by David Vodden
The bias in favor of Elliott started with the race broadcast where Harvick spun Elliott out possibly ending his run for a repeat NASCAR Cup title. This emanated from Elliott’s assault on Harvick and eventual action that caused Harvick not to win the earlier Bristol race. Remarkably Elliott came back from his wall-banging crash with a severely wounded Chevy and finished thirteenth. He ended up with enough points to advance to the third round of the playoffs while Harvick, presumably because Elliott was behind him and he feared for his life, drove into the wall knocking himself completely out of the race and any chance to advance. Can you say, “backfired”? NASCAR radio has had a field day with this series of events encouraging dumb and dumber to call in and express their views based on personal bias mostly for Elliott. It is rumored that NASCAR took both drivers aside, or called them both, in order to intervene, this in conflict with their boys have at it philosophy. One must admire Harvick for taking matters into his own front bumper as Matt Kenseth did with Joey Logano to most fans delight some time ago. Fans’ like conflict. They like rivalries that have teeth and they like Chase Elliott. If you doubt the last part, watch the race at Texas Speedway this weekend and listen to how the talking heads report the incident from the week before.
The Charlotte Roval race was won by Kyle Larsen repeating his pattern of winning the third race in the first playoff round. This was the final race in the second round. Harvick, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman were eliminated. This leaves eight contenders in the ring with three races starting in Texas yet to go to cut that field down to the final four. Larsen’s win was not easy. A missing alternator belt and resulting dead battery required some fancy work by Larsen’s crew chief and pit crew. All the pit work put him in the back and temporarily out of the next round. The entire team joined forces and Larsen did his magic to get to first over Tyler Reddick and Chris Buescher. It was Larsen’s seventh point win of the year and if you add the All Star million-dollar win, he has eight, clearly the class of the field. Larsen was optimistic about advancing to the final but then noted that last year Harvick had the most wins at this point and did not make it to Phoenix where the title is settled. Stay tuned.
On Saturday A. J. Almendinger won again in the Xfinity class on the ROVAL track which is a road course that uses an oval track for part of the course and speeds through the infield going right and left to make it seem like a road course. Almendinger was dominant in his Xfinity performance. He entered the CUP race the next day driving a lower-level machine and got it to the lead before the car failed. He is one good road racer! Austin Cindric finished second with Daniel Hemric third. This was also the end of a playoff round that saw Jeb Burton, Myatt Snider, Jeremy Clemens, and Riley Herbst eliminated. Of the four all but Clemens were in top of the line race cars fielded by Cup team owners.
Valtteri Bottas won the F-1 race in Turkey over Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. The scene was beautiful as F-1 racetracks often are. Rain played a part as did poor strategy calls by the Mercedes team for tenth place starter Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton had what he needed to challenge for the win but a late race pit stop ended all that. Verstappen retook the point lead over archrival Hamilton by a slim six points making this one of the closest contests for a championship currently unfolding. Remember the NASCAR champions are determined by who finishes ahead of the other three finalists in the last race at Phoenix. Both systems have their advantages and shortcomings. Which do you prefer?
Surprise winner Justin Ashley was first when the Texas NHRA Nationals ended. He jumped up to third in the Top Fuel class two places behind point leader Steve Torrence. Ron Capps won in Top Fuel Funny Car closing the gap on current point leader Matt Hagen. Greg Anderson leads the Pro Stock point battle for the Championship adding to his lead with a record win in that class. Matt Smith has the most to worry about with only an eight-point lead over fellow pro stock motorcycle combatant Steve Johnson.
NHRA, NASCAR and Formula One are the major racing series still in action before the short winter break comes in December. All but F-1 will end in November.