Wild Card Weekend
Three words perhaps best sum up this weekend’s 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway: Anyone can win. The waning laps of the four restrictor-plate races are often among the most exciting of the season, as the snarling pack of drivers jockey for glory and the checkered flag on the high banks of the largest track in the sport. This, then, is very much a wild card weekend as one completely unexpected driver might just punch their ticket to the playoffs. And that’s the beauty of the plate tracks: current form and average finish go out of the window and terms like dance partners, that made up word “co-opetition” and drafting come to the fore. Now I know there are plenty of fans who abhor plate racing, considering it is almost a mockery of the sport in the sense that winning is defined as much by other drivers as it is yourself, but I have always found it to be absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Here’s hoping for a classic last-lap finish and every driver making it home safely.
For the eighth time in nine races in the 2015 Sprint Cup season, Mr. Consistency himself, Martin Truex Jr., finished the race with yet another top 10. Truex has already eclipsed his top-10 total for the entirety of last season; he picked up just five in 36 races in 2014. The New Jersey native encountered late-race issues at Richmond International Raceway but still managed to battle his way to a very respectable finish. “We’ve made some late-race charges a few times this season and it’s a good feeling to know that we have the ability to overcome these issues,” said Truex. “Once again I am proud of this team for bringing fast cars to the track.”
Fast cars have been very much a theme of the season for Truex, who is quietly putting himself into Chase contention with a high points finish even if he doesn’t capture a win. Truex sits third in the overall rankings, 42 markers behind Kevin Harvick and just nine behind second-place Joey Logano. His winless streak now stands at 65 races – his second of just two career victories coming at Sonoma Raceway in 2013. At the rate he’s going in 2015, win number three looks like being in the not too distant future. And how great would it be to see the 12-year, 342-race veteran back in Victory Lane once more?
Kyle’s Chase Eligibility
In an interview prior to the Richmond race, Brian France spoke about the Kyle Busch injury situation and whether or not he would still be Chase eligible once he returns behind the wheel. “Depends on when he comes back of course, but it’ll be more likely than not that we’re going to try to figure out how to accommodate him, which is the beauty of our playoff system,” said France. Now while that does sound positive for Busch, to me this should be a no-brainer. Provided he picks up a win before the Chase begins, assuming a return sometime in July, Busch has to be eligible for the playoffs. If he wins, he should be in: simple as that. The injury he suffered at Daytona International Speedway was certainly a freak occurrence and one that France pointed out “what happened to him was on us.” The NASCAR chief went on to note, “We’ll balance a lot of things at that point when we have to make a decision, but we’re inclined to want to figure that out for sure.” So whilst this opens the door, you can also argue that it gives NASCAR a way out too. But like I say, if and when Busch returns the only criteria there should be is win and you’re in. What do you all think? Let me know below.
Importance of Kansas
After three weeks on the two short tracks of Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway and this weekend’s tilt at Talladega Superspeedway, we will be back to the bread and butter of Cup racing, the mile-and-a-half cookie-cutter circuits. First up under the lights next Saturday night is Kansas Speedway, followed by the All-Star Race and the 600-mile Memorial Day Sunday classic at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With the regular season fast approaching the halfway mark, Kansas will be a critical marker for the teams chasing the lightning fast Chevys of Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. “I’m actually looking forward to getting to Kansas in May,” said David Wilson, the President and General Manager of Toyota Racing Development in an interview with Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve actually been working on some stuff targeted for Kansas and that will be a real indicator of how strong we’ll be through the middle of the season. The real test, though, will be whether or not Wilson is smiling late Saturday evening. If there’s a frown on his face, it promises to be a long, hard season for the Toyota wheelmen.
RIP Steve Byrnes
And finally this week, I wanted to take a minute and pass on my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the friends and, in particular, family of Steve Byrnes. The veteran NASCAR broadcaster passed away last Thursday at just 56 years of age, following a long and courageous battle with cancer and his loss is keenly felt. There’s something so very appropriate about his final tweet, in response to a fan: “I went the distance.” Yes you did, Steve, and you will be greatly missed. Rest in peace. God bless you.
About the author
Danny starts his 12th year with Frontstretch in 2018, writing the Tuesday signature column 5 Points To Ponder. An English transplant living in San Francisco, by way of New York City, he’s had an award-winning marketing career with some of the biggest companies sponsoring sports. Working with racers all over the country, his freelance writing has even reached outside the world of racing to include movie screenplays.
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