Race Weekend Central

When a NASCAR Veteran and Rookies Collide — Or Don’t: Dover Gold

He was a-comin’. Jimmie Johnson may have been mired in the pack for much of the race, but that didn’t stop the guys in the booth from talking about the No. 48 all Sunday afternoon at Dover, did it?  We could all see the 11th win happening, even although the No. 78 of Martin Truex, Jr. and the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick seemed like they might have the 400-mile race in hand.  Still, it was going to be exciting.  A win for the Hendrick Motorsports car would break up the monotony of 2016’s Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination.

Alas, it was not to be.  Miles the Monster got hungry and decided he ought to chew up Johnson’s transmission just in time to pile a mere 17 more cars up behind him on the Lap 356 restart.  However, the little Big One simply set us up for a classic battle to the finish and a scenario I hope to see many more times in the future.

Kyle Larson’s No. 42 car had been stout all afternoon long.  His red & white machine lingered at the front or just behind, building hopes and expectations for the 23 year old.  He’s been two years behind on his arrival in Victory Lane, and Dover is exactly the kind of track we’ve been waiting for him to conquer.  It’s steep and slippery.  You can beat the track by riding the top, if you can keep your tail end behind you.  His dirt tracking experience was looking to pay off at last — a mere 87 races into his Sprint Cup career.  After the Johnson wreck, Larson was lined up behind the No. 19 car on the inside for the restart.

Edwards was simply in the way and met his destiny with the inside wall.

Restart again. This time, we had Matt Kenseth leading them to the green in his No. 20 car, which has seen more bad luck in 2016 than almost anyone except perhaps Truex.  Kenseth’s car was strong, but was it strong enough?  Would a veteran’s hard-earned experience keep him ahead of a very hungry millennial?

And so began a classic Dover International Speedway 30-lap shoot-out.  Larson rode high. He ran low. He chased Kenseth’s wiggling back end and hoped for that yellow car to spin out.  Lap down cars were used as picks–but it wasn’t enough.

And if the tension building between Mr. Kenseth and Mr. Larson wasn’t enough to have us bouncing on the edge of the couch, rookie Chase Elliott arrived on the scene in time to make a challenge for the lead as well.

I’ve said it far too many times this year, and that is no bad thing.  2016 is turning out to be an awesome NASCAR season.  When the podium finishers all climb from their cars to talk about how fun it was to battle to the end, that is the kind of racing that gets us to tune in, over and over again.  It wasn’t dirty or underhanded.  Poor decisions were not made on the drivers’ parts.

It was simple, flawless and breathtaking.  What a thrilling and entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon in May.

I don’t know how NASCAR did it, but somehow their development programs, both for drivers and the cars, have finally begun to payoff. Enjoy it while it lasts.


Something Shiny

Ever wonder how Miles the Monster comes to be one of the coolest trophies on the Sprint Cup circuit?  Check out this picture blog and see!


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