After starting deep in the field, Kyle Busch stayed patient and let the track, and the race, come to him and closed his third win in a row. So far the year has turned into a tale of two halves – albeit only 9 races in. The first half of the year looked like the Kevin Harvick Show and the last few weeks have been the Kyle Busch Show. Both drivers have 3 wins and account for 2/3 of the race victories this young season. Busch is the current points leader and Harvick is on 4th place, 91 points behind Busch.
The race started out with pole sitter Martin Truex, Jr. and Chase Elliott sharing the front row. Truex led a race high 121 laps but fell to 14th at the end. The race was clean and green until the final 40 laps and saw several different leaders on the long green flag runs. Fourth place finisher Joey Logano led 92 laps and won both stages. Teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch also led significant laps. During all of this time, Kyle Busch stayed in contact with the leaders waiting for the track to cool and for the ending, which was a series of short restarts after a night of green flag racing.
Busch turned great pit stops into track position and led 32 laps on his way to victory lane.
Harvick was a contender, leading 8 laps, but had pit issues again which cost him track position and he finished 5th. Kyle Larson was an prerace favorite but he never led and finished 7th after a late race brush with teammate Jamie McMurray.
And let’s give a shout out to Matt Dibenedetto for a 16th place run. That team puts its hearty and soul into competing every week and they got another nice run for their effort. If they can survive Talladega, they have the ability to have Top 15 finishes two weeks in a row.
Another topic getting airtime this week has been the on again, off again conversation surrounding the value of Cup drivers racing in the Xfinity series. The Xfinity series has had a couple of nice races with no Cup drivers and right now, no Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in the Xfinity Talladega race. Surely, these few races are great for showcasing the young Xfinity talent without having a Cup regular dominating the drivers. Of course, this has given voice to those who feel the Cup drivers should not be in Xfinity and allowing the spotlight to be on them more.
While all this is idealistically wonderful, you need the fans and sponsors to support the series. You need fans in the stands and sponsors that are seeing a good return on their investments. Even though the Xfinity series is the second most popular form of racing in the US, the drop off from Cup to Xfinity is substantial. If Cup attendance and viewership falls by double digits every year, what chance is there for Xfinity to draw more fans? Who cares if the Xfinity series is all about being where names are made if there is no one in the stands to watch it?
Think about it – what other game or sport showcases their version of the minor leagues on TV? While NASCAR will never say the truck or Xfinity series are the minor leagues, they are obviously the feeder series for Cup. Yes, the series each stand on their own merits to a certain degree. Even the ARCA, Whelen and K&N series can be found on TV from time to time. Modifieds and Sprint cars even get some airtime. But if the chance to move up and become a Cup driver weren’t there, if Cup drivers didn’t sometimes race in the other series, where would these other forms of racing be?
Xfinity drivers will tell you they like racing against the Cup drivers for the opportunity to compete against the best. Xfinity owners will tell you they need the Cup drivers to sell sponsorship. Fans are split. Some prefer to watch the unknown drivers make a name for themselves while others like to see the Cup drivers compete.
At the end of the day, this is a business and everyone needs to make money. So whatever your thought on the matter, the series needs sponsors to help make the payday for the teams or there is just no chance at the series surviving, especially if they want national TV exposure.
Go out and get your restrictor plate on this weekend and keep the shiny side up.