Watching this week’s Nationwide race required a marathon effort. Slated to start on Saturday night, it was postponed until Sunday morning due to rain. Once begun, the cars clicked off laps in a hasty fashion, until a wreck two-thirds of the way through required extensive clean-up and was followed by a red flag for rain. That’s hardly the way to go with things.
Through what can be considered a mess of a race weekend, Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne emerged as the top contenders. After the red, Dillon drove away as he had for much of the event. Bayne, however, was able to run him down with a car that excelled on long green flag runs, catching and passing the No. 3 car with 11 to go. From there, without a late caution, Bayne cruised to victory – something that shows Roush Fenway Racing’s continued success at the track.
Brian Vickers may have been one of those select few but two bad pit stops put him in a lackluster position. The second poor stop led to his wreck and took him out of the race. Also collected in the mess were Alex Bowman, Max Papis, and Travis Pastrana. Pastrana, at this point, must be living in a world of frustration as he has seemingly had good cars recently, and even been driving forward, only to be caught in bad spots. Not to single him out as any one driver upon which the series must rely, but it would certainly help if he had some decent finishes.
The Iowa track is reminiscent of both Richmond and Loudon. Cars race side-by-side with neither seeming to get a true advantage and makes for solid racing. The track serves as a reminder that good racing does actually exist and the need for more close-quarters action on all of the schedules. Though the cars that were good were able to driver away from much of the field, notice that by lap 100 half the field had been lapped, the track still makes for compelling entertainment.
Announcer Allen Bestwick called the Iowa and “opportunity race.” It makes sense, in a way, as no Sprint Cup drivers could participate. With that being noted, every race is an opportunity, and though much has been made of the Cup drivers (re: Busch, Kyle) dominating the series, it doesn’t mean that they are unable to contend for victories. One aspect that may be overlooked is that Bayne already has some Cup experience and Dillon has put in a few stints as a Cup driver at this point. Sure, they’re both running for the Nationwide championship, but the two drivers that ran up front have experience and serious organizational backing behind them – it’s not like they can’t compete with the Cup guys.
NASCAR. Sure, it makes sense to run the race on Sunday morning. Sort of. Teams want to get back home. Drivers have sat around. It’s time to get things finished off. But why the early start time? Why not, push the race to mid-afternoon, especially at a track that has lights? Once the red flag came about, the race was competing with not only it’s big NASCAR Cup brethren but also the F1 race. Seems like a bad move (or one that was really made by ESPN).
Aside from competing with the more newsworthy racing events, there was a different thing that showed up: the stand were rather empty. For a track that consistently draws well, this sign is disappointing. Had many of the fans given up? Were they at church? The people that make these decisions about scheduling must look at what transpired in Iowa as a cautionary tale for reform.
Underdog Performer To call Kyle Larson an underdog at this point is a misnomer, as he continues to show that he’s a rising star. How about Johanna Long coming home a respectable 12th and finishing on the lead lap. Sure, she was never a contender but that kind of result is exactly what she needs and something that have been few and far between to earn. Way to go.
With NASCAR spread out between Texas, Iowa, and Pocono, this race could be seen as an opportunity for practice, learning, development or whatever one might want to call it for a young driver. Sad to note that by lap 15 five cars had already dropped out and sits as an example that teams start-and-park no matter where they are. Maybe it’s not Cup drivers interloping on the series as much as NASCAR is plagued by people just collecting a check.
The Final Word
- Aside from NASCAR’s decision to run the race at the postpone time selected, someone also must question the decision to finish the race after another deluge sated the track and caused an hour delay. No doubt everyone is feeling pretty good about leaving Iowa behind for now.
The negatives aside, when the cars did race, things were good. Did the lack of Cup drivers effect any aspect? Hard to say. Sometimes it’s good to have a splash name in the field, and other times it’s just lame. Ultimately, the delays became more of a story than the racing and that’s sad because Iowa still put on a decent show.
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