Sunday presented us with a rare opportunity, one that riled everyone and their remotes up. Ready to do work, NASCAR fans sat on their couches, thumbs poised over the ‘recall’ button. Breakfast was being served a bit earlier to accommodate the new circumstances, and Mother Nature was to blame.
Or maybe we should thank her…? Hmm.
Rain swept into Iowa Saturday night, and the soul-crushing words of “We’ve lost the track” were uttered. NASCAR decided to run the Nationwide race Sunday morning, eleven a.m. ET, carried by ESPN2. This set us up for a doubleheader.
Baseball has perfected the concept of back-to-back games, so why not try it with racing, right? It also set a populated stage for NNS; viewers could watch the race, then switch to the Cup race at Pocono when it was done.
Of course, that didn’t really work out, but still! The opportunities!
With each series in a separate state, double or triple duty wasn’t expected. Joey Logano was ready to run Iowa and Pocono, but Mother Nature said, “No,” so that wasn’t going to work out. It was a field full of strictly NNS drivers (as it should be), and they were going to strut their stuff.
The caution didn’t take long to come out, when lap three brought us a wrecked Brad Sweet, but the lead didn’t change much; Austin Dillon was clearly the class of the field. The only driver that seemed to be much of a threat was Trevor Bayne, who was charging up to second . . .
. . .when Mother Nature came out to play.
Travis Pastrana, Brian Vickers, Alex Bowman, and Max Papis had just gotten into a caution-resulting accident when it began to rain. NASCAR pulled the cars onto pit road, and a downpour ensued, half the race already over.
Red flag. Just in time for Pocono’s green flag.
With the Cup field set by points, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards were on the front row. Lap two was trouble for Kasey Kahne, who had an issue in the drive train. He went behind the wall. Edwards led awhile in the beginning, yet Johnson quickly took over. The no. 48 was running triangles around the entire field.
“*click* Hey, the NNS drivers are back in their cars!”
When they went back green, it was a battle between Dillon and Bayne. The two were in a whole other zip code. An incident with Michael Annett brought out a caution, but the adrenaline couldn’t slow. The no. 6 had to chase Dillon down, but the no. 3 was caught with eleven to go. Bayne even used his bumper, roughing up his competitor, uncharacteristic of the baby-faced driver. The two tangoed, and hearts were in throats.
Dillon fell back, and the newly-married Trevor Bayne won the second race of his NNS career. Finally, people can stop comparing him to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who raced the no. 6 before him.
“*click* Ryan Newman?!”
Yes, as everyone settled in to finish the Pocono race, Newman had used fuel strategy to make his way to the lead. Of course, it put him on a completely different pit stop cycle, and that was his downfall in the end; he was going to be six laps short.
A restart allowed Johnson to regain the lead, and, although there were plenty of cautions in the last thirty laps, he couldn’t be beat.
People keep getting upset with the no. 48 team and how dominant they are, and it’s quite funny; that’s what the best drivers do. They win. They slaughter the field. They put everyone else a lap down before halfway. That’s how it was in the old-school days of NASCAR.
You can say it’s Chad Knaus. You can say it’s the car. You can say it isn’t Johnson’s ability at all. However, you would be dead wrong. It’s a combination of everything -the crew, the car, the driver- that makes this team nearly unstoppable.
Superman isn’t going anywhere. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble.
As we take our cool down laps after this beautiful day of racing, no matter what you thought of each race, you have to admit that it was exciting to have back-to-back races.
Maybe Mother Nature did us good today. But she’s certainly not invited to Michigan.
NNS Point Standings after Iowa
1. Regan Smith (–)
2. Sam Hornish Jr. (-23)
3. Justin Allgaier (-44)
4. Austin Dillon (-46)
5. Elliott Sadler (-60)
6. Parker Kligerman (-63)
7. Brian Vickers (-64)
8. Brian Scott (-67)
9. Trevor Bayne (-80)
10. Kyle Larson (-87)
11. Alex Bowman (-117)
11. Mike Bliss (-117)
Point Standings after Pocono
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Carl Edwards (-51)
3. Clint Bowyer (-69)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-82)
5. Kevin Harvick (-87)
6. Matt Kenseth (-103)
7. Kyle Busch (-109)
8. Kasey Kahne (-121)
9. Brad Keselowski (-123)
10. Greg Biffle (-126)
11. Jeff Gordon (-128)
12. Paul Menard (-136)