Roger Diez: Busch takes licking, keeps ticking

Last week I wrote about all the empty seats at the Sonoma Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race. Grandstands at Chicagoland last Sunday also had large gaps. And NASCAR lost yet another viewer at the end of the race. My wife, never a Kyle Busch fan, was so incensed at Busch’s dumping of Kyle Larson on the last lap she has taken a vow never to watch another NASCAR race. While I was also a bit annoyed at the move, Larson didn’t seem to be so concerned, giving Busch a thumbs up (at least I think it was a thumb) after the race. “I started it — I hit him first,” said Larson in a later interview. Busch just happened to get in the last lick and took the win.


Busch is now tied with Kevin Harvick at five wins, and I don’t think either of them are done yet. I’m predicting fully half of the Playoff drivers will get in on points without scoring a win. However, this evening’s Daytona could see a new winner, because it’s a restrictor plate race where anything can happen (and usually does). The race was known as the Firecracker 400 from its inception in 1959 through 1984, and again in 1986. It was the Pepsi Firecracker 400 in 1985, 1987, and 1988, then became just the Pepsi 400 through 2007. Since 2008 it has been the Coke Zero 400. So who among the current crop of Cup drivers have won this variously-named race in the past? Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was last year’s winner, with Brad Keselowski the victor in 2016. Aric Almirola won in 2014, Jimmie Johnson in 2013, and Kevin Harvick in 2010. Kyle Busch went to victory lane in 2008, and Harvick won in 2010, the only repeat winner among active drivers. Chevrolets have won five out of the last 10 July races at Daytona, with Fords taking four and Toyota just one. The race airs tonight at 4 p.m. on NBC.


Last Sunday’s Formula One Austrian Grand Prix was remarkable for two reasons. One, it’s the first time a Red Bull car has won at the Red Bull Ring, and two, it’s the first time since 1955 both Mercedes cars dropped out with mechanical issues. That statistic is a bit misleading, as Mercedes quit racing after the 1955 season and didn’t get back into F1 until 2010. Regardless, it was a rare double failure for the current benchmark team in the series. Prior to the failure, Mercedes left Lewis Hamilton on track during a virtual safety car when other contenders pitted. Max Verstappen took the lead when Hamilton later pitted under green, and went onto take the win on tires that were just about worn through. The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished 2-3 respectively, and Vettel regained the championship points lead over Hamilton by a single point. The series wraps up its first-ever triple weekend run on Sunday in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hamilton is the odds-on favorite, having won his home race five times, including the last four years. Only F1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost have equaled that feat. Just one other active driver has won the British GP, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, in 2006 and 2011.


Two weeks after racing on the four mile long Road America road course, the Verizon IndyCar series races at the shortest track on the schedule, the 7/8 mile Iowa oval. The race will air at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on NBCSN.


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