Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2022 Ally 400

Who… should you be talking about after the race?

Drivers on the playoff bubble breathed a sigh of relief as Chase Elliott took the checkers in the Ally 400, preventing a new winner at least this week. With nine races to go and 12 winners, it’s still possible that making the playoffs on points could be a lost cause, but the chances of a race winner being left out are shrinking.

Elliott found some Nashville magic in the No. 9, coming alive in the final 100 laps. He led twice for 42 laps, all of them in the final 60 of the race. He fought for the lead with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin during that segment, made the right call when the caution flew for Josh Bilicki with fewer than 10 laps remaining, and managed the final restart perfectly, holding off Kurt Busch for the last four circuits for his second win of 2022.

And don’t forget Kevin Harvick. He has been all but invisible for much of 2022, but he showed up on Sunday.

Harvick didn’t lead laps but laid down the fastest lap of the race. He’s not the Harvick of a couple years ago, who won nine times, but he’s still got the experience to get the most out of a race. He’s barely hanging on in the playoff fight, but he’s also awfully hard to count out before the checkers at Daytona International Speedway.

What… is the buzz about?

It’s the time of year when Silly Season starts to heat up, but if you were expecting any Earth-shattering announcements, it’s not your year so far. Two free agents announced new deals and both are staying exactly where they are.

Both Martin Truex Jr. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are staying put at Joe Gibbs Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, respectively. Stenhouse isn’t really a surprise, but Truex was the source of speculation about retirement. He hasn’t said how long he’ll stick around, but it wouldn’t be shocking if 2023 is his last full-time season.

There are still a few deals to be finalized, but so far, Silly Season looks to be only lightly jovial at best.

See also
Martin Truex Jr. Returns to Joe Gibbs Racing for 2023

Where… did other key players wind up?

Polesitter Hamlin led the first 65 laps with a total of 114, the most of any driver, and had one of the strongest cars throughout the night. He had a chance to capitalize on a couple of late restarts but fell just short of the lead. On a night where the Toyotas shone, Hamlin helped carry the torch, but he fizzled the smallest bit when he pitted on the caution with just a handful of laps left. He came out deep in the field and while he passed car after car, only made it back to sixth, a strong day, just not a victorious one.

Defending race winner Kyle Larson never looked like a threat to repeat. He found some speed late in the race, but he had a top 10 car, not a winning one. A gamble on the final caution saw Larson stay on track as many leaders pitted for tires. It paid off as he gained six spots with the call, finishing a much-needed fourth.

See also
Up to Speed: Is Another Summertime Surge Coming for Kyle Larson?

Stage one and two winner Truex hasn’t won yet in 2022, and he looked like that might change Sunday as he battled for dominance with his JGR teammates Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Truex led 82 laps, but pitting on the final caution didn’t pay off for the No. 19. He finished 22nd, just one spot behind Busch as neither could regain their ground.

See also
Joe Gibbs Racing's Domination Slips Away at Nashville

When… was the moment of truth?

NASCAR was generous with the caution flag at times Sunday but got downright stingy at the end. And so, with the Most Popular Driver winning, NASCAR ignored the damaged car of former champion Brad Keselowski even as the field barreled toward him after he made contact with the wall late.

Nobody hit the No. 6, and Elliott went on to win handily, but NASCAR put the entire field at risk with the non-call. It looked as though the No. 6 was trailing fluid, a dangerous situation in itself.

Did the television powers that be ask NASCAR to hold the flag? Did NASCAR not want to give the field one last crack at Elliott? Had Keselowski been able to keep some semblance of speed with no danger of debris or fluid, sure, hold the flag and let them race, no question. But there’s a point when it becomes about driver safety, and this one crossed into that territory. After more than six hours invested, surely an overtime finish wouldn’t have been the worst thing that could happen.

Why… should you be paying attention this week?

It’s back to the right-handers as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Road America. Trackhouse Racing Team is two for two on road courses this year, with Ross Chastain taking his first career win at Circuit of the Americas and Daniel Suarez following suit at Sonoma Raceway.

But the road courses have so far been equalizers this year, and it’s no longer easy to point at a single favorite.

Besides Chastain and Suarez, AJ Allmendinger is likely to contend, and a couple of others to watch are Michael McDowell and Erik Jones, both of whom can wheel to the right as well as the left. Chris Buescher was a standout at Sonoma. The playoff field is far from set, and next weekend could prove to be another wild card.

How… many times do we need to say it?

At the risk of that broken record sound, this was yet another race adversely affected by the late start time. This time, it was only lightning, but at least on the East Coast, NBC was bound to lose viewers who have to work early Monday morning and also the fans they need the most long-term: the youngest ones.

