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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2021 Ally 400 at Nashville

What happened?

Kyle Larson won the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday (June 20) after another incredible performance for his third consecutive points-race win (fourth counting the All-Star Race). 

Ross Chastain, William Byron, Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers.

How did it happen?

Pole sitter Almirola couldn’t hold off Kyle Busch through the first corner before a caution came out for Quin Houff, who lost a tire and slammed the outside wall.

The race restarted with Larson shooting the gap between Busch and Almirola, making it three-wide and clearing both drivers with a wild move.

Larson led until green flag pit stops began starting at lap 40. As Larson and Busch were on pit road, a caution came out for Tyler Reddick after he spun while exiting pit road too hot.

Busch passed Larson on pit road and held the lead for one lap after the restart before Larson used the air to get Busch out of shape and retake the spot. There was another quick caution when Ryan Blaney’s brakes failed and he slammed hard into the wall.

With 12 laps left in stage one, Justin Haley and Chris Buescher almost simultaneously hit the outside wall, ending both of their days.

Chase Elliott, who was running second, along with six others, stayed out while Larson pitted. Elliott held off Kurt Busch on the restart with five to go and won his second stage of the season. Elliott was later disqualified after five loose lug nuts were found, so the stage win went to Busch.

Larson got the lead after Elliott and Busch pitted, and he got comfortable there. He led until lap 132 when Bubba Wallace had a tire go down and spun out.

Cole Custer cut a right rear tire due to brake rotor issues with 12 to go in stage two. This time, everyone pitted. Chase Briscoe, Reddick and Austin Dillon took two tires while Larson and the other leaders took four. Larson passed Briscoe for the lead with four to go to win his 12th stage of the year. Briscoe and Dillon held onto solid positions to take home some valuable stage points.

Another brake rotor failed on lap 197 when Ryan Preece had trouble.

The next restart came with 98 to go, with Larson leading again after Byron nearly lost it and collected his teammate. The 10th caution of the race came with 83 to go when Wallace and Michael McDowell made contact, spinning out the No. 23. 

Everyone except Chastain pitted under this caution, hoping to stretch it on fuel for the rest of the race. Larson cleared Chastain on the restart before another caution with 73 to go when Briscoe suffered a similar fate as Blaney, Custer and Preece.

Chastain pitted under this caution, ensuring that he would have enough fuel for the finish while the rest of the leaders stayed out. Larson again held the lead over Byron and Elliott on the restart and pulled away to a comfortable advantage.

While Larson paced the field, Chastain charged through traffic all the way to second place with eight laps left. It wasn’t enough, however, as Larson held on to win while some drivers ran out of fuel (Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.) and others had tire problems (Elliott).

The win was Larson’s fourth of the season (third straight), 10th of his career and fifth straight for Hendrick Motorsports.

Who stood out?

What else can I say about Larson? It’s gotten to the point where we’re running out of interesting ways to describe his performance. He led 264 of 300 laps at Nashville, the fifth time in the last seven races that he’s led the most laps. There weren’t many, if any, points in the race Sunday where Larson’s victory was in question. Elliott won stage one due to strategy and Larson was unchallenged on every restart despite the 11 cautions.

Larson now has 32 playoff points (four wins, 12 stage wins), which is 14 more than the next closest competitor (Truex with 18). Last season, Harvick and Hamlin seemed untouchable with all their playoff points. If Larson keeps up this current pace, he will quite literally be untouchable until the season finale.

Chastain keeps getting better to the point a non-superspeedway win before the end of the regular season is feasible. The No. 42 driver has three top 10s in his last four starts after two top 10s in his first 92 career starts. He’s also finished in the top 16 for eight of the last nine races. Chastain has been consistent at all different track types, as it seems Chip Ganassi Racing is reaping some of the benefits of Hendrick’s speed.

A win isn’t out of the question over the next nine races before the playoffs. Even if he can’t get one, Chastain is slowly creeping up toward the playoff bubble. He could need some help with poor runs by some drivers ahead of him, but it’s time to start looking at the No. 42 team as a serious threat to crash the playoff party.

