By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The hometown kid has finally done it, Kurt Busch had two amazing restarts but more importantly, crew chief Matt McCall’s pit call got the job done in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Like his last three wins, the 2004 Cup Series champ made the show exciting for the folks at home when it matters most and doesn’t have to worry about the stress of scratching and clawing to make the Round of 8 because he has punched his ticket with that emotional victory.
“It’s an incredible feeling to not have; well, it’s sinking in. No Talladega worries. No Roval worries. But we’re still going there to get points,” said Kurt, who led 29 of 267 laps. “We’re still going there to add up what we need to do to win this championship. So, thanks to Chevrolet. Thank you guys, and Jim Campbell, and everybody at the Ganassi shop. This Monster Energy Chevy was fast.”
If you said the race was going to be memorable before the final 30 laps, I would’ve laughed because man that was a rather underwhelming race compared to two fascinating events at Richmond and Bristol. Late-race drama never disappoints doesn’t it and we got what we got with a fun ending.
Nevertheless, let’s dive into my main takeaways from Las Vegas.
It’s Stage 2, Chill!
As the headline suggests, there was some compelling moments early in the race. That’s because the two biggest foes in the sport right now got into it once again in Sin City.
Right out of the gate in Stage 2, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano battle hard for the lead until a fender-to-fender contact on the backstretch ended their time at the front. Unlike in 2017, where it ended in a accident and a post-race brawl, the two save their machines, but paid the consequential price.
It was literally last Saturday when Kyle trashed Logano in his post-race video conference for getting in the way which in his eyes cost him that elusive win at Bristol. Now they had this little episode where their rather silly contact killed any shot for a win as both had to make unscheduled pit stops.
Kyle ultimately rallied for a sixth-place finish while Logano got a disappointing 14th. Had it not been for several incidents towards the end, their finishes would’ve been much different so they were saved.
Look, I’m all for intense battles but at what cost when the entertainment value goes away due to their race being essentially over?
Logano sits sixth in the points, 11 markers above the cutoff line currently held by Alex Bowman. Kyle on the other hand is nine markers behind Bowman as he got some work to do these next two races.
Neither cannot have a bad outing due to Talladega (October 4) and the ROVAL (October 11) being such a crap shoot. If they don’t make the Round of 8, we’ll know why such failure occurred because they’re certainly not going to be inviting one another for dinners.
UPDATE: Kyle didn’t put the blame on Logano as he described the ordeal during the post-race video conference, but he did felt it was a dismal day.
Kyle Busch describes the contact with Joey Logano (he isn’t blaming Logano) and how that impacted his day. Busch rallied for sixth on a night when he didn’t think he had a race-winning car. “Dismal day here in Vegas again.” pic.twitter.com/uPSlVM8xgc
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 28, 2020
The Quest for 31 Top 10s in a Season Survives Another Race
Somehow, someway. Kevin Harvick finished 10th on what was a real mediocre race that comes to the surprise of everyone.
“We just missed everything tonight. The car just didn’t drive good,” Harvick on his subpar performance. “We were slow on pit road and that was pretty much it. We just got buried in the field there and our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang didn’t go very good on the restarts, so it just didn’t go well top to bottom.”
He wasn’t a factor at any point of the race, but a great overtime run kept his bid of a record year alive. That being most top-10s in a single season which is currently held by Jeff Gordon when he got 30 in 2007.
Had certain circumstances didn’t fall in Harvick’s favor, then the bid wouldn’t be possible because one finish outside the top-10 will end that opportunity and can do no better than equal Gordon’s feat.
Going into Talladega, Harvick sits second in points due to Kurt’s win but has a reasonably comfortable 61 point cushion. That could easily change going forward, but in the meantime, a salvageable night is better than a putrid one.
“(We) salvaged a top 10 out of it and some stage points,” said Harvick. “I think that big picture-wise it didn’t kill us.”
Red Flags Doesn’t Solve Everything
A spin from William Byron with six laps of the regularly scheduled distance set me off due to Rick Allen’s comment about the idea of having an option to stop the race.
Look, red flags is my specialty when nobody else seems to care, but stopping a race has really become a gimmick in racing. Don’t we have enough gimmicks in NASCAR? I don’t want another thing becoming a gimmick just for entertainment.
annnnnnnd everyone relax for a quick second pic.twitter.com/l2n2QWI89S
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2020
Now if there was a big pileup or a car on its lid, then yes it’s valid but that incident involving Byron and Christopher Bell (second straight race by the way) didn’t warrant one and I applaud NASCAR for cleaning it under yellow.
I also applaud IndyCar for not stopping the Indy 500 and the second Gateway race because if the race track cannot be cleaned up or the field isn’t going to have time to prep for one final restart, too bad. That’s part of racing.
Even Sky Sports’ F1 TV crew have made it into a joke where the littlest things should warrant a red flag. This was because the Virtual Safety Car came out for cleaning up the bollards knocked down by Romain Grosjean following a battle with Sebastian Vettel in the Russian Grand Prix.
Again, NASCAR don’t shy away from stopping the race these days, but I’ve been pleased we’ve made it four straight Cup races without a stoppage, but I know that’ll change come Talladega and have at least our record 21st red flag of the year.
If you watch only the ending of the race, then you’ll say it was solid but if you followed the whole thing, then it’s another “it only got good towards the end” race.
This doesn’t take away Kurt’s win at all because sometimes, an ace will come out of a card draw and you simply put it on the table. That No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing squad certainly did that late in the race and got the job done.
On to Talladega Superspeedway for the running of the YellaWood 500. Live coverage begins next Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBC where anything can happen and one bad move can dictate the fate of several playoff drivers.