate COVID-19 safety terms with New York State, the Watkins Glen race will run on the Daytona Road Course on Aug. 15 as part of a doubleheader. The second Cup race on the 16th will run on the oval.