As has become the trend lately with road courses, last weekend’s race at Sonoma played more like a short track, complete with some last-lap bumping and banging. However, Sonoma wasn’t the only track that saw contact. The Truck Series was in Gateway over the weekend and had some contact of its own – though this time, with fists instead of bumpers. Lots of bent sheet metal and hurt feelings were to be had over the weekend, but that just makes it exciting for the rest of us as we look into the latest trends emerging in NASCAR’s top three series.
It feels like Tony Stewart is always either on fire or ice cold – never lukewarm — and this weekend was no different. In eight of the 16 races run this season (Stewart missed the first eight due to an injury sustained in the offseason) he had yet to earn a top-5 finish. In fact, during all 36 races Stewart ran in 2015 he didn’t have a top-5 result in any of those, either! Last weekend in Sonoma, though Smoke earned his first top 5 in the best way possible: a visit to Victory Lane.
That’s not to say Denny Hamlin didn’t give him a run for his money. Hamlin technically passed Stewart on the last lap, but Stewart passed him right back before the two made it back to the start/finish line. Neither were necessarily “clean” passes, though. Hamlin got into the back of Stewart first, sending him squirrelly halfway through the lap but Stewart returned the favor in turn 11, causing Hamlin to hit the wall. Stewart’s former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate was still able to finish second in what was easily one of the better duels we’ve seen all season.
Still, Stewart’s run to the victory certainly puts him a category that he has been missing from for a long time. The driver’s on the verge of his first Chase since 2012 and his three top-10 finishes in eight races back gives hope he could actually do something once there.
Do I really need to elaborate on this?
Here. Just watch this.
You won’t see him on a lot of highlight reels from the weekend but Christopher Bell was able to win the Truck Series race Saturday night despite a chaotic event that saw nine cautions — including three red flags. Granted, two of those were for the expiration of the caution clock but tightening the field back up doesn’t exactly make for a calmer race.
Bell led 38 of the 160 laps and earned his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory, his third top 5 and fifth top 10 in nine races this season. Bell tends to get overshadowed by his other Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates, William Byron and even Busch himself but can absolutely get the job done. This victory propelled him into the Chase, adds momentum heading to one of Bell’s better tracks, Eldora later this month and establishes him as a darkhorse title contender.
Apparently the incident was so graphic that the television cameras were unwilling to show what actually happened, but judging by the rabbit guts that were splattered on the front and underside of that car, it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to figure it out.
Putting the rabbit in the “not” section though may not be fitting considering the heat that a NASCAR stock car puts off probably meant that the rabbit guts were … ahem, “well done” by the time Busch pulled back into the garage area.
I’m sorry. I hope you weren’t eating.
HOT and NOT
Expectations haven’t been very high for Clint Bowyer this season but there was a tad more hope for the No. 15 this weekend at Sonoma, considering that Bowyer has won there before and road course races tend to even the playing field a bit.
Sadly, we never got to find out. An electrical fire just five laps (hence “hot”) into the race forced Bowyer to retire early, barely giving him a chance to improve on his 18th-place starting position.
He was also hot in other ways, too. Though Bowyer was able to have a sense of humor about the incident after exiting the infield care center, he pitched his helmet and gloves into the cockpit of his car shortly after the safety crew got to him on the track, clearly frustrated with what has already been a bit of a trying season.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, of course. Bowyer’s car owner for next season, Tony Stewart, went to Victory Lane later that day and two other cars from that same organization have already won this season (Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick). Bowyer would probably appreciate it if nothing else caught on fire the rest of this year, though and it makes you wonder how the final portion of his partnership will be with HScott Motorsports if the team continues to struggle.