It’s a curious thing, human opinion. It is fickle and ever changing. The end of the Camping World Truck race on Sunday afternoon offered up one of the most electric finishes we’ve had since…the Cup race at Sonoma earlier this year.
In the last corner, John Hunter Nemechek in his black No. 8 put a bumper, and then a body slam on the leader No. 00’s right side door. Cole Custer, who was fighting for a spot in the Truck Chase, turned back into Nemechek, and the two drove through the grass with their fenders locked down the front stretch to the finish line, wrecking and racing the whole way. It was like two wrestlers in a mutual head lock where neither would give an inch. Nemechek was declared the winner after an extensive pause on behalf of the NASCAR officials and an NFL worthy tackle by Custer.
Twitter exploded in the media center at Darlington, our living rooms, and even in the driver’s lot at The Track Too Tough to Tame because everyone declared Nemchek’s last second move rough driving, and even worse, poor sportsmanship. Cries of “NASCAR really is trying to be the WWE!” echoed around the world while John Hunter became the latest bad boy in the garage.
Let’s get this straight, when Tony Stewart dumps Denny Hamlin in the final turn to get a win and secure his berth in the Cup Series Chase, he’s just racing hard. Media and fan favorite Stewart admitted during post-race interviews at Sonoma he had to make the physical contact with Hamlin’s No. 11 in order to get by. He had to win. The fact that it was a sentimental victory resonated all through the garage and our living rooms. Even Denny Hamlin, who sits in awe of Mr. Stewart, kind of chuckled because, yeah, he knew. He would get wrecked if he was in Tony’s way. That is how the universe works in NASCARland.
So, because Nemechek had already secured a berth in the Truck Chase with a win this year, somehow he was supposed to let Custer win, even though the No. 8 truck was able to get to Custer’s back bumper. It would make all the viewers feel good if the rookie in the No. 00 raced into the Chase. NASCAR would like the story. Heck, even the drivers higher up the food chain wanted it to happen.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, Nemechek did what he had to do to win. He didn’t give in. He didn’t give up. He got aggressive. And it worked.
It was just icing on the cake that Custer fought equally hard to get his lead back in the final hundred yards to the finish. And he was mad enough over the result that he refused to let Nemechek take the checkered flag from the flag stand until John Hunter was officially declared the victor by executing that awesome flying tackle.
Look, the iconic moment that defines NASCAR to this day, inside and outside of the garage area, is the ending to the 1979 Daytona 500 with Donny Allison and Cale Yarborough brawling on the apron of the track. Obviously NASCAR fans still enjoy that rough and tumble approach to winning when they cheered for Stewart at Sonoma. Why did they get so upset with the finish of the Camping World Truck race at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park?
Simple. They were cheering for the guy who came in second.
It was a good race. Great finish–one they’ll be using for the highlight reels for a while. I wish Custer had won, as a fan of the teenager, but I’m equally excited that we’ve got more than one hungry young gun ready and willing to make this sport exciting to watch for the next decade or more.
It was NASCAR Throwback this weekend at Darlington, and just about every team gussied up their machines in a 70’s era paint job. Tony Stewart’s No. 14 won the fan vote for best throwback paint job with his Coca-Cola red and gold Chevrolet honoring Bobby Allison. Check out the link for the full gallery of fun paint jobs from Sunday night’s race.
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