Mother Nature’s sadistic ways actually worked in NASCAR’s favor.
Yes, that sounds weird, but it’s true; after shoving Kentucky Speedway out of the darkness of Saturday night into the bright daylight of Sunday afternoon, the race had a whole new complexion. We saw the face of the track, bumps and all, and it was still as ravishing and stunning as expected.
Mrs. Nature kept her distance Sunday, and we went racing. Oh, we went racing.
Things began to unravel after the competition caution on lap 30. Denny Hamlin’s right front went flat, and he scraped the wall. However, no caution was called. He waited until it was clear to go down the access road, the shortcut to the pits.
Suddenly, the tire flies off and skids across the grass and onto the track…right in front of a leading Dale Earnhardt Jr. The debris smacked his front bumper, flew off, hit Jimmie Johnson’s front bumper, and then went into the marbles.
The caution finally flew, and everyone was dumbfounded. Crazy.
The next caution involved two drivers in the top ten in points, Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski. Kurt Busch drove on the apron and was pulled back onto the track, clipping Keselowski in the process. The no. 2 spun into the grass and came on track. Biffle nailed his back-end, as did other cars, and the no. 16 caught on fire. That’s never good.
Some point during the race, Hamlin’s slammed into the frontstretch, a section aided by SAFER barriers. It was soon reported that medics were in the garage area for him and possible care. With everyone thinking about his widely public back injuries, people frantically waited for him to be released from the infield care center. Thankfully, he had just hit his knee on the steering wheel and suffered from a slight headache. Things soon settled down.
As many assumed before the race even started, Jimmie Johnson was the class of the field. He had everyone beat. It was going to be his fourth win when another caution came out, this time for Brian Vickers hitting the wall.
When the chaos on pit road was all said and done, Johnson came out second with two tires, behind Matt Kenseth. He took only fuel. Everyone was curious as to what would prevail: clean air or fresh tires.
Kenseth pounced, gaining a big lead as the green flew. Johnson fell back, and, soon, the no. 48 was spinning around. He kept it off the wall, but smoke was coming out of his ears. Ranting, he said that Kenseth didn’t do the restart correctly and that there should be a penalty.
Let us all flashback to Dover. Remember that big restart mess? Johnson must’ve forgotten about that slip-up. He was 25th for the final restart after that.
In what you may call a comeback, Matt Kenseth won his fourth race of the season after a slight slump in his performance. He is in championship form and constantly mentioned when people wonder who can beat Johnson for the title this year. This move to Joe Gibbs Racing has created a new man.
Speaking of Johnson, he rallied for a ninth-place finish, and he still wasn’t pleased. He only gave one radio interview and left the track. It’s completely understandable why he would be short with the media; he had the race won, and it slipped away. Many fans were happy to see the dominator fall, but it’s actually sad to see. But, it’s apparent that the restart rule needs to be kicked to the curb. Cut out the restart box and let the flagman start the race. It’s causing so much trouble that it needs to be looked at and revised.
Finally, Hamlin needs to get out of the car for the rest of this season. That hit was a reminder at how delicate his back issues are, and he has to take it seriously. I understand that there are sponsorship obligations, but there is no way to beat around it. His daughter needs a father, his girlfriend needs a man. Racing is too dangerous for him and his condition. Get the surgery and heal properly.
Though we had to wait, Kentucky showed us it how it gets during the day, and it was an active glance. Mother Nature got us again, but maybe it was a good thing to wait.
Point Standings after Kentucky
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Carl Edwards (-38)
3. Clint Bowyer (-41)
4. Kevin Harvick (-66)
5. Matt Kenseth (-82)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-98)
7. Kyle Busch (-110)
8. Martin Truex Jr. (-120)
9. Greg Biffle (-121)
10. Joey Logano (-131)
11. Kasey Kahne (-132)
12. Jeff Gordon (-133)