(NASCAR)—Kevin Harvick adds up a series of firsts and makes them total thirty-six on the Sonoma road course in California—his first win of the year, his first win in a Ford, his first win at Sonoma, his first win on a road course since 2006. His previous thirty-five wins have come while driving Chevrolets. His only other road-course victory in NASCAR Cup competition was at Watkins Glen eleven years ago.
Harvick crossed the finish line as the race ended under caution. The runnerup was teammate Clint Bowyer who brought his battered “Lightning McQueen” car home despite a spin, some bumping and scraping that left his car dented and creased, a pit road speeding penalty, and worn tires.
“Hell, I was out of tires when I got done tearing the hell out of my car,” he said afterward. His car promoted Disney’s Cars 3 movie, and was painted to resemble the cocky car-character competing for the Piston Cup in the Pixar films (the voice is provided by Owen Wilson). Bowyer, who has a place at the Lake of the Ozarks although he hails from Kansas, is having the best year he has had for the past several seasons, but needs a win the lock in a position in the ten-race playoff for the series championship. “We gotta win, in a big way,” he said. But after everything happened, to get second is really good.”
Joplin’s Jamie McMurray called his run to a tenth-place finish an “uneventful day.” He was expecting to finish fourth or fifth but some drivers who made late pit stops were able to run him down on fresher tires. McMurray is in a position similar to Bowyer’s. He is 8th in overall points but he also is without a win.
Sixteen drivers will qualify for the ten-race playoff. Only ten races remain before the cutoff and ten drivers already have at least one qualifying win this year (Joey Logano’s win at Richmond does not count toward playoff qualification because of post-race inspection problems). Of the non-winners, McMurray is third, one point ahead of Denny Hamlin and fifty ahead of Bowyer, who is sixteenth and last in the playoff points. Bowyer is 11th in the overall point standings. But their playoff possibilities are lower because Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who have fewer overall points each have a win—and wins are the prime factor in seeding the sixteen playoff drivers.
You have to be something of a NASCAR fan to understand all of that, maybe, and not all NASCAR fans have a firm grasp on the system.
Next up for NASCAR: A return to Daytona for a 400 mile race, July 1.
(INDYCAR)—Scott Dixon burnishes his credentials as one of the all-time great IndyCar drivers with a win on the Road American course at Elkhart Lake Wisconsin. The entire fleet of Penske drivers chased him across the finish line as he recorded his forty-first win in the series, putting him only one victory behind Michael Andretti, who is third on the wins list. He beat Josef Newgarden and defending points champion Simon Pagenaud to become the eighth winner in the ten IndyCar races this year. Helio Castroneves, the pole sitter, and Will Power rounded out the top five.
A. J. Foyt holds the IndyCar record with sixty-seven wins. Michael’s father, Mario, is second with fifty-one.
IndyCar runs next at Iowa on July 9.
(FORMULA 1)—The first Grand Prix of Azerbaijan turned into a chaotic contest that left the two main competitor for the season championship fuming—and missing the podium for the first time all year. The race was run by Daniel Ricciardo, who drives for Red Bull Racing. He was left in seventeenth place after six laps when he had to make an emergency pit stop but made use of caution periods and pit strategy to move to the point. Runner-up Valteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes car, was left a lap down after a collision with another car on the first lap forced him to the pits for repairs. The third podium place when to Canadian Lance Stroll, whose Williams was edged in a photo-finish by Bottas. Stroll, at eighteen years and 237 days, is the youngest rookie in F1 history to get a podium finish and the first Canadian to get one since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001.
Championship competitors Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel were fifth and fourth, respectively after their troubles. Vettel accused Hamilton of “check braking” him on a restart, causing Vettel to run into the back of Hamilton’s then-leading car. He then pulled along side Hamilton and banged into Hamilton’s car—an apparent road-race incident that led to Vettel being assessed a ten-second stop-and-go penalty. Hamilton later had to pit because his headrest came loose. He came out fifth, behind Vettel.
Fernando Alonso was ninth, getting his (and McLaren’s) first championship point of the year.
Formula 1 drivers have a couple of weeks to cool off. The next race is the Austrian GP on July 9.
(Photo Credits: Stewart-Hass Racing (Bowyer), Nigel Kinrade, NKP (McMurray))