It was a nice prelude to the All-Star Race in Charlotte on Saturday. First, we had a down and out established team show some life by taking the front row. The pole went to a former champion just a week after he ran his first race of the season.
Boogity, boggity, boggity. It was Saturday night racing at Kansas, boys. Yes sir, it was the Might As Well Watch Paint Dry 400. Kansas, where excitement goes to die. Kevin Harvick started at the pole and led through to the competition caution. Ryan Blaney led at the re-start and continued to do so right to the end of the opening segment.
Excitement, thy name is sure not Fontana. Not usually. There is a reason the idea to bring the Cup folks out to the Auto Club Speedway was abandoned after just seven seasons. It is bad enough to be a yawner on television, but when that is the perception live and in person, you have got a problem.
NASCAR can really tick me off, and the use of “tick” was not my first choice. Yet, every year I seem to get that itch, one that I had already scratched raw the year before, and every year I return. Why? Well, there seems to be a few things about NASCAR that I really, really like as well.
Thirty-six races. A few are great venues that produce very entertaining television events. A lot more are not. Some tracks have two events, and you wonder why. Some have two and you wonder...why not three?
It was a home date for most of the teams as the next round of the Chase opened in Charlotte, North Carolina. Martin Truex, Jr.’s outfit hails out of Colorado, so for them every date finds them on the road. It is a road that could take them all the way to the championship.
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.
Everyone is super excited about going to Loudon, New Hampshire for the big event on Sunday. Okay, Alan Gustafson is not. Is not going, that is. Chase Elliott was second in Chicago, leaving him sixth in points. That was then. Now, he is eighth in points. If your car fails post-race inspection, sometimes they take away 15 points, along with your crew chief for a week.
So it begins. Chicago, where the Chase began. Chicago, where winning was a big thing, but not the only thing. Win and you advance. Drop out or too near the rear of the pack and all you have is New Hampshire and Charlotte to get it right, to fix the problem, to save your season. Three races, 16 drivers, and just a dozen spots available in order to continue the quest.