After ragging on Stewart-Haas Racing all season, it’s finally time to give the organization some credit. We’ll start with the two drivers who finished inside the top five. Harvick had a typical 2021 day for him, running within the top 10 most of the race with flashes of good speed. He parlayed it into his best finish since Kansas Speedway back at the beginning of May. Almirola started on the pole and didn’t really leave the top 10 all afternoon. The No. 10 is finally looking like its old self after an ugly first few months of the season. Still, Almirola will need a win to make the playoffs.

Briscoe and Custer didn’t finish where they ran, but it was still a day to be excited about. Briscoe had the most solid run of his rookie season, getting to the front thanks to strategy before retaining track position and driving back up through the field again. Custer similarly had a solid qualifying run and was near the front until his brake issues hit. It’s a shame the same problem — one that was out of their control — struck the two young SHR drivers.

Who fell flat?

Truex is becoming a regular in this section after looking like the title favorite just a few short weeks ago. The No. 19 pitted in the final laps due to fuel concerns and finished 22nd, but that’s not the whole story. Truex almost wrecked in qualifying, had two pit road penalties and just generally didn’t show much speed all weekend.

Nashville was part of a troubling trend for Truex and Co. He’s finished 19th or worse in four of five races since his Darlington Raceway win while HMS dominates. Crew chief James Small can point to the fact that Truex’s three victories all came at key playoff tracks, but you have to get there in order for that to matter. In its current state, the No. 19 team isn’t scaring anyone. That could all change in the blink of an eye, but it’s definitely becoming notable. Pocono Raceway is one of Truex’s better tracks, so we’ll see how he does at the doubleheader next weekend before totally panicking.

Matt DiBenedetto missed a golden opportunity to close the gap in the playoff push. After Buescher wrecked early in the race, it seemed as though DiBenedetto would be able to gain a ton of points. He ran 10th in the first stage and appeared to have a respectable car before dropping a cylinder and limping home 24th. The No. 21 gained just 14 points on the No. 17 in a race where gaining at least 25 points was on the table. If DiBenedetto misses out on the playoffs by a handful of points or less, we’ll know what race to blame.

What did this race prove?

NASCAR should’ve done more testing at Nashville. There were more tire and brake failures on Sunday than I can remember seeing in some time. It was exciting to never really know what was going to happen, knowing that no one was truly safe. But it also seemed like an issue that could’ve been addressed had more testing gone into the track.

Fuel mileage races are fun — once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see fuel mileage determining the race every week. Every so often, though, the thrill of not knowing who will make it and who won’t is intense. Nashville didn’t really see any contenders run out of fuel, but there was definitely concern for most drivers not named Larson. Stage racing has eliminated a lot of fuel mileage chances, so Sunday became a fun little throwback race.

The broadcast switch from FOX to NBC was a nice change of pace. I enjoyed FOX’s coverage this season, especially with Clint Bowyer’s presence reinvigorating Jeff Gordon. When NBC takes over the schedule, though, you know business is about to pick up. The playoffs are nearing and intensity is ramping up. I also felt as though NBC did a better job showing battles throughout the field, which were especially intense at Nashville. That could’ve been the case at previous tracks this season; it’s just not something FOX showed the audience much of.

Paint scheme of the race

Entering this weekend, I was fully prepared to drop Harvick’s Grave Digger scheme in this section and move along to the next one. Then, I saw Bowman’s Ally neon lights car on the track. While Harvick’s car was great, Bowman’s just popped from the moment I saw it in action.

Will we be back?

The second of four new tracks on the 2021 Cup schedule, Nashville should absolutely be back next season. Nashville is already confirmed on the schedule for the next three years, so the question is a bit irrelevant — I’m still going to ask it, though.

