In a Nutshell: The start of the race looked a lot more like an ARCA race than a Busch Series race, with three yellow flags flying in the first 20 laps. Ultimately, there were 13 cautions during the race, which made a run at the record number of cautions for the race and tied the highest total of cautions for the year. In between all of the carnage, there was some racing that took place, although Denny Hamlin made a shambles of most of the event. Greg Biffle led after the drop of the green flag, but only held the point for the first four laps, after that Hamlin dominated the race leading 138 of the 200 laps. His only real challenge came late in the race when Martin Truex Jr. stayed out on a late race caution and tried to use track position to his advantage. Hamlin restarted sixth but quickly moved back to the front and assumed the lead for the final time on lap 186. Truex was able to hold onto second, Matt Kenseth finished an unassuming third, Mike Bliss had a strong effort to finish fourth and Reed Sorenson put in a workmanlike fifth-place run.
Who Should Have Won: Hamlin. Hamlin was the class of the field all day. He came in for tires during a caution flag with 34 laps to go and had to restart sixth while Truex stayed on the track to assume the lead and try to use the track position game to steal a victory. Truex was the strongest of the rest of the field with 21 laps led during the event, but Hamlin should have won the race and ultimately did.
Three questions you should be asking after the race this weekend.
1) Does throwing your helmet at a competitor’s car accomplish anything?
Tony Raines was spun out by Robby Gordon as the race approached the halfway point. Raines took a wicked hit in the right front corner as his car barreled uncontrollably into the outside wall in turn 3. Raines’ spotter told him that Gordon had made the contact on purpose, so when Raines got out of the car, he threw his helmet at Gordon’s car as it passed under caution. The helmet bounced off of the pavement before striking the grill area of Gordon’s car. The only thing that accomplished was most likely bringing a fine from NASCAR and caused Raines to have to purchase a new helmet before the next race because NASCAR won’t allow him to use a damaged helmet. It puts on a great show for the fans, but it doesn’t do anything productive for the driver or the team.
2) Are NASCAR drivers athletes?
Hamlin was suffering from the flu, taking IVs before the race and finding a possible replacement driver in future teammate Kyle Busch. Once the green flag dropped, Hamlin went straight to the front of the pack and raced the entire day without any assistance. The argument can be made that it doesn’t really take an athlete to drive a car in circles, and seeing someone do it while suffering from the flu just might justify that argument. While there is certainly a lot of skill needed and physical demands put onto a driver, Hamlin certainly made it look easy.
3) Should damaged cars be allowed to restart near the front of the lap down line next to cars that are competing for the win?
Jason Leffler was taken out on a restart at the three quarter point of the race by Richard Johns, who had a damaged racecar and was starting next to Leffler. Johns was multiple laps down and Leffler was on the lead lap, sitting fourth in the point standings and trying to keep his position as the highest standing Busch regular driver. NASCAR needs to work on a system that keeps damaged racecars from being in the middle of the pack on restarts with cars that are competing for a race win.
Worth noting/points shuffle:
The 29 was involved in two separate incidents and lost the points lead in the owner’s championship race. Scott Wimmer finally brought the car home in 29th position, but that allowed Jack Roush’s No. 99 to take the owner’s points lead back by 39 points.
Keselowski’s seventh-place finish in the JR Motorsports No. 88 car tied his career-best Busch Series finish and continued his strong performance since taking over that ride in Chicago.
Buschwhackers in the race: 14
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 524 of 1,240
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: Seven
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 207 of 290
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 25 of 28
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: Five
“We moved up the track and pinched him down a little bit. We were tight all day and just couldn’t run with those guys on fresh tires. We got closer as the tires wore, but it was our only shot.” – Martin Truex Jr.
“They changed every spring, shock and sway bar and everything this morning. Without any practice we were pretty good.” – Matt Kenseth
“I need a nap. This car was great all day. I hated to stay in it and risk tomorrow. I don’t think I did. It’s easier to do it when the car handles so great.” – Denny Hamlin
Next up: The series heads to the heartland of America next week for the Lifelock 400 at Kansas Speedway. The race will air Saturday, September 30th at 1 p.m. on ABC and MRN.