Craig Murto: Never fear, racing continues

Craig Murto

Does the end of summer have you feeling depressed? Does the political climate heading toward the presidential election fill you with anxiety?

Well, never fear, there is still good racing going on around the globe. It seems there really is no off-season for motorsports.

Nico Rosberg won the Japanese Grand Prix, his eighth Formula One victory this season for the Mercedes team, which already wrapped up the manufacturer title with four races remaining. Young Max Verstappen grabbed second in his Red Bull, and Lewis Hamilton took the final step on the podium. The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen completed the Top 5.

The drive of the race was Hamilton’s, who was buried in the field after a horrible start. Rosberg now leads him in driver points 313 to 280.

Hurricane Matthew delayed a lot of racing on the East Coast, including the NASCAR races at Charlotte, North Carolina. After all of Friday’s and Saturday’s on-track activities were canceled, the track chose to run the Cup race first on Sunday. Following the race, spectators with tickets to the Xfinity Series race were admitted into the stands. Spectators for the Cup race were given the opportunity to stay for both events.

Jimmie Johnson scored his 78th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and gave notice that the tam is back on track. The win also ended a 24-race winless drought for Hendrick Motorsports. It’s also the first time Johnson has advanced from the second round since The Chase adopted the elimination format. Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson completed the top five.

Chase contenders Kevin Harvick, Loey Logano, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott had horrible runs. Harvick had a mechanical issue, Logano crashed due to a tire problem, and Dillon and Elliott were collected in a late-race accident on a restart. Even Chase contender Denny Hamlin blew an engine late in the race while running second.

A number of Cup drivers took part in the Xfinity Series event, though they had just run a 500-mile race of their own less than an hour beforehand. Joey Logano grabbed the win after an exciting late-race duel following the final restart to win his first Xfinity Series race of the year.

Xfinity Series regulars Elliot Sadler and Mexico’s Daniel Suarez finished second and third. Cup regular Kyle Larson closed his day with a fourth, and Erik Jones secured his spot in the next round of the Xfinity Chase by scoring a fifth.

Sadler and Suarez appear to be the drivers to beat heading into the next round of the Xfinity Chase. Jones was lucky to transfer in; though he entered the Chase as the top seed, so far he has been plagued by crashes and bad luck.

The 53rd Winchester 200 wrapped up on Sunday, as even our local tracks couldn’t escape Matthew’s wrath. Kyle Hardy grabbed the biggest win of his career, followed by Gregg Satterlee and Dale Hollidge. Jason Covert snuck in for fourth place, followed by Mark Pettyjohn in fifth.

Formula E for open-wheel electric cars opened its third season in Hong Kong over the weekend. Defending series champion Sebastian Buemi grabbed the victory, followed by Lucas Di Grassi and Nick Heidfeld.

The amount of talent in Formula E is amazing. All are world-class drivers, many with Formula One experience. The stands are always packed, but you’d expect that from a made-for-TV series that gives away tickets to each event. Teams still have to swap cars between races, however, rather than allowing for proper pit stops in which batteries would be changed to provide enough energy to complete the race distance.

If it weren’t for the vast talent in Formula E, it would hardly be noteworthy. Certainly it’s not “green” unless the batteries are charged off-grid, but it does provide a platform for the development of better technology.

Missing from the Formula E grid was Simona de Silvestro, who finished 14th at the Bathurst 1,000 Australian Supercar race. She’ll compete full-time in the series next year.

The team of Will Davison and Jonathan Webb scored the Bathurst win because the first-place finishing car of Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell was handed a 15-second penalty for an on-track altercation late in the race. Whincup/Dumbrell are appealing the penalty, but most observers believe the results will stand.

As you can see, there’s still plenty happening in the world of motorsports, and plenty more to see, including the big Late Model race at Martinsville this weekend.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.