Brad Keselowski won his first grandfather clock at Martinsville in what had to be the best race of 2017.
For the first time all year, the staged racing actually added a bit of excitement as drivers battled for position all day long. Not that the race needed two extra cautions, the drivers did enough of that themselves.
All day long the lead passed back and forth, there was side-by-side racing, paint rubbing, flaring tempers and everything NASCAR fans have grown to love over the years. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. even got to toss an f-bomb over the air as the broadcast team decided to listen in to the drivers during one of the bigger pile ups. After a very pregnant pause, Mike Joy apologized for the inadvertent swearing. Hey, that’s what you get for listening in during a tense moment.
Kyle Busch has to be wondering what he has to do to win a race. He led 274 laps and looked to be on his way to a sure win. But the last set of tires did not agree with his car set up allowing Keselowski to take the lead for good.
All in all it was a fine race and makes you wish we could see that kind of action every week. Now the Cup drivers head to Texas which is not a bad track, but it doesn’t provide the kind of action Martinsville does. Well, few tracks do these days. But that is the kind of racing NASCAR fans ache to watch. Get rid of the stages and all the other holey stuff and convert the cookie cutter tracks with more like Martinsville and you’ll maybe stem the bleeding – it it’s not already too late. As awesome as Martinsville is, the stands were not completely full.
Texas underwent a repave and while the drivers hate that kind of thing, the track had to do something. Texas is notorious for being wet and delays were getting ridiculous. The track has been trying to work in some rubber on the new surface but nothing works in rubber like a race. So the fresh surface combined with no testing and the lower downforce package should make for an interesting race.
All bets are off this weekend when looking at past performance to a certain extent. This will be about which teams can adjust to the conditions best as the race runs. Long green flag runs will certainly stretch out the field making the stages about the only opportunity to work on cars and bunch up the field. The better more consistent teams usually rise to the top in any condition with the odd team out every once in a while when they just miss the mark and can’t get it back. Look at SHR this past weekend. Aside from Clint Bowyer, the other three cars were 20th place or worse. Same thing for Hendrick with Chase Elliott being the standard carrier all season so far. The rest of the team was 14th or worse. It would not surprise me to see that kind of disparity again this Sunday.
On the other hand, a fresh track could provide a lot of opportunity for ill-handling cars to spin out giving the field more chances to work on the cars.
It should be interesting to see which scenario plays out. But I could easily foresee a strung out race with few lead changes and much of the field getting lapped as cars struggle with the new surface.
Here’s to hoping I am way off base.