This Week In Motorsports
Motorsports News by David Vodden
Much to report since last we met starting with the NASCAR France family troubles. Brian France, the President and CEO of NASCAR, was arrested last Sunday for drunk driving and having a controlled substance in his car. A night in jail in New York was followed by a rapid family response placing Jim France in charge while Brian France takes a much-deserved leave of absence. This was the big buzz this week followed closely by Chase Elliott finally getting his first NASCAR Monster Energy Cup win at Watkins Glenn on Sunday. This occurrence has been a non-stop story-line with coverage all over the NASCAR news outlets. It was a good thing and Chase Elliott truly won in a race with Martin Truex Jr. The four-time winner, Truex, was chasing Elliott right down to the last two laps. I can’t recall a win by a celebrity-upstart driver creating so much press since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won back in the day. They are a sentimental bunch this group from the deep south. Elliott won for Hendrick Motorsports for the first time in a year! It was the 250th win by the once all-powerful Hendrick team that has faltered since Kasey Kahne won at Indianapolis twelve months ago. Pundits cannot help themselves and are now predicting that Chase Elliott will win this week at Michigan and every race from now to the end of the year. A few weeks earlier they predicted that Eric Jones would win again and again after he too won his first ever big-league NASCAR race event at Daytona. Admittedly the media considers restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega as not really races which accounts for Austin Dillon being in the playoffs but still they just get stupid when new, young drivers win. The other big story line in NASCAR is six wins by Kyle Busch and six wins by Kevin Harvick and four wins by Truex Jr. That equals sixteen wins in twenty-two races thus far. Talk about domination in a form of auto racing where daily intervention is trying to create an even playing field. There are four more regular-season races to go before the NASCAR ten-race playoffs begin. Everyone is convinced that Harvick, Truex and Busch will be three of the final four competing for the title, if not by their racing results then by having a huge accumulation of “playoff points” that assist a driver in getting to the Homestead final. I think they are right. Sixteen drivers will start as playoff candidates including several easy marks for failure in the early going of the three rounds leading up to the “final four”. Clearly Austin Dillon and the Childress team are a bust. So is Kyle Larsen as his team is already failing at the basics needed to field a winning car. The Joe Gibbs team members of Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are likely early casualties but the Gibbs cars, like the Stewart-Haas cars, are winners. I say that Dillon, Jones, Larsen, Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Clint Boyer, Kurt Busch, and even Elliott will not make it to the final. This leaves Brad Keselowski and Jimmy Johnson as my wild cards to join the big three in the final in November. I reserve the right to change this prediction as we get closer. Make your picks and send them to this newspaper. If you pick the final four and the 2018 Monster energy Champion there will be a big prize for you waiting at Thunderhill!
Formula One is on summer break following some real interesting races where Lewis Hamilton got lucky and Sebastian Vettel did not. Hamilton is on top of the world championship by 24 points over Vettel but since these two keep switching back and forth in this title race I suggest that you plan on watching the F-1 race in Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium when the F-1 series resumes for the second half of their season. Late news: Daniel Ricciardo is leaving the Red Bull team at the end of the year and moving to Renault. Ricciardo will stay with the current engine provider for Red Bull who is switching to Honda power in 2019. A risky move for the affable Ricciardo!
NHRA drag racing has seen some top drivers get back into the winner’s circle with Ron Capps winning last week in Seattle in Funny along with Antron Brown. Tony Schumacher and Blake Alexander have also seen the winners circle this summer. Both Steve Torrance, Top Fuel Dragster, and Courtney Force, Top Fuel Funny Car, are close but not winning in the finals of late. Even John Force won again in Denver!
Kyle Larsen has been winning in sprint car racing a lot in recent weeks including this past Monday night in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The big Knoxville Nationals zooms into action this week with the finals tonight. Last year Larsen was given permission to race in the fifty-lap final by car owner Chip Ganassi after fans drowned him in twitter pleadings. Larsen finished second and then went to Michigan the next day and won. Not sure if he will be OK’d to race Saturday night at the big Knoxville dirt oval but I am certain that he can’t win at Michigan again because the Hendrick’s Chevrolets are back and the Fords and Toyotas are still all powerful! Larsen’s Chip Ganassi race team does not have the tools to win any more. There are too many teams with good crew chiefs that far out-flank the marginal #42 car chief, Chad Johnson. Even with Larsen’s ability to carry the car, I doubt that they will ever seeing a winner’s circle again.
Lots of local racing at Thunderhill, Orland Raceway, Marysville and Silver Dollar Speedway leading up to their September World of Outlaws races. Cycle Land will also have the Kyle Larsen Out Law kart event on September 3rd and 4th.
The biggest Thunderhill race event of the year will take place August 31 through September 2 on the five-mile track. The three-day event will feature the Sports Car Club of America, [SCCA], season championship finale. This is a FREE event with lots of races, lots of cars and some pretty special parties and celebrations. Call the track office for more information and plan to bring ten or so of your family members and friends and spend both days at the raceway located just west of I-5 on highway 162.
See you there!