Say what you want about the true awesomeness of Aric Amirola and his team finally winning, but that might not have been the outcome had NASCAR not fallen asleep at the wheel.
As the leaders attacked the course just 6 laps in, the rain slick track sent them spinning into the wall and ended pole sitter Kyle Busch’s day. Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin also spun with some damage to the 19 and little to the 11. Hamlin said seeing Busch spin ahead of him gave him the precious split second to react and keep his Toyota off the wall. Truex damaged his front splitter but was able to rally after repairs. Drivers had been calling the track as too wet the lap prior and I don’t know how NASCAR wasn’t better prepared since the race obviously started under misting conditions. The track broadcast cameras were wet at the start and only got worse. It was obvious to TV viewers that were paying attention so when the cars started spinning, I wasn’t all that surprised.
But that set up a different race from then on with Kyle out and Truex hampered. The racing was tight all race long and we saw 10 drivers leading laps.
Almirola had a fast car as he has had from time to time this year but he hasn’t always been in a position to finish a race strong – and even finish a race. He finished 14th in Stage 1 and had crept up to 5th by Stage 2. But that wasn’t a huge surprise considering where he has run throughout the season. It’s closing the race out that has hurt him. But the racing gods were shining on him through the overcast skies as darkness creeped up. Due to the rain delay, NASCAR called the race 10 laps shy of the scheduled 301 with about 20 to go and that was all Almirola needed.
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The surprise finish, only because of the terrible season he has had, puts Almirola into the playoffs and really puts the pressure on Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto.
Kyle Busch Watch
- Watch this week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday, for something about Kyle Busch bumping the pace car after his spin. To show his deep displeasure with NASCAR’s inability to call rain, he decided to bump the pace car. While he held his tongue in interviews right after the red flag was put out, no doubt NASCAR will have something to say about the pace car incident.
Good on ya, mate
- Aric Almirola (P1) for his hard driven, first and very emotional win in 2021.
- Christopher Bell (P2) may have been the winner had the race not been called for darkness.
- Team Penske with Brad Keselowski (P3), Joey Logano (P4) and Ryan Blaney (P5) looking like race winners at times but fell to Almirola. Logano at one point was 2 laps down, Keselowski led 53 laps and Blaney 64.
- Kevin Harvick (P7) led a race high 66 laps but couldn’t hold the lead.
- Ross Chastain (P8) continues to make a strong argument for his seat in 2022.
- Denny Hamlin for surviving the rain spin out and finishing P10.
- Matt DiBenedetto (P11) led 20 laps at the end, hoping for a caution before he needed to pit. He didn’t get it.
- Martin Truex, Jr. rallied to P12 after his brush with the wall on lap 6.
So you had a bad day
- Chase Elliott led 53 laps but no one cares when you finish P18.
- Chris Buescher is fighting for the playoff and P29 didn’t help.
- Austin Dillon is doing the same and needs every position he can gain, P17 won’t cut it.
- Ryan Newman is interviewing for a ride in 2021 with his new boss Brad Keselowski. P24 isn’t a good start.
Next up, Watkins Glen
- Several drivers are salivating over this race, especially defending winner Chase Elliott. Other recent winners are Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and even AJ Allmendinger.
- Brad Keselowski knows his way around The Glen and Harvick has been good on road courses as well, just not as of late. Kyle Larson is a string threat as well.
- Michael McDowell will be looking to get some momentum this week and next, the Indy road course, as we creep closer to the playoffs.
- The next two road course races could be also good for Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.
I am looking for Allmendinger to make a decent showing in the next two weeks as he tries to gain some more shine on his star in the Cup series for 2022. But he will have to beat out the 9 right now as the hands down favorite.
Turn left, right and keep the shiny side up.
(Featured Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)