Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not: Post-Michigan Edition

The racing weekend at Michigan and Texas gave fans plenty of variety. Youth showed us their talents, restarts were crazy, at least two of the finishes were well worth waiting for and then there was a special groundhog appearance. Just your normal racing weekend.

Sooner or later Joey Logano was going to win a race and it became sooner with his Sprint Cup win at Michigan Sunday. It’s not that Logano was having a horrible year. In the first 14 races, he had eight top 10 finishes and four top 5s and was still well within the top 10 in points. But now, he has the Chase guaranteeing win and better yet for him and his fans, he didn’t even knock someone out of the way to get this win. Logano was one of the favorites to win the Sprint Cup title before the season started and Sunday was a reminder of why.

Kyle Larson has certainly been making gains in the past few weeks. After the results came in Sunday, he was just 23 points out of the 16th and final Chase spot and if he and his team continued momentum, he might not have needed a win to make NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. But that momentum may have very well ended in post-race inspection. Larson had just finished third, but now with a penalty looming, and a possible loss of significant points, it could put him right back in a must-win situation to make the Chase.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
The youngsters have put on quite a show so far in 2016. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Like all professional sports, the spoils go primarily to the young. Once you get above age 35 or 40, it just gets harder to repeat the kind of performance needed to win at the top level. NASCAR is no exception and this weekend the young guns dominated. First, in the trucks race, 18-year-old William Byron won his second race of the season. Then in the XFINITY race, 24-year-old Daniel Suarez closed in on the final laps and passed Kyle Busch on the final lap for his first win (and yes, he didn’t have to knock anyone out of the way to do it). Then Sunday, behind the 26-year-old Logano was 20-year-old Chase Elliott in second and then the 23-year-old Larson, setting a record for the youngest top three finishers in Sprint Cup history. The young guys are not only on their way, they have arrived.

A scary scene that took place in the IndyCar race at Texas Sunday was when something appeared to break on Conor Daly’s car, sending him straight into Josef Newgarden. The resulting accident had a horrifying look to it with Newgarden in his car, sliding on its side for what seemed like an hour (but it was only a few seconds), hoping that he would not make a second contact with the wall. Newgarden’s head was exposed in the incident and it just brought back a lot of bad memories about other IndyCar accidents. Luckily, Newgarden, while suffering a broken clavicle and broken hand, is going to be OK. Let’s just hope we don’t see any more accidents like that.

One of the lighter moments of the NASCAR season occurred during practice at Michigan on Friday. Yes, that’s when a groundhog decided to get some track time and bring practice to a halt. Kudos to the Michigan track workers for capturing the furry rodent in a safe manner without hurting the animal or themselves. The groundhog was released in a 65-acre wildlife area across the street from the track. While a bulletin was sent out for Carl Spackler, his assistance wasn’t needed.


Kyle Busch had hot a ride on Sunday, but it wasn’t the kind of hot he was hoping for. Busch had struggled some in the early stages of the race, but then his day was done for good after 52 laps when his car caught fire. It was surely hot in there and Busch was concerned for at least a few seconds, as he unhooked his driver’s door net while still moving on the track in case a quick exit was needed. But it was not a hot finish at all for Busch, as he has now finished 40th, 33rd, 31st and 30th in the last four races. Busch is safely in the Chase with three wins this year, but the defending champion can’t be happy about this recent streak of finishes.

About the author

Jeff is in his fifth year with Frontstretch and in his third year of writing the Hot and Not column after having been the fantasy writer in his first two seasons. After spending all of his post-collegiate career in sports and news at newspapers, he changed professions three years ago, but remains a faithful fan of NASCAR and other forms of racing allowing him to give us his unique take on NASCAR each week.

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