Roger Diez: Who will make the Top 12?
After Joe Gibbs Racing scored a 1-2-3-4 finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race last weekend at Richmond, I said that something has to be done about those guys. They’re so dominant, they must be cheating. Well, at least one of them was. Erik Jones was disqualified due to failing optical inspection after the race and moved to last place in the results. He received one point, dropping him to 16th in the playoff standings, 45 points below the cutoff line. Only a win at this weekend’s Charlotte race will get him into the Round of 12. Other drivers in danger of not advancing are Alex Bowman (two points below the cutoff line), Clint Bowyer, (4 points below), and Kurt Busch (14 points below). Drivers on the bubble are William Byron (two points above the line), Aric Almirola (three points above), and Ryan Blaney (eight points above). Ryan Newman, 14 points to the good is reasonably safe as is Kyle Larson at 25 on the plus side.
So, what will happen Sunday at Charlotte? Based on last year’s results, winner Blaney will advance, as will Bowyer, Bowman, and Busch, who all had top five finishes. But it was a race perhaps less predictable than Talladega, as wrecks took out many of the top contenders. Will this year be any different? I’d want to be on the front row at the start, just to avoid what might happen on the infield section. Martin Truex Jr. doesn’t have to worry, as he already has two wins in this round and will advance. Also locked in on points are Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano are also far enough above the cut line that they are probably safe. Truex Jr. goes into the race as the favorite, and if he wins, he’ll be the first driver to sweep a playoff round.
Formula One was in hot, muggy Singapore last weekend for a night race. Mercedes did not get the pole, did not win the race, did not even make the podium, and are now on a three-race winless streak. Although Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won the pole, it was teammate Sebastian Vettel who used pit strategy and speed to seize his first victory of 2019, vindication for his loss due to a time penalty in Canada. Singapore also saw the first Ferrari 1-2 finish of the season. Although there were few challenges for the lead, there was lots of passing further back in the field, making it one of the most entertaining F1 races all season. This weekend the series races in Russia. Will Mercedes be able to rebound or is this the first sign of the end of the team’s domination?
The NTT IndyCar series wrapped the 2019 season last weekend at one of my favorite tracks, Laguna Seca in Monterey. Rookie Colton Herta took his third pole and second win of the season, holding off five-time champion Scott Dixon and leading 83 of the 89 laps. Josef Newgarden struggled with balance on his Penske Chevy-powered mount, but his eighth-place finish was good enough to secure the season championship, his second. His closest pursuers for the title finished ahead of him, in fourth and sixth, but Newgarden’s points lead going in was enough.
Locally, Fernley 95A Speedway will host its last points race of the season Saturday. IMCA Modifieds, B Mods, Hobby Stocks, and the season finale for the Nevada Pro Stocks are all on the card. Racing action will start at 6 p.m.