I’ll admit I had low expectations for the track after remembering what it was like in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck series. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised all weekend long. The Xfinity and Cup races this weekend were ruled by a dominant driver, but there was great racing throughout the pack. Aside from side-by-side competition, the spectacle of NASCAR returning to Nashville was a shot in the arm the sport needed. The city is so full of life and you could feel the energy, regardless of where you watched from. Whether NASCAR continues to race at Nashville Superspeedway or moves back to the Nashville Fairgrounds, the sport has to stay in the city.

Playoff picture

Larson now stands alone atop the series with four victories. There are still five playoff spots open for non-winners, with three of those spots still very secure — Hamlin (+318), Harvick (+149) and Austin Dillon (+108).

The two drivers below Hamlin, Harvick and Dillon have also built a sizable cushion over 17th, albeit much less safe. Reddick (+49) and Buescher (+24) are sweating a little bit because a new winner could easily kick them out. Buescher’s race at Nashville also showed how quickly one bad week can narrow the gap, as he lost 24 points on the bubble in one day. Kurt Busch (-24), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-43), DiBenedetto (-46) and Chastain (-50) are the closest drivers outside the playoffs.

Here’s a look at the full standings following Nashville.

What’s next?

Doubleheader events became somewhat normal last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the only doubleheader of the season comes next weekend at Pocono Raceway. The first race (130 laps, 325 miles) is set for Saturday, June 26 at 3 p.m. ET, while the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350 (140 laps) will run Sunday, June 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Both races will be broadcast on NBCSN.

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Bill B

First off, what a thrill to see a sell out crowd at a track, especially given the lack of crowds during the Covid crisis.
It was also nice to see cars have parts failures’ That doesn’t happen much anymore but, many years ago, it used to be a more regular occurrence which adds some drama to a race.
Not much more can be said about Larson right now. He is kicking ass and seems untouchable but, as we all know, things can change quickly. Regardless, it’s hard to see him not being in the final four (until you remember Harvick’s collapse last year).
Overall I thought the race was one of the better races we’ve seen this year but that might be because there were a s-load of cautions and restarts (which always produce the most exciting moments in a race). I also agree fuel mileage concerns add some drama but I only like to see fuel mileage determine the outcome a few times a year.
I don’t know how I missed the “take away” of Chase’s stage one win but this was the first I heard of it and I’ve never seen them take away a stage win before. I didn’t even know they checked the lug nuts that closely after each stage.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
janice

i saw an “alert” on facebook this morning. the lugs were checked after the race and 5 were loose. they took away his finishing position, dropped him to last in the field and the stage win.

you know nascar, rules change whenever.

Bill B

Well, I am fine with them dropping him to last in finishing order but to go back and retroactively take away the stage win and points from stages 1 & 2, is ridiculous for a lug nut violation. There is no evidence that he had 5 lug nuts loose at the finish of the stages so those points should be cemented in. If there was something like a tricked out engine or illegal part that was on the car from the beginning to the end of the race then, yes, that makes sense. Only NASCAR can make a rule about lug nuts being tight at the end of the race, controversial.
Thanks for clearing that up Janice!

Carl D.

I agree that the penalty seems awfully severe for a lug nut infraction.

DoninAjax

All five lug nuts were loose and he had a vibration and he stayed on the track.

You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel!

jobe

Chase would have been better off if the wheel had actually come off and spun or even wrecked.

jobe

Chase even tweeted the exact same thing, that he would have been better off wrecking.

Echo

lol, good one.

jobe

Except the car DIDN’T lose a wheel. At least DW saved that old song until a wheel actually DID come off. SMH!

Carl D.

So the #9 team travels to Nashville and comes home with no points and no purse money. Somebody at HMS probably got their pink slip this morning. Or last night.

I thought the race was good, not great. It was nice to see the watermelon farmer get a second place finish, and nice to see Almirola escape bad luck for once. Actually, both Ganassi cars were fast yesterday. Do they get their motors from Hendrick?

Carl D.

Never mind that last question. Reading Jared Haas’ column this morning I was reminded that HMS does indeed provide engines to Ganassi.

