Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: The Season of Truex Continues

Who’s in the headline – The 2017 season has been Martin Truex Jr.’s year of domination. Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway wasn’t a typical Truex race, but when it came time for the big check, it was his world and everyone else was just a squirrel trying to get a nut. The victory was Truex’s sixth of the season, which leads the sport’s top series. Kevin Harvick led the most laps in the race and claimed the playoff bonus point for winning both of the first two stages of the race.

What happenedDenny Hamlin won the pole on Friday night and led the first 40 laps of the event. Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer got together exiting Turn 2 on lap 44 with Newman’s day ending in a smoldering heap at the exit of Turn 4 after an engine fire while returning to the pits. On lap 136, Kyle Busch made contact with the wall in Turn 3, causing significant damage to the right rear of his car, essentially ending his hopes of finally winning at Charlotte.

The final stage of the race saw green-flag pit stops before David Ragan lost control of his car and took out Danica Patrick. Busch brought out two more cautions during the event before his brother Kurt Busch caused the final caution to take the race to overtime. Cars raced from the bottom of the track to the top and the high humidity taxed the stamina of most of the field.

Why you should care – Truex had a different race this weekend. He qualified poorly and the first set of tires that the No. 78 team put on was completely different than they expected. His car ended up being a challenge for much of the event but his pit crew gained track position for him and he did the rest to grab a free pass to the next round of the playoffs. Harvick and Kyle Larson showed significant speed to give hope to the Ford and Chevrolet camps. The field for Homestead is obviously going to be shaped by race winners but the scale appears to be leaning significantly to Truex, Harvick, Larson and Busch.

What your friends are talking about – A moment that had the world wide web abuzz in the Twitterverse was a no-call on Jimmie Johnson for a pit road violation. The seven-time champion, who dominated the racetrack when Lowe’s was the primary sponsor, was making hay toward the front of the pack again this weekend until a late race pit stop. Johnson started to pull away from his stall when crew chief Chad Knaus told him to stop.

A missing lug nut on the left-front posed a potential fine and suspension if the race went green to the end. Johnson backed up towards his stall but stopped short of the box as his tire changer affixed the missing lug and Johnson then pulled away. NASCAR did not penalize the No. 48 team and said there will be no further penalties on Tuesday. It was explained by NASCAR that they have consistently made that call this season because it is a safety issue and the team is penalized enough by having to back up to the vicinity of their stall.

BK Racing has had an ongoing financial situation with their engine supplier. On Friday, the engine tuners took the components from the ignition boxes on the Nos. 23 and 83 car and left the facility. As a result, the cars did not take times in qualifying and did not practice. With practice rained out on Saturday, the teams had no on-track time before the race. Per the NASCAR rulebook, they should not have been allowed to race. Due to the weather issue with Saturday’s practice, they were allowed to run the event. Ironically, the No. 83 car was parked early when an extra man hopped over the wall, pushing some tape back down on the car.

The high humidity on Sunday took a toll on many of the competitors. Ty Dillon was taken to the infield care center after the race for a checkup. Jamie McMurray and Hamlin had to sit on pit wall after the race to take media questions. Race winner Truex sat down after the event and Busch was in terrible shape when he got out of the racecar. While most of the drivers were simply overcome by the excessive amount of humidity preventing their bodies from cooling properly, Busch was faced with extreme amounts of exhaust fumes in the car thanks to some crush panel damage from his incidents. McMurray explained after the race that the cooling boxes in the cars are not very effective when the humidity is so extremely high.

Richard Petty Motorsports is trying very hard to sign Darrell Wallace Jr. for the 2018 season. They admit that they were dealt a serious blow by Smithfield’s departure, but they are committed to running next season. RPM feels Wallace would not only be just what their team needs at this point, but also what the sport needs right now.

Tony Eury Sr. was given the Smokey Yunick award this weekend by Charlotte Motor Speedway. The award recognizes an individual who has risen from humble beginnings to make a major impact on the sport. Eury guided Dale Earnhardt Jr. to two XFINITY championships and 15 victories in the series. He also led Earnhardt to the win in the All-Star race as the youngest driver to ever accomplish the feat.

This weekend was a comedy of errors for the folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway. During the filming of a segment for the race broadcast, track employees left the metal steps that allow people to get over the wall to the grandstands in place. Erik Jones was piloting the NBC car, and while passing through the quad oval, clipped the stairs, destroying them. The track also had an incident during the XFINITY race on Saturday where the board that displays the number of cars being black flagged fell off of the flag stand during the event. In reality that apparatus is part of NASCAR’s traveling timing and scoring but it still left a black eye on the facility.

Jennifer Anderson took the win in the Better Half Dash on Friday. The event is a money raising venture for Motor Racing Outreach among other charities. The contestants are affiliated with race teams and spend several weeks preparing for the bandolero race on the quarter-mile, front straight track.

Who is mad Ryan Newman was knocked out of the playoffs at Dover. He started this weekend’s race in the 11th position, looking to continue working to make his No. 31 ride faster. Unfortunately for Newman, he got together with Bowyer off of Turn 2 early in the race and tore his car up extensively hitting the inside wall. His day was most likely over but before he could make it back to the pits to the attention of his crew, the car burst into flames and the day was over for sure.

