Listen, this weekend started off really great because we finally had practice coming back and it was so refreshing. Then the rain came, and it washed away any excitement we had for this race. It seemed like NASCAR had dropped the ball, even if it was something out of their own control.
Monday was so freaking exciting though! These races had such fast-paced action that it felt like we never missed a beat even with cautions out the butt. The truck race was dominated by Truex and was still fun to watch, and this Cup race was even better because we did not see one driver dominate.
Joey Logano came into this race with almost no dirt experience to speak of, but he hung around all day until his car hooked upright. To be fair, not many dirt drivers were competing towards the end of this race. It really seemed like just being a naturally gifted driver was enough to make the dirt work.
This race came down to a final restart where Denny Hamlin had a chance to take the lead from Logano and was goaded by his team to make contact and do what he had to do, but he didn’t. He was attempting to make the high line work stubbornly hard, and it wasn’t making any ground on the leader. It was clear to anyone watching the race there towards the end that Hamlin’s high line tactic was not working; if anything the high line was a detriment to him.
So, on the final restart of the race after his team practically begged Denny to move Joey, the last thing in the world I expected was for him to run that high line even harder than he had prior. It was a poor decision on Hamlin’s part, mainly because of who he had in front of him. Joey Logano will move anyone out of the way to win a race unapologetically, so why Hamlin took the high road is a mystery to me.
I understand not moving a guy who you know would race you clean, but Logano is not that. This is the same Hamlin that power dove into the backend of Chase Elliott at Martinsville a few years back stealing his first win away. This will not help the Denny Hamlin choke narrative that he’s become famous for.
My thoughts on the first dirt race in 50 years are positive. They announced that the race will return next year on dirt, and I think that NASCAR needs to take notes on everything they did wrong with this race in terms of the track conditions and start times. There is a lot of room for improvement, but this race has the potential to be a crown jewel event if they can get consistency out of the race track and make sure it’s safe for drivers.
The dust storms cannot happen in professional racing. Also, making mid-race rule changes should NEVER happen in a NASCAR sanctioned event. I understand why they did it, but it was the wrong decision. The proper tactic would’ve been to red flag the race and wet the track; it would’ve taken 15 minutes and caused much less backlash.
That being said, I was very happy with the result and things can only get better from here.
- Daniel Suarez had a career day, and it seems like the dirt truly acted as an equalizer for a lot of these guys.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ends up being the only dirt driver that was able to be successful in this race.
- Christopher Bell took both himself and Kyle Larson out of the race effectively and that took care of the two favorites for the day. They’ll both get another crack at it next year.
- Martin Truex Jr. looked to sweep the dirt weekend, but he ended up losing traction as the race went on. He finished 19th after an issue on that final restart.
- Erik Jones kept the Tide car clean and brought it home 9th.
- Michael McDowell sneakily finished 12th.