Craig Murto

Craig Murto

Kevin Harvick went winless through the first 19 races of the 2019 season, but Sunday he grabbed his second win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis to score his third win of the year as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads into the playoffs.

It was 2003 when Harvick scored his first Brickyard win. On Sunday he dominated, leading 118 of the 160 laps on his way to his 48th Cup victory.

Joey Logano finished second, but the biggest and most pleasant surprise was the third-place finish of Bubba Wallace in the Richard Petty Motorsports 43. Wallace was fast in practice and steadily drove to the front during the race.

The race itself took a toll on a lot of equipment. There’s something about this high-downforce package used in the Cup Series that makes drivers take chances, and unfortunately, those chances often result in wrecked cars. Logano predicted it before the season started, and he was right; fans who want thrills and spills are seeing them this year.

What we haven’t seen in decades took place at Indy, as the Brickyard 400 was the closest thing to a one-day show you’ll ever see. Cup practice on Saturday, with qualifying and the race both on Sunday.

Could this become a trend?

If you go to see a touring series, come into any local track, normally they’re one-day shows. A touring Dirt Late Model series will come into Winchester or Hagerstown, practice, some hold time trials, qualifying races, then the feature. If you go to the Championship Auto Racing Series Tour show at South Boston in November, the series will come in, practice, time trial for starting lineup, then run their feature.

It used to be common in what is now the Cup series. As a child, I saw Tiny Lund beat Hank Thomas at a half-mile track that once stood in Beltsville, Maryland. It was one of only three cup wins Lund had in his career, including the Daytona 500. Those were the days Richard Petty was accumulating massive amounts of victories. The Cup series would have the big races at Darlington or Rockingham on the weekends, but midweek the Cup guys would roll into a place like Beltsville and run a single-day show; practice, qualify and race.

Could it work today?

One-day shows may not work, but qualifying and racing on the same day such as the Cup series did at Indy with the two-day format could be interesting. From a fan standpoint, it gives the fans who arrive at the track early something to watch.

And from a team standpoint, it might actually save money. Teams spend a small fortune in travel, and any time taken out of a road trip has got to translate into a cost savings. For smaller teams, it might be a way to help bridge the spending gap; bigger teams will spend money no matter what you try to do for them.

No teams spend more money than teams competing in Formula 1. And right about now Ferrari had better be spending a lot throwing a party for 21-year-old Charles Leclerc, the newest Italian sports hero.

Leclerc is a driver from Monaco, who just happens to drive for Ferrari’s F1 team. Two weeks ago he scored his first win on the Spa circuit in Belgium.

That was well and good. What makes him a hero to the Italian Ferrari fans is that he came back and won again, this time on Ferrari’s home turf, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. When Ferrari wins at Monza the driver becomes an instant celebrity, and Ferrari hadn’t won at Monza since Fernando Alonso did it in 2010.

But what was even better about Leclerc’s Monza win was that he had to truly drive for it. After teammate Sebastian Vettel took himself out of the mix early through a number of self-inflicted errors, Leclerc was by himself to fend off a double-pronged attack by the Mercedes team.

First, the young racer had to hold off former world champion and current point leader Lewis Hamilton. Then, when Hamilton’s tires gave up, it was Valtteri Bottas who took the Mercedes fight to the Ferrari. In the end, however, neither could catch Ferrari’s newest star driver in a race that was actually quite close and exciting for F1 this season.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.