Crash endangers Bowyer playoff chances

(NASCAR)—Sometime-Missourian Clint Bowyer has dropped into the final slot for NASCAR’s ten-race playoff series after a crash at Michigan ended a run that appeared likely to strengthen his chances of making the 16-driver run-off.

Bowyer, as usual, qualified well and was running in the top ten most of the day when Paul Menard tapped his left rear bumper, sending Bowyer’s car into the wall, extensively damaging the right side. The extensive damage knocked Bowyer out after 139 laps of the 200-lap race. He finished 37th but is still one of the top sixteen in points—by only three points over Daniel Suarez, the first driver outside the playoff-qualifying field.

“We have to get something figured out with these race tracks,” he told NBC Sports. “We are really fast by ourselves, practice and qualifying really well, in the top-five almost every single time but then we start the race and don’t make the grip we need to compete…You can talk about the bubble and worrying about points but I am way more worried about getting established and running up front at these types of race tracks. If you make the playoffs and can’t compete in it then what is the use?…We have plenty of racing but we have to get some things figured out.”

Kevin Harvick won for the second time in the last four races after going winless since the start of the season. He passed leader Joey Logano with eighteen laps left and pulled away. Logano had to stop for fuel and finished 17th. Denny Hamlin was second followed by Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr., (who had to start at the back because his car failed pre-race inspections). Suarez was fifth.

NASCAR holds its traditional Saturday night race at Bristol next weekend. Bowyer has three top tens in the last five races there.

(INDYCAR)—IndyCar returns to action next weekend at Pocono with Josef Newgarden holding a slim sixteen-point lead over Alexander Rossi. Newgarden is seeking his second series championship; Rossi his first. Forty-seven points back is this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, and five-time champion Scott Dixon lurks sixty-two points behind.

Only four races remain on the IndyCar schedule.

McLaren announced this week that it is returning to fulltime IndyCar racing by merging with Arrow Peterson Motorsports. The merger means Chevrolet will replace Honda as the power plant on the team—-which might provide some discomfort for the team’s number one driver, James Hinchcliffe, who was been a commercial spokesman for Honda.

McLaren and Honda had a messy falling-out after last year’s Formula 1 season. The shift in IndyCar will mean that Honda and Chevrolet each will be backing eleven teams in the series. They are the only engine-makers in IndyCar.

Several questions are yet to be answered because of the announcement including Hinchcliffe’s future with the team as well as the future for promising rookie Marcus Ericsson. But the big question is whether the arrangement provides a better seat for two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso or whether he wants to drive in next year’s Indianapolis 500 for this team.

The stand-alone McLaren team failed badly at getting Alonso into this year’s Indianapolis 500 with Honda power.

(FORMULA 1)—Formula 1 is in its August break.

(Photo credit: NASCAR/NBCSN)