There is still a contingent of NASCAR fans out there that do not like road course racing and I do not understand why. It is the next best thing to a short track and a far cry from the mile and a half tracks most fans yawn over. When was the last time you ever saw a road course ringer in a Cup ride? And when was the last time you saw a ringer actually contest for a win at a Cup road course?
Cup drivers have come a long way from needing ringers teach them the lay of the land at a road course. And when I saw Martin Truex win the 2005 Busch series race on a road course in Mexico I knew the guy had what it took. Truex and team took a gamble on no late cautions and stayed out while Harvick and Bowyer pitted for fresh tires. Truex held a commanding 24-second lead that dwindled to about 11 seconds at the finish. That is still a dominating finish and win for Truex, giving him three for the year. While many others were hoping to nab a win and break the win monopoly held almost exclusively by four others, it was the veteran drivers that again dominated the race.
The Hopeful Challengers: AJ Allmendinger started 5th and showed promise with an ill handling car, but he missed a shift early in the race and ended his opportunity. Kyle Larson started on the pole, led two laps and then fell to a 14th place finish. Chase Elliott started 3rd and finished 4th, but no win again. Erik Jones led a lap but was never really a serious contender. Denny Hamlin led 4 laps and knows his way around this course but he had to settle for a top 10 finish. Winless Kurt Busch drove through the field to lead a single lap but was not in the same class as the top 4 drivers even though he finished 6th. Jamie McMurray started well enough but lost an oil pump about the same time AJ missed a shift.
The Rest of the Crew: Kyle Busch never really had a winning strategy even though many thought he would win Sunday. Clint Bowyer was close all day and just a tick off from Harvick and Truex. Harvick led 35 laps, second most, and had a shot at the win if only a caution had come out. Jimmie Johnson won this race in 2010 and I guess we have to find solace he finished 11th. I think he needed to do far better than that to claim even a moral victory. Brad Keselowski was on a lot of lips as a possible winner yet he ended up 13th and led no laps. None. Teammate Joey Logano finished 19th and didn’t lead any laps either.
This weekend, the Cup drivers return to Chicagoland and promises to be another showdown between Harvick and Truex. Harvick won the first two races here and Truex has won the last two. Brad Keselowski also has two wins here so he could be considered a threat. Denny Hamlin has a win here and tends to run well. If he can avoid and pit road penalties, he has a shot. And wouldn’t it be nice to see Chase Elliott to get the win monkey off his back at Chicago. His last two finishes there were second and third. And you can never count Kyle Busch out of anything.
If there is a dark horse for the race and you want to pick a driver that hasn’t won yet, I would get behind Chase Elliott. He has been one of the best running Hendrick cars and he has a good history here.
Chicago can get spread out so it may not be the most exciting race of the year, but it should prove to be a good race as winners have come from deep in the field in the past. If your driver doesn’t qualify well, don’t give up hope unless their practice speeds are also down the charts. Then you may need to find another driver or source of entertainment for the day.
It’s race 17 folks and then end is in sight.