by David Vodden
The drama goes deeper as the track was wet before the start of the race and, after drying was executed, it was still a bit damp. The deal-killer happened when, on about lap five, the mist and light rain began again. After the fact radio reports supported the idea that drivers were telling their spotters and anyone listening that the track was too wet to race. There was no action by NASCAR officials until Busch, the leader, and Truex, next in line, came along into turn one. When they got there, and they were the first to do so, the track was really wet and slippery and so they crashed. Busch hit hardest and was eliminated from the race. Truex spun next as did a few other cars. Truex was damaged and effectively eliminated from any chance to win. Busch being Busch smacked the NASCAR pace car before retiring from the track actually doing real damage to the shinny-new Toyota. One can only wonder what NASCAR will do about that?
When the race resumed another strange thing happened. All the fast cars and top runners were Fords. No one knew why but it was clear. In the end there was another rare occurrence, Aric Almirola, in a Stewart Haas Ford, drove by Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick to win. Aric had only managed two top ten finishes all year and had never won on a non-restrictor-plate track. Go figure. Chris Bell ran second and might have caught Almirola but the race was cut short due to darkness with eight laps to go. We will never know. Almirola became the thirteenth different winner this year reducing the remaining playoff positions to three and knocking out Austin Dillon. This left his teammate, Tyler Reddick as the last driver currently in the playoffs based on points earned. I cannot help but wonder if grandpa-Richard Childress will give team orders telling Reddick that his grandson Austin, shall prevail over Reddick who is not a family member. We will see but, if done, it will not be obvious, I hope. The rest of the top five finishers included Ford drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. The highest finishing Chevy was Kyle Larsen who took seventh. What a turn-around! We will see if this holds up when the NASCAR traveling show returns to action on August 8th at Watkins Glenn.
Christopher Bell drove the invincible number 54 Toyota to victory in the Saturday Xfinity race at the same track. It was a walk-away. Justin Allgaier finished second followed by Daniel Hemric, Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. Burton was named to drive the Wood Brothers #21 Cup car in 2022 leaving Matt Dibenedetto without a ride, again. Cindric, who was earlier scheduled to drive this car, will now replace Keselowski in the two-car. Keselowski is leaving Penske to go race and manage for Jack Roush. This move leaves Ryan Newman on the outside looking for a ride next year. Kurt Busch also seems to be looking for a new ride assuming that Ross Chastain gets the second seat in the Track House Racing entry. Stay tuned.
Speaking of Kyle Larsen, he did win the Kings Royal sprint car race in Eldora last Saturday night. This happened after he had a sequence of bad luck experiences including a violent flip that knocked him out of the first Kings Royal main event and required that his car owner, Paul Silva, do some creative repairs to the #57 machine. They had no back-up car. Miraculously, Larsen started ninth in the next Kings royal event behind all the best drivers and drove to the front by the half-way point in the forty-lap feature. He earned a cool $175,000 for the win and then jumped on a private Hendrick plane and flew to New Hampshire where he was the highest finishing Hendrick car and Chevrolet. Sheldon Haudenschild took second with Californian Carson Macedo third, the other winner of the Kings Royal that weekend, Tyler Courtney, fourth and Brad Sweet fifth. It was an impressive drive to say the least. Haudenschild got $20,000 for second. Larsen and the best of the rest will assemble for the 60th running of the Knoxville Nationals starting August 11th and continuing until August 14th. This is another win that Larsen desperately wants much like he felt about the Chili Bowl and the Kings Royal. We’ll see.
The next unusual race occurred in England at the Silverstone Raceway where Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen swapped starting positions for the final as a result of their finish in the new F-1 Qualifying race. Great idea! When the real race started the duo of top stars raced wildly together. This lasted less than a lap when moves by both drivers saw Verstappen fly off track and hard into a tire wall taking him out of the race. The spin and crash occurred as a result of Hamilton and Verstappen making contact. The wheel to wheel contact exploded into controversary that had everyone taking sides based on who they liked the most. The race stewards gave Hamilton a ten second penalty that he had to serve on his first pit stop. He did and then proceeded to drive back to the front overtaking race-long leader Chares Leclerc for the win. The pass for the win occurred with only a few laps to go and was exciting. Leclerc finished second with Valtteri Bottas on the podium and Lando Norris and Daniel Riccardo completing the top five. That is two Mercedes, one Ferrara and two McLarens. The F-1 guys race in Hungary the weekend of the 30th of July and then return August 27th in Belgium.
Matt Hagan in Top Fuel Funny Cars, Steve Torrence in Top Fuel Dragsters and Matt Smith in Pro Stock motorcycles started the NHRA western swing with class wins at Bandimire in Colorado. They entire groups assembles in nearby Sonoma this weekend if you want to go. I would.
Silver Dollar Speedway races Friday night if you get this early. NASA is at Thunderhill Park starting on July 31st. Check www.thunderhill.com to find out more.