In the November 8, 2021 edition of Dave Mathers’ Monday Motormouth blog for InsideTrackNews.com, Dave offers his perspective on the NASCAR finales in Phoenix, F1 Mexico and more!
NASCAR CUP SERIES: NASCAR did it up big time for the pre-race festivities yesterday at Phoenix Raceway for the season finale. Driver intros were really cool.
The Xfinity and Truck races had been VERY exciting and the Cup race promised more of the same. The four drivers eligible for the championship were Kyle Larson starting 1st, Chase Elliott 2nd, Denny Hamlin 6th and Martin Truex, Jr. 12th.
Larson got a huge jump on Elliott at the green and it was game on!! Similar to the earlier two races, cars were going four and five wide coming out of Turn 2 on the wide apron. No Mickey Mouse ‘track limits’ concerns here!!
Bubba Wallace was the first victim less than ten laps in as he got a little tap from Corey LaJoie and backed hard into the wall. About six laps later LaJoie did almost the same thing with the 47 car of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. but with a different result.
This time, LaJoie went hard into the wall and Ricky appeared to have no damage. Stenhouse would also run into problems later in the race. Trouble comes in threes? At the start of Stage 2 all four contenders were running 1, 2, 3, 4 with Elliott out front. And, as if scripted, they all finished in the top four again at the end of Stage 2 as well.
The four contenders fought it out over the final stage with a couple of intrusions by non-contenders. At the checker flag it was a very emotional victory for Kyle Larson as the in-car camera showed him quite teary-eyed.
His crew got him out first at the last yellow flag and in spite of Martin Truex, Jr. getting close, very close, he crossed the line with about a one second cushion. Hamlin finished third with Elliott fifth. Ryan Blaney finished fourth.
The final points had Truex second, five points out, Hamlin third six points back with Elliott fourth eight back. It appears that Kevin Harvick won the ‘best of the rest’ championship.
The next race for the Cup series is at, wait for it, the Los Angeles Coliseum. It will be the ‘Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum,’ a non-points race on the tight little quarter-mile track. The track could fit into the grassy area between the track and pit road at Daytona International Speedway!!
The points racing will begin in earnest at Daytona on Sunday, February 20 at 2.30 P.M. I can hardly wait!!
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: With four drivers (Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric and A.J. Allmendinger) fighting for the championship Saturday at Phoenix Raceway fans were guaranteed to see a good race.
The best part was the cars going four and five wide coming off 2 using the extra-wide apron on the bottom.
There were more than a few ‘close encounters’ as a result of that little phenomenon.
Cindric, the grandson of Red Roof Inn founder Jim Trueman and son of Tim Cindric, head honcho for Roger Penske’s IndyCar program, started on the pole and lead the most laps.
However, in a move possibly scripted in Hollywood, coming out of 4 on the last lap, Hemric made contact and pushed Cindric high and crossed the line first winning his very first Xfinity race and the championship.
Cindric, in typical Penske fashion, was very gracious in his post race interview. Unlike other drivers of late he did NOT badmouth Hemric but actually congratulated him on the win. A very class act.
Cindric takes over the #2 Mustang at Penske that has been driven by Brad Keselowski who is moving over to Roush Fenway Racing as a part owner and he will drive the #6 Mustang driven, this year, by Ryan Newman. He, it’s reported, has nothing lined up, yet, for next year. Cindric ended up second in the final points, 5 out of the lead, Gragson third 15 out and AJ fourth 17 adrift.
Their next race, the first for the 2022 season, will be at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 5 P.M.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCKS: With four drivers (Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton) eligible to win the championship at Phoenix Raceway, the focus was clearly on those four.
The lead changed many times on the fast, one-mile oval and the wide apron coming out of Corner 2 created some wild action with trucks running as many as five-wide on several occasions.
There were, fortunately, only two caution periods other than the stage endings resulting in many laps of excitement.
Non-contender Sheldon Creed led 106 of the 150 laps but ended up fourth at the flag. Chandler Smith won the race with about a five second lead over runner-up Canadian Stewart Friesen.
Ben Rhodes finished third, thus clinching the championship. Zane Smith ended up second, 2 points back, Nemechek was third another 2 points back, with veteran Matt Crafton fourth 9 points out of the lead.
The next race for the series is at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 18, 2022 at 7.30 P.M., the first race on next year’s schedule.
NHRA: Their season finale will be held this weekend at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
FORMULA ONE: Wow, the ‘best drivers in the world’ STILL can’t make it past the first corner, even in Mexico!! Max drove around both Mercedes on the initial start and took the lead going into 1.
Valterri Bottas, in his Mercedes, had slipped from second to third on the initial start and it appeared that he turned in a bit too much coming out of 1 and was spun out by Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren.
Yuki Tsunoda, driving an Alpha Tauri and the target of the Red Bull team for allegedly ‘impeding’ Max Verstappen during the final laps of qualifying on Saturday, was one of the accident victims who had to drop out of the race along with Mick Schumacher’s Haas.
Ricciardo also forced Canadian Lance Stroll off the track but Stroll recovered and continued. Stroll had experienced a real ‘tank slapper’ Saturday and contacted the retaining wall fairly hard although walked away.
Lap 1 was VERY entertaining to say the least!! With Mexican driver Sergio Perez being the hometown favourite, the crowd cheered every move he made all race long.
The circuit actually drives through a former baseball stadium and that gives fans a very close-up look at the cars. Perez closed up to Hamilton in the closing stages, and the crowd loved it.
It was Red Bull’s hope that they could get a ‘one-two’ finish and secure the Manufacturer’s title with four races still to go. Max won, nay dominated, the race, with Lewis second and Sergio third.
Canadians Lance Stroll (finished 14th) and Latifi (finished 17th) both had problems during the race. Max still leads Lewis in the points with Bottas third. Their next race is this weekend in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
IMSA: Their next race, where the GT cars will reunite with the prototypes, will be at the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta on November 13th.
Did You Know?
– It appears F1 is going to double the number of races that will have ‘sprint races’ next year. They have run two this year, England and Monza, with a third coming up at Brazil this weekend. I agree with the concept of adding the sprint races. It makes one of the usual three practice sessions exciting.
– Good news from Porsche. They are building one of their magic Porsche Experience Centres in Pickering right next to the 401. The 20-acre site already includes a casino and will have 400,000 square feet of shopping, a 300 room luxury hotel and 2-kilometre track.
The two US locations in Atlanta and Los Angeles have been very successful and this new facility will be a great tourist and enthusiast attraction. It is slated to be completed by 2024. In addition to the two US locations, there are others in England, France, China, Germany, Japan and Italy with more in the planning stages.
– It would appear that Ford has made the right move with their upcoming F-150 Lighting EV. ‘Reservations’ for the truck just topped 160,000!! And Ford had a 1978 F100 at the SEMA show last week powered by a couple of electric motors right out of their Mustang Mach-E. Neat piece.
With the announcement on the weekend that Rick Ware Racing has switched to Ford for the 2022 season, I thought I would drop out and see old friend Doug Kennington. He and I have joked for years about getting a Blue Oval into his shop and, of course, he said ‘when Hell freezes over’!!
Well, apparently, that has happened (does this mean the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup finally?)!! They spoke with Rick this morning and he wants to switch his cars, cars that are supplied and maintained by Doug and D.J., to Fords!! Deal!!
But Wait, There’s More: Rick has invited D.J. to bring one of his cars down and run the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida (or as Junior calls it – PepsiCola!!) on the weekend of December 5. He will do well on that track, a VERY fast half mile. Good luck to D.J. from all his fans and supporters.
Until next week!!
- Dave Mathers