Popular. Iconic. A “must be in” race. If that is what you were looking for, you were disappointed. A 37-car field was the smallest in 21 years. Tight, pack racing, the kind that leaves you swooning each and every lap. If that is what you were looking for, sorry, Sonoma is coming up next weekend. No, this week it was Michigan.
About the only exciting moment in the early going came when Erik Jones pulled in under green during the opening segment due to loose lug nuts. That stop dropped him to 37th, a lap down. Would we seem him again? The odds were not in his favor.
Two segments, two “wins” for Martin Truex Jr. Ten times he has done it, and of his point total, 100 of them have come due to taking a race segment. If the boy runs well, the boy earns the bonus. Would he win the race? Up to the final stage, only Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch seemed like the main challengers. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth were making some noise up to that point, but only time would tell if they would be a factor when it counted.
By the time we had 14 laps to go, Chase Elliott had entered the picture. Ryan Blaney was in the vicinity. Jamie McMurray also used some pit strategy to poke his nose in, along with Daniel Suarez. Bowyer took his nose out of it as he ground down the right side of his car against the fence. One more pit stop, one more opportunity to provide some excitement.
Sunday was Father’s Day. I spent some time with my father-in-law, Jack Clements, and my dad, the original Ron Thornton. I hope you were able to spend some time celebrating with your pop or being celebrated for being one. After spending some quality time with your loved ones, this would have been the time to turn the tube on to watch the conclusion of the race. If you had missed the opening 186 laps, trust me, you can forgive yourself.
With 10 to go, Blaney’s car started to run in some molasses after getting loose, stacking the field. You just knew that somebody was going to get punted. When Bubba Wallace Jr. turned Suarez, he found himself straightened out by the lady on his inside. You just knew that Danica Patrick was not going to be a happy camper, as she crunched the inside barrier.
They re-started with five to run, and that is when Larson checked out. He was number one, Elliott was number two, and the rest were somewhere behind. It was win number two for Larson on the season, while Hamlin (fourth), Truex (sixth), and Rowdy (seventh) all had 40-plus point days.
Both Joey Logano and Hamlin slip past Bowyer in the standings. Thanks to having five drivers behind him in points holding wins, Bowyer now drops out of a Chase position into 17th place. That means he heads to Sonoma seven points behind his two rivals, and for him points mean everything. At least, unless he wins.
Now it is time to enjoy a popular, iconic, a “must be in” contest that features driving door to door, fender to fender racing. They add the right turns to the lefts out in California, as they head just north of San Francisco. Last year’s winner at Sonoma will be cheering on the 2012 race winner, as team owner Tony Stewart hopes his boy Bowyer can claim the prize once again.
As for you and me, this is a race we might actually have to watch. It might even be one you can invite your dad to watch with you.