There’s a reason races started at noon to 1 p.m. ET for years. Delays were more easily absorbed (though it’s likely that some would be avoided completely, like Sundays, because the race would be over) without bleeding into dinner or bedtime.

The networks keep insisting that the late times are better, but they need to share the data that actually back that up. Very few fans that I’ve ever talked to want these late-afternoon races. It also makes for a very long day (and night) for the teams. And if the fans aren’t watching, or are leaving midway through the broadcast, who benefits?

Certainly not NBC, which ended up shuffling the end of the race to the USA network only to hurry off the air to join an old episode of Law & Order SVU. The network could have had a great kickoff to its portion of the season, taking over the afternoon airwaves and beating the weather. Instead, it moved to USA only to hurry off the air so fast that many wondered if it had a hand in the non-call for Keselowski.

About the author

Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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Sally Baker

Stopped watching after the 2nd delay.

janice

when the second lightening/weather delay came i turned off. 5 pm start time too late. weather was forecasted all afternoon for Nashville. i also found it interesting that no pre-race show. is this going to be nbc/usa standard of starting race coverage?

Bill B

Oh there was a pre-race show, it just wasn’t on a TV station. It was streaming on Peacock. I was very surprised that they went that route, especially on the first race of their 2022 coverage. You would think they’d want to make a big deal of their 2022 kickoff to the NASCAR season but I guess they thought differently.

… and I bet a lot of east coast fans that had to work the next day abandoned ship when that second red flag occurred.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
janice

that’s when i gave up and went to bed. i was also getting tired of the voices in the booth. something about this crew that annoys my ears.

i forgot about peacock. but as you mentioned, i was surprised for their kick off coverage weekend they didn’t have something on nbc. i know in ga nbc had on hour before the race was track and field event. that’s when i flipped to nbc.

Johnny Cuda

Janice – tired of the voices in the booth? Rick Allen makes everything dramatic and loud. Junior and Jeff Burton sound like two little squealing schoolgirls.

Bill B

LOL,,, that’s why it’s hard to get excited when FOX’s reign of terror ends and NBC’s begins. You basically trade one set of shortcomings and annoyances for another.

jdquick

Question #7, what the hell has happened to Brad Keselowski? He has completely disappeared from any racing discussions or even a top 10 driver….

DoninAjax

I had the PVR set on an NBC station and they left Brian’s event by 9:00 to show AGT.and then dogs running an obstacle course show (it was more interesting). When I realized the event had restarted I turned to TSN. That is an indication of where NA$CAR is on the NBC programming priority list.

The fact that the 77 engine blew AGAIN has to be one of the most laughable reasons for a caution ever. That engine is so de-tuned to not blow up and is always so many laps down that it makes no sense except to bring out a caution. And the 77 and others bring out a LOT of cautions spinning out on their own which is also a joke because they aren’t running fast enough to spin unless the driver scratches an itch on his arm.

johndawgchapman

My thinking exactly on the start time.

Then during the long rain caution they switched coverage to USA. I get that, but then USA cut to an old rerun. NASCAR.Com had a notice that coverage would be on the NBCSports App. I downloaded that but found no coverage. I was about to pack it in, & go to bed when I switched over to Jayski & saw a notice that drivers had been called to their cars, & racing would resume in 15 min. This whole situation was incredibly poorly handled, all the way around.

Bill B

I actually went to NASCAR.com and used their MRN link to listen after NBC abandoned them. There wasn’t any coverage, just a repeating “we are in a weather delay” message repeated every 5 minutes. I switched to the NHL game 6 broadcast keeping an ear out for any updates from MRN. Eventually, around 9:50, they came back on the air and then I knew to check out the USA channel.

johndawgchapman

I tried the MRN link also

KU

I too was surprised at them holding the flag on the BK wreck. He was all over the place and finally got down out of the way.
However, it looked to me he could have done more to get out of the way and was trying to get the caution. But it would be hard to prove. Either way the caution should have been thrown.

Last edited 1 month ago by KU
Ferris1248

Y’all gripe when they throw it and y’all gripe when they don’t.

‘Did the television powers that be ask NASCAR to hold the flag? Did NASCAR not want to give the field one last crack at Elliott? Had Keselowski been able to keep some semblance of speed with no danger of debris or fluid, sure, hold the flag and let them race, no question. But there’s a point when it becomes about driver safety, and this one crossed into that territory. After more than six hours invested, surely an overtime finish wouldn’t have been the worst thing that could happen.”

kb

Always nails on a chalkboard “Screech Burton”~ Oh the headaches……

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