The Sunday before Memorial Day is a long, yet a great day for auto racing fans. Whether it is breakfast while watching Monaco, lunch before taking in the thrilling Indy 500 or doing some grilling and then staying up late (in this case real late) to watch NASCAR’s 600-miler from Charlotte, there’s something for nearly every race fan. There were certainly thrills of different kinds throughout the day.
It had been more than 16 years since the No. 3 rolled into Victory Lane at the end of a NASCAR Cup Series race, but if you made it past midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, that’s what you saw. In what turned out to be a fuel mileage race, Austin Dillon had just enough gas in the tank to reach the finish line before a hard charging Kyle Busch could catch and pass him.
The win was thrilling for a couple reasons. It was the first Cup win for Dillon and it came in the first race of Justin Alexander being the crew chief for the No. 3. So yes, a good decision there by Richard Childress Racing. Second, as the laps wound down and to watch then-leader Jimmie Johnson’s and second-place Dillon’s margin ahead of Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. shrink with each lap, it made for great late-race drama. Johnson’s fuel run ended a lap short, but Dillon admitted he ran out just as he took the checkered flag. Perfect timing for the No. 3.
While almost all of you and millions more have seen the video of Scott Dixon’s crash during the Indy 500 and the miracle of him walking away from it, to see something like that is not really the reason to watch races. Yes, accidents happen sometimes in thrilling fashion. And yes, drivers in all forms of racing are aware that even with all of the safety measures taken in recent years, and really throughout the last several decades, there is risk involved. And yes, ABC could show the crash video over and over again because no one was seriously injured. So while the very casual race fan, who maybe just watches the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 may think that’s why we watch these races, just kindly remind them that’s not why the real fans tune in or attend races week after week.
One of the things you have to like about Kyle Busch, and whether he uses the most diplomatic words or not, is that he just doesn’t like to lose. Period. Busch’s sarcastic congratulations to Austin Dillon in the post-race press conference was a bit comical. But really, when you have the fastest car, but can’t find a way to win, what’s more frustrating than that? Busch may not express himself in the most tactful way at times (and take into account he has yet to win this year), he shouldn’t be happy with not winning when you know you have the car that should have won that race.
One of the more ironic situations that took place during the 600-miler on Sunday night was hearing how Jimmie Johnson crew chief Chad Knaus was upset about how rookie Erik Jones was pitting in front of them. Jones barely had his right side tire in the pit box, leaving the rear of his car hanging out at least a couple of times, making it difficult for Johnson to exit his pit box. This of course is all legal and well within the rules, but maybe just not good pit road etiquette. It’s ironic because Knaus, as good as he is at finding every little edge to win, and has for a long time been one of the best at bending the rules (and getting caught on occasion), got upset because someone else (intentionally or not) was flirting with the rules, too.
The last few years, the Indy 500 has been one of the best (if not the best) races to watch all year. There are multiple changes for the lead with multiple drivers taking their turn in front, and not just during green flag pit stops. The passing that takes place is not only for the lead, but for spots throughout the top 10 for the entire race. The biggest issue with IndyCar is trying to find a way to replicate that kind of action throughout the rest of the tracks on the series. While the Indy drivers head to the road course in Detroit this weekend, what we all know is it is going to be next to impossible to come close to the type of racing that takes place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which makes IndyCar difficult to watch on TV on a regular basis.
Ty Dillon, driver of the No. 13 car, left Charlotte Motor Speedway before the race ended Saturday night/Sunday morning as he was an early exit due to a part failure. It’s not unusual for drivers who are out of the race early to leave the track early. But Dillon’s exit will go down as Exhibit A on why not to leave a big sporting event early, as he wasn’t able to be in victory lane to celebrate his brother’s first Cup Series victory.
The Cup series heads to Dover next weekend and it would make perfect sense to pick Jimmie Johnson as he is the all-time wins leader their and openly calls it his favorite track. So, of course, I’m not picking him. I’m going a different direction here and picking Chase Elliott to get his first Cup Series win. My deep sleeper underdog who you might not think about pick at Charlotte was Austin Dillon. So, you’re welcome for that. This week’s deep sleeper underdog pick who you might not think about pick is Kasey Kahne, who has two top fives and a top 10 finish in his last four trips to the Monster Mile.
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