Once again, Martin Truex, Jr lost the race in the closing laps. He dominated the second half of the race but lost the lead on a late over time restart to Kyle Larson. The restart should not even have been necessary after Derrike Cope, yes he is still racing, smacked the wall. Cope was able to continue and considering how late in the race it was, it certainly did not warrant a caution. But someone in the NASCAR booth had an itchy caution finger all night. More on that later.
With Larson jumping out to the lead, Denny Hamlin hit Truex in the rear quarter panel after Hamlin drove into the corner hard and had to break to keep from hitting the wall himself. Truex smacked the wall head on and thus ended his night. He still got the trophy for being the regular season winner, but losing the win and the extra stage points left him feeling like he just kissed his sister.
Truex has to be considered one of the favorites with all the extra points he has and his four wins. He has been running well most of the season so one would expect him to continue that. What he’ll need to do is be able to finish the race. He could easily have 2-3 more wins this year if it weren’t for some incredibly bad racing luck.
OK, back to the weird cautions. Early in the race, Matt Kenseth went to pass Danica and locked up his brakes to avoid hitting her. The smoke from his brakes caused NASCAR to throw an unnecessary caution that put Kenseth in traffic after the pit stop, which probably led to the next NASCAR oddity.
Later, Danica got spun by Austin Dillon and in the following caution, an ambulance pulled out onto the track right at the pit entrance causing one heck of a traffic obstacle. As drivers came around the turn, they were met by a stopped ambulance and in the ensuing cluster, Kenseth rammed into Clint Bowyer. That ended Kenseth’s night and certainly put a damper on Bowyer’s shot at trying to win the race and making the playoffs.
As it wound up, the points ended just as they had been going into the race. With no first time winner, Kenseth and Jamie McMurray enter the playoffs as the last two drivers.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr actually led the race on pit strategy, hoping for a caution to help them keep track position. The race had a really long green flag run that put that strategy to rest. He had to pit and ended up 13th although he ran in the top 10 for a good part of the evening. The car showed speed it hasn’t shown in a while, so it will be interesting to see if they have hit on something or if this was a fluke.
Fans can only hope that the NASCAR official in the booth will not be at the controls the rest of the season, that was just plain embarrassing and potentially could have changed the playoff teams.
So, prediction time. The 4 drivers who will miss the first cut will be Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. We’ll see how I do on this since I am not sure I totally understand how the points will work. And points racing COULD affect the cut off.
My title winner will be Martin Truex, Jr. I think the Hendrick teams will continue to struggle but Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are big threats to take it all home too.