Patrick is a wreck magnet. People will try and blame her for the incidents, but in reality, the majority of them are not her fault. Sunday was another case in point. Patrick was on the bottom in  Turn Nos. 1 and 2 when David Ragan lost control of his car. He slid down the track, clipped Patrick’s right front and sent her up into the wall. The impact from Ragan annihilated the right front suspension and ended Patrick’s day. This is the seventh DNF due to a crash this season and there were other events where she was collected and continued. If this is her last year in the Cup Series, it will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons.

Who is happyChase Elliott was the first loser all race long. Elliott started the race in the seventh position, but was running in second when the green and white checkered flag flew for the first stage. He was behind Harvick again for the second stage and also managed to be the second car to cross the finish-line at the end. Elliott puts himself in a solid points position after the first race of this round to make it to round three of the playoffs.

McMurray made it into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career this season. He squeaked in just as he narrowly failed to make it the previous seasons. Charlotte is a track where McMurray runs well and he took advantage of that to post a top-five run on Sunday. He now heads to Talladega Superespeedway where he has won in the past and could do so again with Hendrick horsepower under his hood.

When the checkered flag flew:

Martin Truex Jr scored his 13th victory in 435 career starts on Sunday at Charlotte.

This is Truex’s second career triumph at Charlotte.

Truex has won six times in 2017.

The win ties Truex with Dick Rathman and Tim Ricmond on the All-Time list for 56th.

Chase Elliott came home in the second position for the second consecutive week and the third time in four playoff races.

Elliott has come home second in four races this season.

This is Elliott’s best career finish at Charlotte.

Elliott has six career runner-up finishes which puts him in a tie with Bill Blair, AJ Foyt, Billy Myers, Eddie Pagan and Tom Pistone for 80th on the All-Time list.

Kevin Harvick rounded out the podium at Charlotte after leading the most laps in the race.

This was Harvick’s seventh top three effort of the season.

Harvick has finished in one of the first three spots at Charlotte eight times in his career.

This is Harvick’s 115th career podium which ranks him 16th on the All-Time list.

Rookie of the Race was Daniel Suarez. This is the 14 time this season that Suarez has managed this feat. Erik Jones has won the Rookie of the Race 13 times this season. Ty Dillon has been bestowed the award three times.

The victory for Martin Truex Jr. gives him the first guaranteed slot in the third round of the playoffs. Truex added another five points to his massive stockpile that now sits at 64. The 12 playoff contenders with the rank, points and playoff points as they stand after one race in round two of the playoffs:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – 3106 – 64
  2. Kyle Larson – 3072 – 34
  3. Kevin Harvick – 3069 – 17
  4. Chase Elliott – 3059 – 6
  5. Denny Hamlin -3056 – 13
  6. Kyle Busch – 3055 – 41
  7. Jimmie Johnson – 3051 – 17
  8. Jamie McMurray – 3044 – 3
  9. Matt Kenseth – 3043 – 5
  10. Brad Keselowski – 3042 – 20
  11. Ryan Blaney – 3039 – 8
  12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 3034 – 10

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic) – After three very sub par races to start the playoffs, Charlotte turned out to be a surprisingly good affair. There were differing strategies, some drivers struggled early and came on at the end while others had speed early before falling off. In the end, the track had grooves from the top to the bottom, the racing was good throughout the pack and the humidity made it a true test of the drivers stamina. One of the better Charlotte races in a while deserved four 600 Ales from Cabarrus Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The crap shoot that is Talladega will be shown on NBC Sunday October 15 at 2 p.m. ET. It can also be seen on the NBC Sports App. You can hear the race on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Bill B

A true rarity, a good race at Charlotte.

NASCAR’s explanation of why no penalty for the 48 is a load of crap. They should have just said they missed it and blew the call. It happens in other sports. Making up a BS excuse is not wise.

If Truex doesn’t win the championship this year it will be the result of the one race crapshoot at Homestead. There is no doubt that he deserves it based on how he has run all season.


hendrick’s payola check to brain fart must have cleared in time for the excuse of the 48 non-penalty. i guess jr got back on the lead lap cause of lucky dog. i’m sure the media are already staring the “his last race at ‘dega” hype.

if truex has bad races and doesn’t keep the points cushion he has, then he should be worried. he is most deserving of the championship.

funny, i didn’t watch the race, did see the tribute to robert yates, and i don’t feel like i missed too much. even with soggy day here in atlanta, thanks to tropical storm nate, found things to do around the house.

onto dega. saw nascar’s haulers heading west on i-20 this morning at 5:50 am. guess they truly like to travel under the cover of darkness.

i did notice the anemic attendance at charlotte. sure it rained, but anyone with sunday tickets surely would had shown up to watch the race. charlotte has those fan in seat faking paint jobs, so it looks like from a distance shot, that there is butts in the seats. i guess this is a preview of how the stands will look next year once jr is gone.

Carl D.

I thought the first two stages were sort of boring, but that may just be my bias showing since I don’t care for Harvick. However, the last stage made up for it. At that point I was pulling for Larson, since Brad flat-out sucked all day long, but it was still a great final 50 laps or so.

Did Penske Motorsports just not care about this race? It looked like the crew chiefs for all three cup teams were completely clueless as to what to do with their cars for the entire race. Stick a fork in Brad and Ryan… they’re done for 2017.

This was my first visit to CMS since Tony Stewart won the Al-Star race in 2009. What happened to the back-stretch grandstands? What happened to the jam-packed infield? What happened all those missing fans in the grandstands? I was amazed at how few people showed up, even though the weather report called for rain and thunderstorms for most of the day. BTW, never a single drop of rain.

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