NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions After The 2017 Kobalt 400

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Ryan Blaney was a constant threat all race long, running in the top 10. The North Carolina native ended the day seventh, recording his second top-10 finish of the season. He currently sits sixth in the point standings, a sophomore jump after finishing 20th in points last season in his rookie year.

“We had to come in early in the race and get some lug nuts back on the right front to be able to race,” Blaney said. “That put us behind. Our car was good enough and once we got back inside the top 10 I felt that we had a shot at fourth or fifth but that last restart didn’t go our way.”

What… is the takeaway from this race?

This race just wasn’t that great until the last 15 laps, which is kind of the case with most NASCAR races now. It’s hard to justify two triple-header weekends next season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway outside of: “Well, the track is getting more money from the city now” after a race that featured two green-flag lead changes outside of pit cycles.

Obviously, the race will get a huge boost in the eyes of many viewers simply due to both the thrilling finish and the fight afterward, but there was still plenty of single-file, follow-the-leader racing that both Las Vegas and its sister tracks Kansas Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway have become infamous for.

After the fight, which featured hometown hero Kyle Busch fighting the “dastardly” No. 22 pit crew almost single-handedly and spilling blood, ticket sells should be up next year. If the track marketing people are doing their job, there shouldn’t be an empty seat in the house come next March.

Where… did the pole-sitter and the defending race winner end up?

Brad Keselowski, who was both the pole-sitter and the defending race winner, seemed to have just about the only car that could hang with the No. 78 car of Martin Truex Jr. for most of the day. Keselowski took the lead with just 24 laps to go and held on through the race’s final restart with nine laps to go. Then, with just two laps to go, the No. 2 car had car problems that haven’t been completely pinned down as of press time.

“I just know it was something major,” Keselowski said. “It wouldn’t turn and I lost brakes, so that’s a pretty good indicator, but that’s the way it goes.”

Truex was able to drive past a struggling Keselowski and cruised to victory, while Keselowski fell to fifth at the finish.

When… did it all get sideways?

Kevin Harvick had a pretty strong Ford at the start of the race, but got looser and looser as the first 60 laps went on before a right-front tire went down in the tri-oval and hitting the Turn 1 wall hard. Harvick entered Sunday with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points lead. He leaves the unforgiving Las Vegas desert eighth in points after finishing 38th, not even completing the first stage.

Harvick had some choice words for the slow medical response team, three weeks into the first season of NASCAR’s new full-time, every weekend team instead of relying on the track of that week’s race to provide emergency response.

“[The tire] started vibrating about four or five laps there before it blew out, and I was just trying to ride it to the end of the stage there,” the 2014 Cup Series champion said. “Obviously, it didn’t make it. The worst part was the medical response. It took them forever to get to the car. I thought we made that better, but obviously we haven’t.”

Why… did Martin Truex Jr. win?

The right guy, in the right car, at the right time. Truex dominated most of the day, winning the first two stages and leading 150 laps, but he needed just a little bit of luck after being passed by Keselowski with just 24 laps to go. Instead of just not having any luck at all as has been the case for many races over the past two seasons, Truex had a lot of it in those last 24 laps.

First, Danica Patrick blew her engine and caused both one final round of pit stops and one final restart. Truex struggled on the restart due to not being able to adjust his track bar. He previously had a lot of luck, not necessarily good luck — but stole the win after something broke on Keselowski’s Ford.

Just… how tough is Kyle Busch?

There are plenty of NASCAR fans who do not like Busch for a multitude of reasons. Some believe he’s brash. Others think he’s too aggressive on the racetrack. After Sunday, it’s hard to not at least respect his guts.

Busch walked up to the entire No. 22 crew without much, if any back-up from his own crew members, and punched Joey Logano. Whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing, it was definitely the brave thing. Watch the video again on Youtube- there are some big guys on that team, and Busch just didn’t care.

As the series heads to Phoenix next week on its next stop on this year’s “NASCAR Goes West” tour, expect this new, brewing rivalry to be a major talking point this week. It seems the Cup Series drivers like to fight when they go to the western part of the country- Jeff Gordon vs. Clint Bowyer in 2012 at Phoenix, Tony Stewart vs. Logano in 2014 at  Auto Club Speedway, and Gordon v. Keselowski in 2014 at Phoenix. Today proved to be no exception.

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DoninAjax

Is the pressure rising on Suarez?

Carl D.

Nah… he’ll be fine in JGR equipment. He just has to get some cup races under his belt. Remember Chase Elliott has yet to win a race, and in his first three races in his rookie season he finished 37th, 8th, and 38th.

DoninAjax

It’s a reality check for rookies.

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