Roger Diez: NASCAR facing interesting times

If you’re hankering for some live racing Fernley 95A Motorsports Complex is hosting its second points race of the season Saturday at 11 am. Spectator admission is $10 and social distancing and face masks are requested. 


NASCAR continues to play catch-up on the 2020 schedule, with both weekend and mid-week races. Last Sunday the NASCAR Cup teams raced on Atlanta’s 1.5 mile oval and on Wednesday they were at Martinsville for the first night race at the venerable short track. Kevin Harvick posted his second win of the season at Atlanta while Martin Truex Jr. took his first season victory at Martinsville for back to back wins there. He and Denny Hamlin are the only two winners so far this year among the four Joe Gibbs Racing entries. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have each won twice for Team Penske, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have one apiece for Hendrick Motorsports, and Harvick’s two wins are the only Stewart-Haas Racing victories so far this year. All other teams are winless thus far.

Martinsville was remarkable not only for its first night race, but for demonstrating awareness of the elephant in the room, the sudden awareness of racial inequality in the country. The pace lap was stopped while NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed drivers and teams on the sport’s need to do better in that regard.

Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in Cup, sported a Black Lives Matter motif on his car, accompanied by the peace sign that car owner and seven-time champion Richard Petty displayed on his car in the ’70s.

A number of drivers including Wallace, Jimmy Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, William Bowman, Truex, Keselowski, and several others made a video driving home the message. Subsequently NASCAR made the bold move of banning confederate flags from all their future events, a move that enraged many fans. NASCAR forums online blew up with negative feedback on the move, with many stating they were done with NASCAR. We shall see what effect the ban has on crowds once spectators are allowed to return to the grandstands and infields.

And speaking of spectators, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Miami-Homestead will have up to 1,000 fans in the stands. They will be invitees from nearby military bases and will be subject to the same rigorous screenings that the teams undergo. Face masks will also be required, and NASCAR will provide them to fans that don’t have them. The plan is to gradually add spectators, with up to 5,000 to watch next week’s Talladega race from the stands. Currently there are no plans to allow spectators at the Pocono doubleheader the following weekend.


The NTT IndyCar series opened their season Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway with no spectators and similar screening measures to NASCAR for teams, press, and officials. Teething problems beset a number of the cars, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport experiencing problems at the outset.

Polesitter and early leader Josef Newgarden had tire issues with fortunately didn’t affect his Team Penske teammates. Veteran and five-time series Champion Scott Dixon took command as the race wore on and battled young teammate Felix Rosenqvist until the youngster overcooked it and put himself into the wall. Dixon pulled away on the final restart and went on to victory. Newgarden salvaged a third-place finish, while Hunter-Reay came back from a lap behind to finish eighth. The series will now have a four-week hiatus, returning to action on the road course at Indy in conjunction with the NASCAR Brickyard 400 over the Fourth of July weekend.


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