by Bob Priddy, Contributing Editor
(NASCAR)—Joplin driver Jamie McMurray’s solid start for 2017 has him in the top ten in the standings, higher than he was at any time last year. McMurray’s eighty-place run at Las Vegas gives him back-to-back top ten finishes and a tenth-place standing in the points. Last year, McMurray was never higher than eleventh, finished thirteenth, and ran ten races before finishing inside the top ten twice.
His standing after Las Vegas is the first time he has been in the top ten in NASCAR points since September 6, 2015.
McMurray had a top-three start in the season opener at Daytona and was running strongly when a multi-car crash knocked him out after leading thirteen laps. He has started inside the top ten in all three races this year as Chip Ganassi Racing is off to an improved start to the 2017 season. McMurray’s teammate, Kyle Larson, is second in the standings, only one point behind Brad Keselowski.
Keselowski appeared to be headed to a win at Las Vegas until his car’s right front suspension developed a problem allowed winner Martin Trued, Larson, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano to get past him.
Clint Bowyer was tenth, his first top-ten since last July’s Daytona race. He’s twelfth in the standings while driving for Stewart-Haas Racing after last year’s dismal season with an underfunded team that never saw him higher in the standings than 23rd. He finished 27th.
Both McMurray and Bowyer are looking to end long victory droughts this year. McMurray’s last win was a restrictor-plate victory at Talladega in 2013, some 113 races ago. Bowyer’s 150-race drought goes back to his last victory in the fall race at Charlotte in 2012.
NASCAR continues its early-season western tour next weekend at Phoenix.
(IndyCar)—The IndyCar street race at St. Petersburg, Florida was a milestone race for four-time series champion Sebastian Bourdais, who had to start last (21st) in the field because he crashed his car in first-round qualifying on Friday. He had climbed to ninth after the first twenty-six laps of the 110-lap race and took second when seven competitors pitted under caution at that point. He got past leader and defending series champion Simon Pageanaud with 26 laps to go and beat Pagenaud to the checkered flag by more than ten seconds.
The win his the 36th for Bourdaise, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for sixth place on the all-time wins list. It’s the first time a Honda-powered car has won a street race since June, 2014. It’s also the first victory for Dale Coyne Racing since that same race almost three years ago.
Scott Dixon scored a third place although running the fastest lap of the race, his 90th top-three finish, tying him with Helio Castroneves for sixth on the list of drivers with podium finishes.
Pole winner Will Power dropped out on the 99th lap with mechanical problems and finished nineteenth. Last year, Power missed the race with a health problem while Pagenaud finished second. At the end of the year, Power had become Pagenaud’s most serious challenger for the series title.
The only rookie in the race, Ed Jones, snagged tenth place.
The IndyCar drivers run next at Long Beach April 9.
(Photo credit: NASCAR)