This week's "what you missed" includes a pretty major "what I missed", which was the majority of the Cup race broadcast on ESPN thanks to our cable and internet going out until 20-25 laps to go. Instead, I caught most of the race via the radio and I must say they did a pretty good job, but there are some things that just have to be seen in order to be fully understood. That little difficulty aside, a lot of things still stood out that slipped through the cracks of the TV broadcasts.
Starting with the Truck race early Saturday, if you tuned in late, you might have not realized Austin Dillon was in the race. He didn't even make it past the first pit stop before his team had to replace a spark plug, putting them three laps down and far enough back to be out of contention for the win. Austin seems to be having problems getting his 'extra-curricular' races going right recently. For example, trying to obtain more track time at Watkins Glen in the K&N East series last weekend, he wound up being sidelined after 26 laps with an engine problem - then he didn't even make it ten laps before problems struck again this week.
The race hardly went any better for fellow Sprint Cup star Joey Logano and his teammate Ryan Blaney. Both suffered from a very strange issue I'd never seen before when the nose of the truck separated. This was all covered pretty thoroughly on TV, but it kind of struck me as funny that the teams figured it was okay to cover the grill with tape and think it wouldn'?t overheat. They obviously had not expected that sort of problem to crop up either. Having Brad Keselowski, their team owner, in the broadcast booth was really interesting - he made some great calls (especially when both Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks ran out of fuel, he caught that first and called it that Darrell Wallace Jr. would be lapped before he got up to speed--sure enough, he was right). Maybe the most fascinating thing he introduced was that those involved in NASCAR at the start all had just come back from World War II. I don't know if all of you caught that, but it's not something I'd really thought about before. That conversation was extremely interesting!
The most random idea that hit me during the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, though, was a shot of the short walls at the entrances to the garages now while someone came in for a green flag stop. You probably recall it was just two years ago that Mark Martin came sliding through pit road in the Cup race and skewered his car on the end of the wall. The drivers sure find a way to highlight changes that still need to be made, but that was one solution to a problem I am glad they took action on. Even if it never happens again, it's nice to know we've got that one more way to protect our drivers (and teams).
Switching gears back to road course racing, we'll head over to Mid-Ohio to take a look at the Nationwide series. A couple drivers attempted the NNS/Cup double (J.J. Yeley included, even though it wasn't anticipated), meaning they needed a fill-in driver to practice and qualify. Ryan Ellis did a terrific job taking over for Landon Cassill, qualifying 15th in the #01. Speaking of J.J. Yeley, if you kept your eyes open you saw him pull back into the garage on Trevor Bayne's in car camera during one mid-race round of green flag pit stops. ESPN never went into why, so I headed straight for the source (@JJYeley1 on Twitter) and learned they had a front sway bar arm break. After hearing that, finishing 9 laps down doesn't sound quite so bad.
As for a couple other single car teams' battles, Joey Gase had a battery die which robbed them of a chunk of laps while Jeremy Clements ran more than half the race with only fourth gear. When a team of Jeremy's quality level starts going laps down at a road course, you have to figure something is up. Jeffrey Earnhardt had even bigger problems; you probably remember that crazy slide through the grass when he went sailing off in one of the corners. He attributed that to a broken brake rotor, but still soldiered on to 28th, the last car running. TriStar Motorsports seemed to have everything going right with their three main teams placing themselves in the top 20 for a majority of the race. That is, until Jeff Green's stuck throttle sent him into the wall while running second and Carlos Contreras picked up some nose damage somewhere near the finish.
On a more positive note, there are several drivers that had excellent finishes. Mike Bliss was the bright light for TriStar and continued his team's upward momentum by surviving to finish 11th while Matt DiBenedetto grabbed an amazing 13th place finish with spotting help from Ryan Ellis! Cody Ware's Nationwide debut in his family's #23 car went extremely well as he finished 15th, followed a couple positions back by Tanner Berryhill. Tanner admitted on Twitter that he'd told his team he would buy them all a steak dinner if they finished top 20. Those guys are going to be eating pretty well this week! And of course we all know who won the race, but I really need to give a huge shout of congratulations to Chris Buescher and his whole team on picking up his first win. They are a great group of guys; we all knew it was coming, but I'm glad to see it happened sooner rather than later. This kid has a bright future ahead of him!
One fun little note from last week is something I'm sure you missed unless you follow "the three amigos" on Twitter. Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Ellis and Tanner Berryhill all piled into a car for a road trip up to Mid-Ohio a day early to take in some fun times at Cedar Point. From singing to a toll booth lady, riding an insane roller coaster (plus a kid's ride) to getting after it in bumper cars, their pre-race weekend adventure sounds like it would have been crazy fun to be along for!
So, I may have missed most of the Cup race, but the last twenty laps still provided enough information to help catch up. Cole Whitt had a great day going and had managed to stay on the lead lap leading into the final round of green flag pit stops, even running as high as the top 20. After that cycled through, Cole fell to 25th and a couple laps down. Crew chief Randy Cox apologized to him over the radio for running him out of fuel, but it was still a good showing for their team. On the flip side, Justin Allgaier's impressive qualifying run turned to disaster very early on, despite running in 12th. He got caught in Danica Patrick's infamous spin that took out way too many people (conveniently not her, despite the carnage she inflicted), but still managed to get back out there. He wound up pulling out of the race in order to not affect the end of the race. No matter how they finished, Justin, Steve Addington and the #51 crew are a solid team that work very well together and give it their all. While pulling into the garage, Justin told his guys that they are his heroes and thanked them for putting the car back together.
One last thing I'd say is pretty certain you didn't pick up on was the ARCA race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. A day after rain washed out the USAC Silver Crown race, a muddy track delayed practice and entirely cancelled qualifying, handing the pole to Mason Mitchell. That didn't hinder Kevin Swindell from taking the win though. He beat Mason Mitchell, Grant Enfinger, Frank Kimmel and Will Kimmel to the line. Will was running in 2nd with ten laps to go, but described the right rear tire as 'blistering' and fell back to 5th. It seems like he can't catch a break there as a couple years ago he was racing for the win late when his engine started blowing up. He managed to finish well then, but like this weekend not at quite the level he was running. Kelly Kovski (and his Allgaier Motorsports crew) finished 6th followed by Justin Boston and Ken Schrader.
This coming weekend we head back to Bristol. With so many drivers at odds with their competitors after Michigan, things might get a little bit interesting!
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.