Penske 1100 Sweep: Blaney Wins the 600, Newgarden Wins the 500

I sure hope you got your fix on racing this weekend, if not, then you are a superhuman fan!

Nashville, TN driver Josef Newgarden (yes, he is American) won his first ever Indy 500 in controversial fashion. It’s nothing he did to generate controversy, but Indy race control kind of pissed off the team of Ganassi driver Marcus Ericsson.

A series of wrecks brought out three red flags in the waning moments of the race and it’s the last flag that made Ericsson see red. Ericsson was looking to become the first back-to-back winner in 21 years and had the lead near the end. Race control appeared like they were going to end the race under caution after the final crash but surprisingly threw the red flag after a couple of laps under yellow, thus setting up a final lap sprint for the win. Why they let the drivers circuit the track under yellow is a head scratcher but in the end, it was Ericsson’s job to hold off Newgarden and he couldn’t. The win handed Roger Penske his 19th 500 victory.

The Coca Cola 600 was supposed to run Sunday evening but the inclement weather that eliminated practice and qualifying pushed the race until Monday afternoon. In a fairly competitive race that saw 9 different drivers lead, it was team Penske’s Ryan Blaney that broke his winning drought end at 59 races.

Blaney led a race high 163 laps and was hanging in the Top 10 if he wasn’t leading. Blaney also won Stage 3. For a while, it looked to be a William Byron win as he led 91 laps and led Stage 1 by fending off Blaney and Christopher Bell. Bell led 48 laps and had a very fast car but got caught up in a late race spin by Kyle Larson.

Blaney got pretty emotional after running up into the crowd just as did Newgarden to celebrate his victory. Blaney has been good but not good enough in plenty of races. Winning the 600 is a huge boost for this team.

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The race wasn’t without some controversy as well. On lap 185, Denny Hamlin ran out of track and pushed Chase Elliott into the wall. I’m sure Denny thought nothing of it, essentially a racing incident as he lost grip from driving his car too hard into the corner. As Denny then continued to race Elliott to his outside, Elliott came down into Hamlin sending him spinning into the wall and bouncing back into the 9 car. The day ended for both drivers with Hamlin upset and saying that Chase needed to be suspended for rear hooking him. Elliott said that as hard as he hit the wall, once you pancake the side you can’t drive the cars. I am sure NASCAR will look at the incident closely and level any penalties but it is a hard call to make. Elliott does leave tire marks on the track as he gets into Hamlin so he was either on the brakes or his car wasn’t running cleanly at that moment. On the other hand, if his car was messed up that bad, why not take Mr. Respect out with you. Hamlin talks a big “respect” game but he’ll take all day and not give much.

(Editor’s note:  Elliott was suspended for one race by NASCAR after this article was sent to us)

Things of note: Bubba Wallace in the middle of it again

I haven’t seen any update since the race but during a brief rain delay, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace were exchanging pleasantries when Almirola shoved Wallace hard causing NASCAR security to step in. More words were exchanged but it was the end of physical hostility. Bubba finished 4th while Almirola was 245th. Maybe that had something to do with the encounter.

Jimmie Johnson ran out of luck early in the race with a big spin and eventually all three Legacy MC cars were in the garage.

Zane Smith pulled off quite the achievement by staying out for track position and turned that into a Top 10 finish.

RFK Racing was looking strong much of the race but a couple of run ins ruined the day for two Top 10s with Brad Keselowski finishing 19th while Chris Buescher finished a strong 9th.

Tyler Reddick also had a good day leading 28 laps and finishing 5th while Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. led just 4 laps on his way to another Top 10 Coca Cola 600 finish.

Next up: The World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

OK, we’ll just call it Gateway, alright? This is the track that replaced one of the Pocono dates and at 300 miles, one of the shorter Cup races. Gateway isn’t like Charlotte at all and configured more like Darlington while the turns are reminiscent of New Hampshire and Phoenix.

Not a whole lot of track data to go on here but Joey Logano is the defending race winner who led 22 laps in 2022. Teammate Austin Cindric led 26 laps and won Stage 1 (P11). Ryan Blaney was in the Top 10 in both Stages, finishing the race in P4.

Joe Gibbs Racing did OK here with Kyle Busch leading 66 laps (P2) and Martin Truex, Jr. leading 42 (P6).

William Byron won at Phoenix and Darlington and Gateway wasn’t a good race last year for Team Hendrick. Maybe that will change?

MTJ led 145 laps at Darlington this spring before crashing out late. He could be the man to beat this weekend. And watch Christopher Bell. If they bring the speed they had this past week, he might be in victory lane.

Keep the shiny side up folks.

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