John Dawg Chapman

The three wide action was exactly what the race needed. The fan support was also encouraging. One factor determining it’s future could be if that support holds up. Dover isn’t exactly on the strongest financial footing, & the reason it closed was poor attendance. Lets hope the Cup date cures this, but it’s something to watch.

jobe

What action?

Bill B

Come on… it was 6 or 7 wide a few times…..

according to the announcers. :-)

DoninAjax

The stooges in the booth say that during every event. Too bad there’s never any video of it.

Bill B

How could you not know that was a joke? I guess I need to make it clear when I am saying something sarcastic. I thought the smiley face at the end was enough. Anyway, I agree with your comment 100% and was trying to make the same point.

jobe

Elliott dropped back toward the end with what he described as a “loose rear gear.” Just wondering if he was feeling the effects of the 5 loose lugnuts. Seems strange to penalize the driver for the crew making a mistake that put his own safety at risk.

Time for Chase to weigh his options past his contract end next year. HMS is clearly not making the 9 team a priority.

Chase should remember that Kyle Busch did not become a superstar until he LEFT Hendrick.

GMS and his family friend, perhaps?

John Dawg Chapman

I understand Elliott’s DQ, & the loss of his stage win, & stage points. What I don’t understand is the stage win being awarded to Busch. In the Xfinity, & Camping World series, if an ineligible driver wins a stage. The win isn’t awarded to the next eligible driver. It just goes away, & the next driver gets 9 points. In both cases the car that won the stage was ineligible. Why the difference?

Carl D.

One more comment… I agree with Logan’s paint scheme of the race. That #48 car really stood out.

Bill B

If only they could have held the race at night and replaced the regular lights with black lights…..

Shayne

NASCAR has a lug nut penalty flow chart:

20 safe and secure = no penalty
19 safe and secure = $10,000 fine
18 safe and secure = $20,000 fine, crew chief suspended for 1 race
17 safe and secure = race disqualification

Looks like Chase earned 1 point (according to jayski.com).

Great to see Valvoline sponsoring Kyle Larson.

DoninAjax

I saw that point too. How can a car get disqualified and earn points. I guess he got a participation point. And maybe a trophy?

Jeremy

What? NASCAR penalizing HMS and their most popular driver? Is it below freezing in hell? I expect the penalty will be rescinded or significantly reduced upon appeal.

jobe

No worries there. HMS got the results it wanted. There will be no appeal. Rick and Jeffie are aware that Chase is leaving the team after his contract is up.

Jeremy

You think Ford is trying to lure the Elliott name back to their camp? Possibly as Keselowski’s replacement at Penske? Haas is the only other Ford ride I could see him taking, but I think the Penske ride (with his buddy Blaney) would be better.

jobe

I’m not necessarily talking Ford. He can go to GMS. It would be a step down initially, but better than being screwed by the Fat Felon.

Bill B

Wow! At 12:01 it was “Time for Chase to weigh his options past his contract end next year.”…

And now at 1:48 it’s a fact “Rick and Jeffie are aware that Chase is leaving the team after his contract is up”…

Where did you find that news in the last hour and a half? I must not be looking at the right NASCAR news feeds.

jobe

GMS, dear!

Or 23Xi

Steps down, but worth to get away from Rick and Chad and Jeffie.

In any case, I hope he doesn’t make the same mistakes his dad did in staying with a team too long. The handwriting is on the wall. HMS doesn’t have Chase or Bowman as priorities any longer. Chase has served his purpose for the Fat Felon and the Fat Short Guy.

In fact, this may be a good week to get a COVID test and sit out the Pocono double-header.

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
Bill B

How about a link with that fact.
Sorry, I don’t trust your comments at face value, you like to deal in spinning news to fit the narrative you want. I want to see where “Rick and Jeffie are aware that Chase is leaving the team after his contract is up” or is that just total BS.

jobe

It’s speculation, not fact. Chase has a contract through next year, so there’s obviously going to be no news this year. If he doesn’t at least put out feelers that he’s interested in leaving, then he’s a complete idiot and deserves what he gets from Hendrick, which is crap.

