This Week In Motorsports
Motorsports News: By David Vodden
The 36-race series that is the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season, ends Sunday at Homestead Speedway in Florida. Twelve drivers, four in each of three race programs, will have a shot to be the 2017 NASCAR Champion in: Craftsman Trucks; Xfinity and the Monster Energy Cup. Those drivers are: 1- Truck Series – Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Austin Cindric; 2- Xfinity Series – Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and William Byron; 3- Monster Cup – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. The top finisher in each series race when the checkered flag falls will be the 2017 champion. Who will win? Lady luck will decide but I predict that Bell wins the truck title; Byron wins the Xfinity title and Truex claims the top spot in the Monster Energy series. Guaranteed? Not by a long shot. Pick your favorite and root them on! For the record, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup includes thirty-six races. Twenty-six are contested to create a 16-driver playoff field. These 16 drivers make this cut by: 1- winning a race; 2-accumlating the most Stage and Playoff points and; 3- adding playoff bonus points for stage wins. Once the playoffs start, four drivers are eliminated after each of three stages based, again, on wins and total points. Eight drivers make the third stage with the final four either winning or accumulating the most points to be the final four fighting for the championship. Got that?
The Craftsman trucks race Friday night. The Xfinity series goes off Saturday and the big season-finale for the Monster Energy series concludes late Sunday afternoon. Check out NBC and NBC sports for a chance to watch what is the Super Bowl, World Series and/or Stanley Cup for American stock car and truck racing. Over. All done, until next year on President’s weekend in February when the Daytona 500 starts it all over again.
The National Hot Rod Association title fight last weekend saw Brittany Force overcome the season-long top performer, Steve Torrence, to win the title in the Top Fuel Dragster class at Pomona. She joined Shirley Muldowney as just the second-ever female top fuel champion in NHRA history. Force also won the final matchup while Torrance, against most odds, lost in the semi-final against Antron Brown. Torrence, not happy with his loss, called the NHRA point system that determines the champion in each class, “bullshit and crap”. He added that the “NHRA points-welfare system allows performers who would not even be in the hunt for the title to do what happened today!” Stuff happens. The same thing befell Greg Anderson whose dominance in Pro Stock all year was not good enough to beat Bo Butner who came from behind and won the final match-up and the title, “Pro Stock Champion”! Robert Hight won the Top Fuel Funny Car title while Eddie Krawiec lost to Andrew Hines in the final but had enough points to take the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship for 2017. The recent move to make racing champions earn the right to win the title in a single shootout does have its drawbacks. If Truex does not win the Monster Energy Cup title in his Furniture Row Toyota Sunday, “Steve Torrence comments” will abound.
Back to NASCAR, the Friday night Truck race at Phoenix last week was a smash fest. Talk about great entertainment! Not only did most of the field crash, there was controversy when Austin Cindric, in a late race restart, took out Ben Rhodes giving him the final starting spot in championship playoffs this week. Cindric took out Rhodes on the restart when he decided not to lift, not to cut Rhodes any slack and to stay on his side panel until Rhodes was fully spun and heading for the wall. Lots of bad feelings ensued with promises of retribution in Florida much like what happened with Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin at Texas in the Monster Cup. Hamlin took out Elliott in Texas ending his long-shot playoff hopes. In retribution, Elliott took Hamlin out at Phoenix ending his playoff chances. All good stuff. William Byron won in the Xfinity race at Phoenix.
Matt Kenseth put a big exclamation point on his career winning at Phoenix in the Monster Cup final. It was a good battle with Chase Elliott who needed to win! Kenseth passed him with only a handful of laps to go. You may recall that Kenseth lost his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing next year because of the youth movement in NASCAR. One pundit associated this move to saving money on cheaper, younger drivers. I think that NASCAR is so committed to appealing to a younger audience that they are orchestrating the demise of older drivers. They know that to grow NASCAR, the targeted young people they are seeking want to see people who look and act like them. This is brilliant as well as unkind to good people like Kenseth. Matt Kenseth cried on the cool down lap and barely recovered before the millennial television sports caster stuck a microphone in his face and asked him how it felt to win with only one more race left in his sixteen-year career as a NASCAR top-tier driver. This was good people-sports and very good television for sure. It should have appealed to any sports fan no matter what age. Goodbye Matt and thanks for the memories. The same thanks are due Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other drivers whose departure doesn’t warrant mention in the NASCAR news. Times are changing.
Kyle Larsen will join a stellar cast of drivers in the annual Turkey Night USAC midget races at Ventura Speedway next Thursday night. This race is worth the drive for all the right reasons. Larsen will likely be in Elk Grove for the Turkey holiday as his parents live there and his partner, Kaitlin, is from Grass Valley. Chico sprint car racer Sean Becker was injured last weekend at the Stockton Fairgrounds Speedway. Becker’s injuries were not life threatening but were serious. He is still in the hospital last, I checked. Get well Sean! Damion Gardner formerly of Concord, Ca, won his sixth USAC/CRA non-wing sprint car title last weekend at Perris Fairgrounds Speedway as part of the Oval Nationals held there.
Marc Marquez scored his second Moto GP world-class motorcycle racing title in Spain last week. A fall by his nearest competitor, Andrea Dovizioso sealed the deal. Maverick Vinales, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi completed the top five run down in the 2017 championship roster.
Do not forget to attend the 14th Annual 25-Hours of Thunderhill Endurance auto race at Thunderhill starting at 11am on Sunday December 2nd. You can see it all for $15.00 bucks. What a deal!
The final teen car control clinic of the year is set for Friday, November 24th. There is still time to sign up by going to our www.thunderhill.com web page and clicking on the
“events tab”. Once in, go to the “teen car control clinic tab” and sign up. It will save your kids life, your kid’s friends and maybe you. It costs only $99 for a day of life-saving training. Think of it as that Christmas gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime”? Yes! Do it now!