We are down to a game of musical chairs. Four spots, with eight drivers who very much want one of them. Let me just say that musical chairs sucks. When you are a reserved fat kid, the more athletic aggressive lads are going to go after those seats hard. Also, you will never be a hero dropping a young lady on her ass. Fortunately for the gents at Martinsville on Sunday, not a young lady to be found. No fat kids, either, come to think of it.
A fat aggressive butt might be useful, but not as much as a fast aggressive Busch with a good cushion in points coming in. Kyle Busch came in with a 40 point advantage over the outsiders and was third in the opening stage to bump his margin up by one. Hey, every point counts, as seven of eight contenders added to their totals in that initial run, with Chase Elliott being the lone exception. As for Bill’s boy, he fell from fourth to seventh in points locked and secured in the bank at that point, but they had a lot more racing left on the day.
As long as the car stays together, that is. During the fueling intermission, Clint Bowyer had moved to within a couple of points of Elliott’s replacement in fourth, Joey Logano, when he made hard contact with William Byron in the pits. Surprisingly, his car showed little damage. Instead of a Ford, he must have been driving something made from Tonka. Martin Truex Jr. tested it further during the run, as the pair made some contact in the tight corners.
Bowyer and five others among our contenders managed stage points in the middle frame. Logano dominated to gain the max amount of points, with Kyle Busch again third. Denny Hamlin, who won that first round, was second this time out. Some guys do not need to be part of no stinkin’ playoffs to make themselves relevant. Neither Kevin Harvick or Aric Almirola collected any bonuses, but the former was still more than 30 to the good. Almirola, on the other hand, seemed about to make like the Titanic and sink out of view. You could almost hear the band playing.
Truex had some issues going through spec and started this one at the back of the field. He had never won at a short track. He took the lead from Logano with 140 of the scheduled 500 laps to go as weather threatened to move in. That was exciting. It was for about 15 laps when Logano charged back in front.
We had not seen much of Brad Keselowski. Neither had Logano until his teammate passed him with just over 40 miles to go. Only eight drivers mattered coming in, but nobody told the 2012 Cup champion.
Bowyer was one who mattered coming in. However, a spin with about 20 miles to go when track position mattered a lot did him no favors. The caution, on the other hand, was welcomed by a few others. Logano and Kyle Busch hit the green up front, while Keselowski and Hamlin were right behind them. It was the contenders against the pretenders for a big ole grandfather clock awaiting the winner in Victory Lane.
Keselowski could not care less about playing nice with the playoff posse. He roughed up Busch to take over second. He roughed up his teammate but Logano held him off. That is when Truex, who was in the third row for the re-start, re-emerged to tango with Logano, to make a bid for that elusive short-track victory as the pair went fender to fender over the final three miles.
They were rubbing. They were banging. They were sliding. It was Logano coming across the line to punch his ticket to Homestead. It marked his second of the season and the 20th victory of his Cup career.
With Truex out of shape, he had to settle for third as Hamlin got by him on the inside. The result means Logano has one of the four seats reserved for Homestead. Kyle Busch is 46 points to the good, with Harvick and Truex sitting 25 on the sunny side. Kurt Busch finds himself 25 away, while Elliott, Bowyer, and Almirola needing to win at Texas or Phoenix to steal a chair or two from the Big Three.
Musical chairs suck…unless you are watching the pratfalls from the sidelines. One thing to watch for in Homestead is Logano finding the wall instead of the championship. Truex is already installing the sights in his car as we speak.