Under-the-radar Homestead subplot: Newman goes for RCR’s first title in 20 years, versus ex-RCR driver Harvick

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The immediate reaction to Ryan Newman’s move on Kyle Larson on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway was one of “wow,” and “I can’t believe he did that.”

It has moved Newman into the championship finale as one of four drivers with a shot to become a first-time series champion.

And additionally, it’s opened up another subplot: Newman, trying to deliver Richard Childress his first Cup title in 20 years, will be going against Kevin Harvick, Childress’ driver from 2001 through 2013, who came close on many occasions but was never able to deliver Childress a title. Of course Harvick now drives for Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman’s old team.

It’s really a fascinating prospect. Newman has been in the crosshairs all Chase long as the underdog, particularly given the fact he has failed to win a race and scored only four top-five finishes. Yet he’s been entirely consistent throughout the year, played the system to his advantage, and given Childress a driver with a shot at the title courtesy of a move Childress’ legendary driver, the late Dale Earnhardt, would have been proud of.

Newman’s aggression to Larson was definitely a case of “rattling his cage” – as Earnhardt famously did to Terry Labonte at Bristol in 1999 – even if he didn’t describe it as such. Yet aggression isn’t the word you would use to describe Newman’s season on the whole.

So it’s that juxtaposition that leaves Newman – a driver who won eight races in 2003 yet finished sixth in the points to a one-win Matt Kenseth, a season that served as the catalyst for the Chase in the first place – now standing at the precipice of a title, on the strength of a winless season.

And in doing so, he’d deliver Childress his first title since Earnhardt won his seventh in 1994. Earnhardt came close to an eighth in 2000; Harvick came close on several occasions but never bettered third in the points.

Childress, ironically, actually has a shot to win his second straight NASCAR driver’s championship with a winless driver. Grandson Austin Dillon achieved the feat in the Nationwide Series a year ago, which marked the first time in any of NASCAR’s three top divisions (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Camping World Truck Series) such a result had occurred.

Not that Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin aren’t intriguing storylines, or potential champions, but to see one of NASCAR’s legendary owners have this driver be the guy with a shot to end a 20-year drought, and have to beat the guy who came close to ending it any of the last 13 years for RCR is definitely going to be fun to watch.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.