The Key Moment – When that particular No. 78 car was completed, some mechanic grinned, slammed the hood and said, “Yeah, this one ought to run pretty good.”
In a Nutshell – After a season fraught with frustration, Martin Truex, Jr. put on a clinic and finally sealed the deal with a dominant win. Truex led a career-high 392, which equated to 588 miles — the most in NASCAR history.
Dramatic Moment – In a race largely devoid of any drama, I guess you’d have to go with the fourth restart, when Jimmie Johnson managed to get a fender in front of Truex for about 50 yards.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler:
What was going on with the valances on Johnson’s car? They seemed more flared out between the exhaust pipes and the rear tires than all the other Chevy’s, even those of his HMS teammates.
Have we gotten to the point where race broadcasts are so scripted and scheduled that FOX can’t break into a mid-race report to let fans know about a caution flag (one of just four all night) flying, while the broadcasters offered their worthless predictions on who was going to win in about two hours’ time? Seriously, do these people even listen to themselves anymore?
The notion that Furniture Row Racing is a single-car team is ludicrous. Joe Gibbs Racing even provides them with a pit crew. There are three more races left before FOX’s annual reign of aural terrorism ends for the season.
Isn’t it interesting how few “debris” cautions interrupt a NASCAR race when there’s a threat of heavy weather in the area? I felt sure Kyle Busch’s late-race trip into the wall was going to force Truex’s team to rip off one more good pit stop, and Truex was then going to have to hold off Johnson or Harvick one more time on a restart to claim the win. Under normal circumstances, even Ryan Blaney’s cut tire in the final laps would have drawn a caution.
I’ve already read where some folks are claiming Truex led more laps on his way to victory Sunday night than any other race winner in NASCAR history. Yes, that’s the case at Charlotte, and Truex might even have led the most miles in a victory but not the most laps. There have been several instances over the years, but the one instance I recall most clearly is Cale Yarborough leading all 500 laps at Bristol in Junior Johnson’s Chevy in March of 1973.
A rookie in the NAPA car took a surprising victory Sunday. Unfortunately for Chase Elliott fans, that was Alexander Rossi at Indy, not Elliott at Charlotte.
This year’s Hall of Fame class was announced earlier this week. It included three team owners, two of them still active in the sport. (Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress and Raymond Parks). Also getting the nod was Mark Martin and the late Benny Parsons. Alan Kulwicki got the second most votes among the fans, but the fan vote only counts as one vote toward enshrinement.
While not doubting Hendrick and Childress have the credentials to make the Hall someday (if in fact it still exists down the road), I think an individual should have to retire before being considered. It was somewhat curious that the official press release concerning Parsons noted his 1973 title (which Brian France mistakenly said was earned in 1972 during the program) and his TV work with TNT and NBC. Most older fans, myself included, remember Parson’s broadcast career best from the ESPN days, when he was paired with Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarrett — still the best broadcast team ever in NASCAR. I guess there’s still some bad blood between NASCAR and ESPN, huh?
And for newer fans who might not have heard of Raymond Parks, NASCAR helpfully stated that: “Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938.” Parks was in fact born into a wealthy family made rich by striking gold. But he left home at 14 to start running moonshine and white lightning, not real estate, was the source of his fortune. And of course, Smokey Yunick and Tim Richmond haven’t even made the nomination list yet.
Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune:
It’s been a rare occurrence this year, but Kyle Busch never really found any speed at Charlotte this weekend. After qualifying 16th, Busch fought to reach the top 10, but was never a serious contender for the lead. He hit the wall hard with eight laps to go and ended up 33rd. It’s been said the new rules concerning the electric fans and the track bars weren’t targeted at JGR, but that’s one heck of an odd coincidence.
Carl Edwards ran afoul of the pit road speed limits not once but twice, with the second time coming while he was serving the penalty for the first infraction. Edwards wound up 18th, a lap off the pace.
Some people still want to make a big deal out of Tony Stewart’s struggle to get into the top 30 in points. He is currently 60 points out of 30th. It doesn’t matter if Stewart does get into the top 30 if he doesn’t win a race because he’d still be Chase ineligible. Stewart was never a factor Sunday night and struggled home, finishing 24th, five laps down.
Seven Comes Fore Eleven Award for Fine Fortune
For most drivers, getting to compete in a car as dominant as the one Truex wheeled Sunday night will happen only a handful of times during their entire careers. Hopefully, he savors the moment because reality has a nasty way of sneaking back up on folks.
Chase Elliott started 12th and made his way up to eighth before getting penalized for speeding on pit road, which dropped him to the back of the pack. He fought for the rest of the evening to get finish in eighth place.
Under the traditional (non-Chase) point standings, Kevin Harvick would be leading. His teammate Kurt Busch would be second, 36 points out of the lead, but Busch lacks a race win that guarantees himself a Chase slot. Truex all but assuredly qualified himself for the Chase with his win, but under the traditional points system he’d currently be seventh in the standings.
Other drivers who’d be in the top 12 under the old points system but still need a win include Chase Elliott (8th), Joey Logano (9th) and Austin Dillon (12th).
The top finishing rookies at Charlotte were Elliott (8th) Ryan Blaney (20th) and Brian Scott (29th).
The top 10 finishers at Charlotte drove five Chevys, three Toyotas and two Fords.
Kurt Busch has quietly scored seven consecutive top 10 finishes.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has missed the top 5 in the last five points races.
Race Rating (on a scale of 1-6 beers, with one being a snoozer and six being an instant classic): On a Sunday full of racing, the Monaco Grand Prix gets four cans for some outstanding car control and controversial mishaps in the rain. The Indy 500 gets four cans as well for plenty of passing within the race and a surprise winner.
The World 600 gets a single can. I think most fans were happy to see Truex win, but they would have preferred to see him pull it off in a more dramatic fashion.
Next Up – The series rolls north into the Keystone State for another stab at the triangular track that can’t be tamed or explained. For reasons only known to them, track management has bought in a herd of sheep for the event. My Main Line friends are going to have a field day with drunken NASCAR fans in the infield and sheep.
About the author
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.