Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
OBSERVATIONS: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
It may have taken three fours to get started, but the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 delivered at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
The end of the event came down to a classic battle between two of the best this season in Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick – Busch leading, and Harvick wanting what he had. It’s always said that one of the elements of stock car racing is bumpers as they’re made for bumping, and that’s what happened. A couple nudges in a row from the No. 4 Ford into the No. 18 saw a trade for the lead, sending Harvick to victory lane for the sixth time this season.
As Harvick said post-race, “I had to do what I had to win. I didn’t want to wreck him – I just didn’t want to waste time behind him.” The bump was enough to get the position, but it didn’t cause damage to either car and Busch came across the finish line second.
Now when Busch finishes second, you know he isn’t going to be happy and that showed. However, he kept in perspective by saying, “With a faster car, I’m not sure he had to do it. With how you race, you get raced.” In other words, the playoffs with these two battling against each other head-to-toe are going to be exciting.
Of course, you can’t forget about Martin Truex Jr. and he made that known with a fourth-place finish despite struggling part of the day.
For the majority of the race, though, it didn’t appear as it’d be one of these dominant three winning. Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates actually led the way as Kurt Busch led from the pole, followed by Aric Almirola holding serve; both of them saw their chances of winning slip away virtue of errors on pit road.
The fifth-place finisher was Chase Elliott, which surprised many based on the lack of performance by Hendrick Motorsports for the majority of the year and the fact that Elliott has dubbed New Hampshire a frustrating place during rain delay interviews. It showed in his post-race interview when he said, “I was surprised with how we ran out there. I hope it wasn’t dumb luck.”
The top-five, combined with a runner-up in the first stage and win in the second was certainly necessary for the sophomore as he sits just two spots above the cut-off line for the playoffs. He now sits in a comfortable position with a 95-point gap over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Erik Jones is currently 14th in the standings, 74 points to the good. The battle is really now between Alex Bowman and Stenhouse, as only 28 points separate them. Of course, that all could change if another driver scores a victory that is on the outside and we know how possible that is, especially with Watkins Glen still remaining.
With discussion increasing about the playoffs, it is nice to see the action on the track matching that. The finish was certainly exciting, but we also had an event to match that as there were battles around the Magic Mile throughout the entire day. The bonus was watching NBCSN actually show those, rather than just focus on the top-five and sole leader at times.
The television coverage has certainly been refreshing with NBCSN so far as compared to the slip-ups discussed throughout the first half of the season by Fox Sports, this squad is hitting it out of the park thus far.
They were handed a three-hour rain delay, yet managed to keep the fans entertained the entire time with a variety of interviews and features. Also, shout-out to having a well-timed break once the checkered flag flew at the end of the stage, but being back in time to show the entire pit cycle under caution. That was one of the reasons why stage racing was brought in by the sanctioning body to begin with.
The commentary by Steve LeTarte, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also very refreshing, in hearing them discuss different lines, driver approaches, and strategies. However, I will admit that having Rick Allen on pit road made the transitions from racing to commercial and vise versa, as well as highlighting the position being battled for was missing. On that note, Earnhardt Jr. did an interesting job on those advertisements.
That said, there is always room for improvement moving forward. How do you go to commercial with less than 10 laps left in a stage? But if that’s the only complaint from the day, then I say that we got a great afternoon of racing. Maybe Pocono Raceway will deliver for a change next weekend.
By the way, why does it matter what the broadcasters wear in the booth during the race?
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