If you lead 199 laps of the scheduled 267, you are hoping that you’re pulling into Victory Lane at the end of the contest. Kyle Larson finally did just that but had to get by Martin Truex, Jr. on pit road to do it.
The final pit stop under caution saw Larson getting into the back of Truex and eliminating him from the battle for the lead. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to see that battle play out but it has been kind of that year for Truex.
A win by a non-championship contending driver has been a hallmark of the 20222 playoffs with Chase Elliott finally breaking through at Talladega. Larson’s win so late in the playoffs put several drivers in a must win situation headed to Martinsville. Larson was eliminated from title contention in the last round.
Ross Chastain was the highest finishing playoff driver at P2 and Denny Hamlin was the next at P7. William Byron finished P12 and anything after that was a dismal day for playoff drivers.
Chastain is proving to be a real contender this season as his team and the organization overall have been strong. Teammate Daniel Suarez finished P10.
Martinsville should be a much more fan friendly race with Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe almost all in must win situations. Hamlin is only -5 so it is possible a Top 5 run could see him make the final four but he’ll need to beat out William Byron specifically. That may be tough as Byron won the spring Martinsville race and finished P5 last fall as teammate Alex Bowman won. Team Hendrick has been strong at Martinsville.
Chastain is not a perennial Martinsville favorite but he is on a tear of good runs and he finished P5 in the spring. He also has a 19 points to give above the cut line. Chase Elliott is +11 but if he lays another egg, Hamlin has a chance to post gains that could elevate him. Chase last won at Martinsville in November 2020.
Martin Truex, Jr. has 3 of the last 6 wins at Martinsville which bodes well for him and his Joe Gibbs teammates but the way his season has gone there are no guarantees, but you would think that it could be a good day for Toyota.
Given all that, the next Martinsville winner could be another non-contender and we could see 3 drivers running for a championship without having won a playoff race.
That is pretty incredible.
And as incredible and possible as it may seem, it will also draw the ire of many a fan. NASCAR fans are about as fickle as sports fans are anywhere so there is a side of me that hopes we see that exact scenario play out. Sure, it is purely a selfish reason because it makes for good content, but on the other hand it shows just how even the playing field is becoming in NASCAR and how much talent there is right now. As fans, we should embrace that.
Bubba gets his just rewards
I was going to write about Bubba Wallace’s suspension last week but thought I’d let things cool down a bit. Bubba got what he deserved and is lucky that was all he got. I know a lot of fans were calling for his head and there were a lot of overly negative comments about Bubba that just don’t hold water. We are all entitled to our opinion but you need to back at least some of that up with facts. And real facts, not just your faulty memory facts.
So with that said, here is my opinion:
- I don’t buy that the hit on Larson was unintentional
- It was a dangerous move and senseless considering the conversation around the car and driver safety.
- NASCAR penalized him per precedent but that is a gray area at times
- NASCAR has too many gray areas
- I was surprised that there was no push for anger management training for Bubba from NASCAR, Toyota or 23xi. Maybe it was done in private but I think that would have leaked out already. I was also surprised this his touching an official didn’t being an additional fine.
- Too many fans went bananas over this and many are the same fans that hooted and hollered when NASCAR said “Boys, have at it.” You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
- In the end, NASCAR got it mostly right and Bubba sat a race. Been a while since that has happened and rightly so.
- NASCAR, in spite of what they may say, needs to tighten up the rule book and have fewer gray areas. To many fans, and I see their point, seeing a crew chief suspended for 4 races due to a loose tire or missing lug nut seems ludicrous when a driver intentionally spins another at high speed, essentially using their car as a weapon which merits a one race suspension. But the two have different outcomes, for example: a driver being suspended is a major hit to their opportunity to gain points which also has financial implications. Whereas a crew chief being suspended isn’t a points hit and the way teams work with the crew chief calling in, it really isn’t that big of a deal any more.
- NASCAR should have the option to assess each transgression on its own merits and increase or decrease a penalty BUT there needs to be a baseline that fans understand.
- The spin could have had playoff implications, but it didn’t. The fisticuffs, as they were, were not the most egregious and NASCAR tends to let those types of thing play out on their own. Walking onto a “hot track” was another thing fans were riled up about but it happens all the time. Not getting into the ambulance for the mandatory ride to the care center was also not without precedent.
That’s my hot take.
Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up. What’s your thoughts? You can leave them below (family-friendly). And you can catch my other columns here.
(Photo by David Graham/HHP for Chevy Racing)