I don’t have a lot to say about the truck race, other than for the most part it didn’t have a lot of drama, outside of passes for position, the way racing should be. William Byron ended up winning his 7th race of the year, bouncing back from last week’s disappointment at Phoenix. Johnny Sauter ended up winning the championship, like he would have done under last year’s format, only he would have beaten Byron by three points for the championship.
Shoutouts go to:
Tyler Reddick for finishing 2nd. He won a race this year, and although he didn’t make the Chase this year, he is, nonetheless, a solid driver. Let’s see what he does for Ganassi next year in the Xfinity Series.
K&N West Pro Series driver Noah Gragson for scoring a top-15 finish is his second ever Truck series start. He’s going to a team that is always a force to be reckoned with in Kyle Busch Motorsports. Can he do what Erik Jones and William Byron did before him and contend for the Truck championship?
Daniel Suarez led 133 laps out of 200, capturing the Xfinity Championship. But the race was not without some controversy. Late in the race, Cole Whitt, racing for Tri-Star Motorsports, opted not to pit under the final caution, taking the lead. The strategy backfired, as he got a poor restart, holding up Erik Jones and Elliott Sadler, costing them as shot at the championship. But under the regular format, Elliott Sadler would have been the rightful champion. I can’t place any blame on Cole Whitt for doing what he did. He was only doing what his crew chief told him.
Rather, it’s the Xfinity Chase format that is to blame. Without this, Elliott Sadler would have already clinched the championship and the controversial finish would just be a footnote. Even though Daniel Suarez will go down in history as the first foreign-born NASCAR driver to win a championship, breaking barriers in the process, it would have been a lot more special if he did it over the course of the entire season.
Ryan Sieg finishing 12th. A small team such as theirs making the Xfinity Chase is a BIG accomplishment in and of itself. With some more funding, who’s to say they won’t contend for wins?
JJ Yeley finishing 13th. He ran solid all season long for the #44 team.
Cole Custer finishing 17th. He has sponsorship and has shown that he can run up front. Can he break through next season and contend for the Xfinity Championship?
Cole Whitt finishing 18th. It was a gamble that didn’t quite work out, but you can’t blame a small team for trying.
The race and potentially the championship was Carl Edwards’ to lose, but a questionable yellow flag came out with 14 laps to go, jumbling up the field for the ensuing restart.
If the race plays out naturally, like it would have in the Winston Cup era, then Carl Edwards takes home his first championship. Unfortunately, as has been proven over the past few years, a NASCAR race isn’t a race without some added “Game 7” drama. The yellow in question came out when Dylan Lupton supposedly got loose, bunching the field up, leading to the final pit stops, and the ensuing big wreck coming after, taking out several drivers. This sequence of events cost Kyle Larson, who led the most laps in the race, the victory for the second year in a row, leaving many fans wondering if NASCAR deliberately set it up so that Jimmie Johnson would win, despite not running that well during the duration of the race.
How “Debris” Cautions Have Affected The Outcome of Races
Back in the day, NASCAR wouldn’t even call yellows if someone spun out and got back going. Now, they throw the caution if a car scrubs the wall or gets a little loose, not to mention the “debris” cautions that have plagued a lot of races over the past decade or so.
With the advent of the mysterious “debris” cautions, a lot of longtime NASCAR fans feel as if the races are rigged. And they definitely have a legitimate beef, when such cautions are called during races, in turn leading to more cautions. The fact that this has not been addressed by Brian France is very troubling.
Three examples stand out.
The 2005 Ford 400. Casey Mears was winning, and a debris caution was called with just over ten laps to go, bunching up the field and setting up a late restart.
The 2015 Ford Ecoboost 400, when a yellow flag came out just as Kyle Larson was catching Brad Keselowski for the race lead, setting up for another final restart in which Kyle Busch ended up winning the race and capturing the championship.
The most notorious example is when Matt Kenseth was leading with less than 15 to go, and a mysterious “debris” caution comes out, preventing a fuel-mileage finish. On the ensuing pit stop, Matt Kenseth ended up breaking an axle. Then, Kurt Busch took the lead, victory lane in sight, and a yellow comes out again for “debris”. Another yellow comes out, creating another restart, and Brad Keselowski ended up winning the race.
If Brian France really cares about the direction of NASCAR in the future, he will step down before next season and hand the reigns over to someone that knows what they are doing and truly cares about the fans that make this sport popular. Appealing to the casual fan has not worked, sad to say. I’ve been a NASCAR fan for over 15 years. I came up during one of the most memorable seasons in NASCAR history, survived the first iteration of the Chase, the Car of tomorrow, the fake debris cautions, and the Cup guys double dipping in the lower series. But now, I highly doubt I will be watching many races outside the Daytona 500 next year.