Why the Charlotte race looked more like Talladega
I think everyone will agree with me that NASCAR, in conjunction with the folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, were brilliant in postponing both the XFINITY and the Sprint Cup race until Sunday.
Hurricane Matthew was a crippling blow to the southeastern seaboard, which naturally impacted things here in Charlotte.
So Sunday became a doubleheader and I think we had two great races which were run, and oh by the way, in absolutely beautiful weather.
When Bill France Jr. was running the sport he used to say “our races are Sunday races” and you know what, I echo that sentiment. You’ve heard me more than once over the years say I believe we have too many Saturday night races and wished that more were run on Sunday. I just think we have better racing when it’s a Sunday afternoon, the sun is out and the grip level at the track is down.
As much as we thought a month ago that Hendrick Motorsports was going to be an after-thought in the 2016 Chase, they reared their head Sunday with Jimmie Johnson winning the race and punching his ticket into the third round of the Chase.
Jimmie became the only driver to win a race every year that the Chase format has existed. It also marks the 14th out of his 15 years on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit that he’s had a three-win season or better.
I know this seems hard to believe but in the regular season, Hendrick Motorsports collectively led 482 laps. Now after four Chase races, they have led 555 laps. So I think it’s safe to say if there’s truly a “Chase Switch” at Hendrick Motorsports, they have definitely flipped it.
If you showed me the finishing order and I hadn’t actually watched the race, I probably would have said “holy crap, did they go ahead and run Talladega instead of Charlotte on Sunday?” I say that for a number of reasons.
We had five Chase drivers who finished 30th or worse. That is only the third time in the history of the Chase that has happened. It was also the first time it’s happened in nine years.
The four drivers that are currently below the cut-off line definitely were handed a gift on Sunday for sure. How would you ever believe that Kevin Harvick, for example, could finish 37th and still be only eight points behind the top eight drivers.
If you look at Sunday’s race, the only Chase driver of the 12 that didn’t have any type of issue was actually our race winner Jimmie Johnson. The 11 remaining all had issues Sunday, either self-inflicted or otherwise.
Denny Hamlin is another one of those that feels he was given an absolute gift. He blew up but still is inside the top eight. So it was pretty unbelievable how this race unfolded when it comes to the 12 Chase drivers.
The second-best story coming out of Sundays race had to be Kyle Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens. Not only did they receive a penalty for going over the pit wall too soon, but they also had a right-front tire issue under green. They also had a major damage during a late-race restart, yet they managed to bring their No. 18 Toyota home in sixth. Overcoming all that puts them 27 points to the good right now.
If Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team races into the championship round at Homestead and were to win it all, they would definitely have to look back to the Charlotte race as one of their defining moments.