Racing is not foremost on my mind today, but Sunday in Dover early in the afternoon it was all that mattered for a few drivers. Ten looked rather comfortable when they determined which dozen would advance on the championship trail, with six others vying for two remaining spots.
Two had to win. For Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch, that was all that would save them. Good would not be good enough, and when Busch caught a commitment line violation in the final segment, no hope remained for him. Neither had much going for them on that day, as Kahne finished 14th, while the elder Busch was 20th at the stripe.
Jamie McMurray and Ryan Blaney were not safe starting the day. By the time they started the final portion of the race, only bad tidings would put them in jeopardy. As the laps counted down, it came down to three drivers seeking a single position. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came to Dover tied with Austin Dillon for the final place, with Ryan Newman just one point behind them.
The story of the day, as it turned out, took place at the end of the opening segment. Stenhouse and company took a risk. They long pitted and hoped for a caution to get them track position. The gamble paid off, and despite an ill-handling car that never for better, they used that to finish the segment in fourth and picked up seven points. Seven very important points.
With 50 laps to go, Newman was 13th, Dillon was 16th, with Stenhouse back in 19th. In the standings, that still left Stenhouse two points ahead of Newman and four up on Dillon. Fifty laps later, that is exactly where they remained and Stenhouse advanced.
Up front, Kyle Busch had a much better day than his brother. He got by Chase Elliott with two laps remaining to steal a win, to leave Elliott still in search of his maiden victory. When it came to stout performances, Rowdy, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Elliott all did well. Five of them are among the Top Five as they reset the points for the second round of the Chase and a date in Charlotte. Elliott is not among them. He is in our bottom four, four points behind Stenhouse who currently sits in the eighth position.
Then again, it was only a race. Tragically, this week our focus is not on racing or football players kneeling. It is not even on some foreigner from a different culture, holding different values, following a doctrine literally from the dark ages, aligned with people who wish us harm. That would almost come as a relief. What did occur was darker, less understandable, more ominous, and more disturbing.
Instead, we are reminded that when the U.S. Constitution was written, it was at a time when the best firearm you could possess was a flintlock musket, with minimal accuracy beyond 100 yards, that could fire no more than two or three times a minute.
At this moment, I am not thinking much about Dover or Charlotte. Our thoughts this week are with the people who have been affected by the events that took place in Las Vegas. To be honest, to some degree, we all have been.