The unknown is always a problem in life. Whether it’s the unknown of possibly not going after that job, or not knowing if a relationship is the right one, or something as simple as the unknown of a new recipe, there’s always an unknown to go with it.
NASCAR ventured into the unknown on Sunday at a track that had never been run. Sure, the Charlotte Motor Speedway was the host, but the track wasn’t in a sense.
Yes, the four corners of the speedway were used, but so was the infield.
In an unprecedented, and uncharacteristic, move this year, NASCAR went to Charlotte to not race the big high banks, but instead hit the unique “Roval” course that saw elevation changes, and multiple configurations before finally settling on the look that saw a chicane, or “bus stop” and a kicker just before the finish line.
It became the must-see event of the Playoffs, especially since it was given the distinction as being the race to decide who moves into the second round of the Playoffs. Testing alone made this track intimidating with all the accidents, all the spins, and all the wonder that had come of the change.
This race was thought to be one of chaos, with carnage deluxe, but through two stages of the event, it seemed as though it wouldn’t.
But, ,just like Talladega tends to be, the ending gave everyone exactly what they expected…a wreck fest. However, what it did give as well was the battle for the win with a driver wanting to get into the playoffs by taking a checkered flag instead of just cruising to the finish, especially when it’s been almost two complete seasons since one driver has seen victory lane. That’s not taking it easy, that’s running with heart and desire to get a checkered flag rather than just look to the following week.
In the end, the “Roval” at Charlotte was a complete 100% success from every aspect. Sales of tickets were the highest this track has seen in 10 years for this race, the buzz around the track was high, and the fans were buying merchandise so fast, the printers had to actually make more DURING the weekend to meet the demand.
From my perspective as both a fan and journalist, this weekend had everything NASCAR needed…intrigue, mystery, excitement, controversy, and action. Perfect way to end the first round. NASCAR and Charlotte have found their hit for the Playoffs and for future years.
STAGE 1: Kyle Larson
STAGE 2: Ryan Blaney
RESULTS: 1-Blaney 2-McMurray 3-Bowyer 4-Bowman 5-Kurt Busch 6-Elliott 7-Allmendinger 8-Johnson 9-Harvick 10-Logano
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Hamlin 14-Truex Jr. 19-Almirola 25-Larson 30-Jones 31-Keselowski 32-Kyle Busch 39-Dillon
CAUTIONS: 8 for 16 laps. Lap 15-16 (#51 Incident-T1); 27-29 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 52-54 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 60-61 (Debris); 67-67 (#3 Incident-T15); 70-71 (#10, 37 Incident-T5); 103-103 (#17 Incident-T1); 105-106 (#2, 42, 21, 6, 18, 8, 2, 13, 10, 43, 34, 12, 31, 10, 7 Incident-T1, Red Flag-14 Mins, 27 Secs.).
LEAD CHANGES: 10 among 8 drivers. Kurt Busch 1-6; K. Larson 7-36; R. Blaney 37-51; Kurt Busch 52; K. Larson 53-69; J. McMurray 70; R. Stenhouse Jr. 71-72; P. Menard 73-74; B. Keselowski 75-103; M. Truex Jr. 104-108; R. Blaney (P) 109.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 1 Min, 34 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 82.125 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.792 Seconds
PLAYOFF STANDINGS (Points/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Kyle Busch, 3055 ; 2. Harvick, -5 ; 3. Truex Jr, -17 ; 4. Keselowski, -30 ; 5. Bowyer, -40 ; 6. Logano, -41 ; 7. Kurt Busch, -41 ; 8. Blaney, -42 ; 9. Elliott, -47 ; 10. Larson, -49 ; 11. Almirola, -54 ; 12. Bowman, -55; 13. Johnson, -958; 14. Dillon, -989; 15. Hamlin, -1002; 16. Jones, -1014.