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The Art of Racing 3-17
Format creates intrigue
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Following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race in Atlanta, A.J. Allmendinger’s 26th-place result was ruled an encumbered finish after three lugnuts were found to be loose in a post-race inspection. As a result, the team has been docked 35 driver and owner points, and crew chief Randall Burnett was fined $65,000 and given a three-race suspension.
It may seem a bit harsh, but NASCAR warned all teams the new rules in place for this year would be rigorously enforced. The oddity is Allmendinger had acquired 50 points after the Daytona 500 and the Atlanta race. He added 13 points in the Las Vegas race, but only has 28 points after the 35-point deduction. That hurts!
It has taken only three races for the scuffles to begin and it is no surprise that bad boys Kyle Busch and Joey Logano were involved. As Martin Truex Jr. approached the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Las Vegas race, Logano’s Ford slid up into Busch’s Toyota in a battle for third. Busch spun into the inside wall on pit road and limped across the finish line in 22nd place. Busch hustled up pit road to confront Logano and threw a punch at Logano’s head. Logano’s crew stepped into the fray, and took Busch to the pavement. In the melee, Busch sustained a bloody bruise to his forehead.
That battle stole some of the thunder from the afternoon-long battle between the dominant cars of Truex, who led 150 of the 267 laps, and Keselowski, who led 89. Keselowski appeared well on his way to his second straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory when he radioed suddenly that something had broken on his car. As Keselowski slowed on the next-to-last lap, Truex passed him off Turn 2. Truex not only won the race but he swept both segments, picking up 7 very valuable playoff points, 1 for each stage win and 5 for the race victory.
The last two Cup races have seen unpredictable results as drivers who were leading with a few laps to go suffered mishaps that gifted another driver the victory. In Atlanta, Kevin Harvick had the speeding penalty, which resulted in Kesekowski’s victory, and the race in Las Vegas saw Keselowski’s broken part hand the victory to Truex.
NASCAR’s new format of stage racing has created a lot of intrigue as crew chiefs decide on pit strategy as each stage nears its end. If a caution comes out with less than 10 laps to go in a stage, teams have to decide whether to pit for a new set of Goodyear tires, or remain on the track in hopes of winning a stage. A new set of tires was the correct call in both stages of the Las Vegas race.