As for the GMS link, that’s the team Chase drives for in the Truck Series and Mike Beam, his dad’s old pal, is the President of the company.

Bill B

“It’s speculation”… that’s all I wanted to hear.
Thank you… come again.

jobe

When have you ever posted a fact, Billy Bob?

All we ever get from you is your man crush on Rick Hendrick.

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
Bill B

Start showing me comments where I made a totally BS claim. Otherwise….
Thank you… come again…. and the horse you road in on.

jobe

Just enter “Is Chase Elliott leaving HMS?” in your search engine. There’s a video claiming Chase is going to the F1 McLaren team next year. I don’t quite believe that, but I’d love it if he did!

Echo

Kyle Busch must really miss practice, or he and his CC just aren’t meshing. Or maybe it’s totally the Gibbs cars. Something is really off there. I know he can drive anything, anywhere, but I think he’s really disgusted. It’s not just Chevy cars that are beating him.

jobe

Don’t worry about Kyle Busch, lady. Once he gets close enough to Larson, Rowdy will just put your boyfriend into the wall!

Rg72

Is this lug nut rule the same one that wasn’t a rule a few years back and then suddenly became a rule after Smoke said something and was fined?

Echo

No way Chase is going anywhere. Sounds like a QAnon theory to me. Why in the world would Rick & company give Chase inferior cars to Larson’s ! The speculator ate a good mushroom perhaps.

Bill B

Remember all this BS being spouted by one person is a reflection of the hate for Larson and Hendrick and nothing else. Just grabbing at straws like trolls often do.

jobe

I’ve always hated Hendrick. He’s a liar and a convicted felon who faked cancer to get out of serving his prison sentence. Ray Evernham and Chad Knaus are the biggest cheaters in NASCAR. What’s not to hate? Tell me why you are so in love with the organization?

Echo

Wow, now you think your a doctor. So Rick faked cancer cause your magic 8 ball told you. I like Chase, seems like a good person and a good driver. Did it ever occur to you that Larson just might be the better driver ! Might I said. I enjoy watching him, on the track and dirt. He’s a natural wheelman.

jobe

You say that about Larson about a dozen times every week. Do you sleep in a room with a shrine to him, lady? Have his blowup doll, honey?

Have you ever considered that the cars are set up by Chad the Cheat to Larson’s liking more than to the way the other 3 drivers would prefer? One guy in charge to help one specific driver. Hendrick should just fire all 3 of them. Oh no! He can’t – they have full sponsorships which the punk racist does not.

As for Rick, since he is convicted of bribery, it’s not a stretch to believe he faked his diagnosis. At the time, folks said they had never seen a person undergoing cancer treatment looking so “robust.” It was a scam, like his entire operation of HMS.

jobe

He’s an idiot if he doesn’t explore other options next year. And it’s quite obvious that Chad Knaus is setting cars up to Larson’s liking, so the car might not be technically inferior, but IRL*, it proves to be inferior. Chase needs a team that puts his preferences first and that is obviously not HMS since they decided to devote all their attention to Larson. And he should start expressing his displeasure to the Fat Felon right now.

The only thing Chase can do this year is try to get close enough to Larson to knock him into the wall. The sooner the better. Enough this “teammate” BS!

The adoration people have for HMS is astounding. Their reputation for cheating and favoring certain drivers over others goes back decades.

*IRL = In Real Life

jobe

And I would have thought you’d be a big follower of QAnon!

Shayne

I’m glad Larson didn’t destroy his Gibson guitar trophy. I remember when Kyle Busch destroyed his custom Gibson Les Paul that was hand-painted by Sam Bass back in 2009.

jobe

Kyle Busch won a guitar on Saturday and didn’t smash it. Try to keep up!

