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OBSERVATIONS: Go Bowling at the Glen

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The most anticipated victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series happened on Sunday with Chase Elliott winning the Go Bowling at the Glen in his 99th career start. We no longer have to ask the question when the 22-year-old will break through for his first victory. 

It became a repetitive on a weekly basis with fans and critics alike wondering if and when Elliott would visit victory lane. After all, you create that discussion when you score eight runner-ups and your son of past series champion Bill Elliott driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

Now all we can say after the 90 laps were complete at Watkins Glen International – Finally!

It didn’t come smoothly by any stretch, though, as a mistake on the final lap almost got added to the chapter book that he had written thus far in his career. He wheel-hopped going into the final corner, sliding out wide, slipping the car in neutral to stop the slide. Thankfully, he had a wide enough gap ahead of Martin Truex Jr. that he was able to hold him off and score the win.

The wheels could’ve easily come off under the final round of pit stops. Front tire changer Nick O’Dell is deserving of the Gold Star of the day after what he did. 

Per the NASCAR rulebook, a crew member is allowed to enter the box beside them at the completion of a pit stop – hence O’Dell’s landing being deemed legal. Though the most important rule here is the pit equipment rule.

If the tire gun is in his hands, as shown, it is deemed legal because the crew member is still in control. However, if the gun would’ve landed not in his hands outside of the box, that’s a penalty for taking equipment out of the box due to not being in control still.

“We actually had a discussion before the race, just kind of lighthearted and jokingly, I told Chase, ‘We get in trouble for removing pit equipment, we don’t get in trouble for moving people,'” O’Dell told ESPN’s Bob Pockrass. “We knew the choreography that we were running today was going to be close, similar to how a two-tire stop is, so he was under the impression of when the car drops, you go and I’ll get out of the way.

Rather than starting on the front row with 33 laps to go, the penalty would’ve sent Elliott to the tail end of the longest line. Great job O’Dell!

The other question stemming from Elliott’s win is simple – what happens from here on out?

Sometimes when a driver finally breaks through and releases the pressure on them to win, they end up stringing some more victories together. That could easily happen as Elliott has ran up front over the past couple of weeks, finishing fifth and seventh in the two previous races. He also heads to Michigan International Speedway next where he has three top-fives and no finishes outside of the top-10 in five starts. 

You also have to consider the momentum that Elliott has heading into the playoffs. After the struggles for Hendrick Motorsports all year long, this is when you want to be performing your best so you are confident for the post-season and ready to challenge for a championship. This could be the start of a special run to the end of the year.

While Elliott won, it would’ve been interesting to see a battle happen between him and Kyle Busch. Busch had ran up front all day until he had fueling issues on his final pit stop with 33 laps to go. Still restarting at the tail of the field just outside of the top 30, he was able to drive his way back to a third-place finish. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.