Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Did Ryan Sieg Do Enough on the Last Lap at Texas?

Ryan Sieg and Sam Mayer combined for one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history last Saturday (April 13) in the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mayer passed him going into turn 3, leaving the bottom wide open for Sieg who was able to get position on him exiting the turn. They merged together at the finish line just .002 seconds apart — the contour of the older Camaro’s nose edging out the new shorter, squared off Mustang front end.

While gunning for his first win and a playoff spot, did Sieg make the right call coming to the line? This week Brad Harrison and Vito Pugliese compare notes on the last lap action in 2-Headed Monster.

Easier to Ask Forgiveness Than Permission

Wins are hard to come by in NASCAR; just ask Chase Elliott who snapped a winless stretch dating back to October of 2022 at Texas Motor Speedway this past Sunday (April 14). As Mark Martin once said after snapping a winless streak that was going on almost two years, ‘You never know when your last win is going to be.’ For some drivers, that first win just never manages to materialize. Corey LaJoie and Matt DiBenedetto come to mind in the NASCAR Cup Series, both leading with a race seemingly in hand, unable to see it through to the finish – and still working to get back in position to have a shot again.

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All of this begs the question, should Ryan Sieg have been a little more aggressive coming to the line with his first career win on the line?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

First of all, I’ve never been in a position to win a race as Sieg was. The Man in the Arena personified; there’s a million things going on at the same time, amplified by the emotion and gravity of the moment. Couple this with having to fend off a winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with newer tires and closing at a high rate of speed is a juggling act that few are able to master.

Thirty years ago, Sieg’s defense coming to the line is what would have been expected from a veteran. Twenty years ago, some additional contact would have probably been accepted. In the last 10 years or so, it has degenerated into a free for all, with an ends justify the means mentality that has tainted and cheapened a lot of last lap finishes. Racing with honor and wanting to do things the right way is admirable and hopefully it will be repaid one day.

But I gotta say … using up some capital on a first win might not be the worst thing in the world.

Sieg currently sits 11th in points, three points behind Sheldon Creed, and a full race behind Sammy Smith in eighth. Going into Talladega, it would be pretty liberating to have a win under your belt and locked into the playoffs.

He doesn’t drive for a large organization with an endless supply of disposable inventory. While his name is on the door, unlike say Ty Gibbs, it’s a bit of a different economic position that he’s starting from as well. There’s only a handful of Ford teams in the Xfinity Series, with eight in the field on Saturday; two are fielded by the Sieg family, and one by Carl Long. To be in the lead at Texas with a JR Motorsports car bearing down isn’t the most enviable position to be in.

But would it have been so bad to drift up off of turn 4 to crowd the No. 1 car in the loose stuff a bit?

Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy to make the call when you aren’t holding the wheel. They don’t change directions that quickly or easily mid-corner after all. Hopefully Sieg gets the opportunity to have another shot at a win this year and if he has to use up a side of the car, so be it. He banked a lot of capital racing with honor and respect, and few would fault him if he cashed it in. – Vito Pugliese

Sieg Raced Mayer the Right Way

Whether it’s racing or any other part of life, everyone will confront the choice of abandoning who they are and what their reputation is. Sure, there’s short-term glory, but is it worth it?

Last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Sieg came as close as he ever has to being a winner in the Xfinity Series. How close? .002 seconds to be exact with Mayer getting the win. For Sieg, the quest for that elusive win now sits at 342 races. 

Sieg lamented after the razor-thin finish that maybe he should have run Mayer into the wall harder.

Here’s the thing. Sieg did absolutely nothing wrong, and dumping Mayer would have gotten Sieg his first win, but it would not be how Sieg is as a driver. If a driver generally races people clean but stoops a few levels down, that basically says that they can’t win races clean. There was a time not that long ago when it was found upon, but those days are long since passed. What if Sieg would have won and never wins again? He would have an asterisk by that win. Yes, he won. But…

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It’d be akin to a driver like Mark Martin or David Ragan blatantly dumping someone in the final turn to get a win. Yes, they’d get a win, but it’d abandon who they are as a driver. Many people will cite that Martin never won a championship and lost out on the Daytona 500 on the final lap, but you’ll never hear his character, his skill or lack of commitment called into question.

To some, winning with honor is still a thing.

It’s of note that Sieg came this close to a win at a non-restrictor plate track. You know where he has run well in his career? The site of this weekend’s race at Talladega. He has four top fives in 13 races at the mammoth Alabama track. If there was ever a place to pick the Tucker, Ga., driver to win, this would be it. 

Drivers like Sieg may run into tough breaks over time, but they are also racing their competitors the right way, and that’s nothing to hang one’s head about. Wrecking to win isn’t racing, and if another one never comes, that trophy will be tarnished not exactly held in high regard.

The Xfinity Series has always been seen as a stepping stone to Cup, and the Craftsman Truck Series the entry level of the top three touring ranks. The Truck Series is awash in drivers who will drive over their heads and into the back of a competitor for 15th, let alone a win. Seig and Mayer’s finish was a throwback of sorts to the way it was done in the past, where drivers wouldn’t dare do something reckless to sour their chances at a Cup ride, or to never earn the respect or catch a break from the veterans.

While Sieg did finish second, it was far from a result to hang his head about. – Brad Harrison

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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sdelfin

Sieg’s biggest error, in my view, was changing his line and taking that low entry that one time when he knew his car was working up top. Mayer was coming either way. Maybe it would have worked at Kansas to take air off Mayer’s car where we’ve seen that work before, but that didn’t look effective during the race in Texas. It ended up bogging Sieg’s engine down killing his momentum off the corner while Mayer went higher to set up a big run. It’s one of those things a driver has to think about, but watching at home, I just knew going low was going to let Mayer get to him. Mayer might have been able to get to him anyway, but it would have been much tighter on time and Mayer might not have been able to actually make the pass. But it’s different when you’re in the car. Still, an encouraging run because Sieg’s car was just plain fast. If that’s something they can replicate at other tracks, he’ll have more shots at it.

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