Shayne

Jobe, you are correct. Kyle’s plan for this one: “Everybody’s getting a piece.” What’s next? Grandfather clocks?

jobe

Busch said that as a tease for the TV guys. He didn’t do anything to the guitar. Pay attention.

Steven

Jobe,I have a cousin just like you, a troublemaker. It’s great to be able to comment but you are abusing the privilege. Please, Buzz off! 🐝.

Echo

Jojo is buzzed off. She has a magic 8 ball that speculates the future for her. AND, she believes it 😁

Last edited 1 month ago by Echo
jobe

You just don’t want anyone raining on the Hendrick parade. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t respond.

jobe

I’ll bet your cousin is smarter than you.

Bill B

You just have to remember that the only reason she is here is to sow discontent and create a nastier vibe to the entire conversation. She is one of those people who if she sees a group of people enjoying themselves and in agreement and she feels differently, has to find a way to bring everyone else down by adding toxicity to the equation.

jobe

Billy Bob, you only come here to have your opinions validated. You can’t stand when someone dares to disagree with you. What you have is called “confirmation bias” and it’s a sign of flawed thinking.

Bill B

Blo-be, good try but I really don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks and there isn’t anyone on this site that I haven’t pissed off one time or another. The difference is that I don’t come here with the main purpose of pissing people off like you do.
Now go tend to your cats

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
jobe

Echo says I have dogs. And she is always right.

And you to quote you, you are here because you want to be in “a group of people enjoying themselves and in agreement.”

Bill B

Show me exactly where I said I wanted that. I said YOU can’t stand it not that I wanted it.
Once again spinning things around to try to flip the script to create the narrative you want. Show me exactly where I said I wanted to come to a place where everyone is in agreement or STFU.
Thank you …. come again.

jobe

I took the quote directly from your post of 5:02 pm.

Now go play with your pet rat. You call him “Larson” because they look alike.

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
Bill B

Yes, as I said, you took the words and twisted them like you always do. I didn’t say I wanted that, I said YOU can’t stand it. Apparently you also have comprehension issues.

jobe

I DO love driving you crazy! And I know that as long as you keep responding that it’s working. You just have to have the last word.

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
Bill B

Really?, You’re driving me crazy? There’s that ego again.
I can do this all day. This is fun. I just wish I could say everything I’d like to say to you.

jobe

There’s plenty more I could say to you as well.

As I mentioned, YOUR ego demands you have the last word. Probably been that way your whole life, just bullying people around.

Bill B

Then I will just say one last thing and I promise you can have the last word. Look back at every set of comment exchanges above and below and tell me who seems to always get the last word it. Tally them up and then tell me the score. You are such a head case.
Knock yourself out. Mic drop.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
Echo

Wow, I think she’s insulted everyone on here today. Probably didn’t notice the sun was shining and flowers blooming. I “almost” pity her miserable life. Nah, not really 😁

jobe

Hey lady, I pity you. I’ll also be pitying you after Phoenix when the 20-race season winner gets walled and loses the Championship! LMAO!

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
janice

man it sure got ugly in here today.

I’ll take my headache and leave.

Bill B

Yep, if you removed one person’s posts, all the others would not exist.

WJW Motorsports

They are called trolls people. Best not to feed them….

jobe

I get it! Anyone who disagrees with you is a troll.

Echo

You don’t disagree, your just an as.
so funny to watch you fish, you have no clue if I’m a lady, a man, or perhaps a robot. Didn’t you say you copied all my posts and know more about me than I’ll ever know. How pathetic your life must be. This is the internet squirrel lol, don’t believe all you read.

jobe

You’re NOT “a lady, a man, or a robot.” However, you are a woman. An elderly one.

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
Echo

why do you live there 😁

Echo

I know why

jobe

Old woman, you have no idea where I live. I use an IP proxy which now has my location as Chicago, IL. I guarantee I have never lived there.

But it’s nice to know I’ve gotten free rent inside your otherwise empty head.

Joke’s on you – AGAIN! LMAO!

Last edited 1 month ago by jobe
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