Note: My articles are based solely on my thoughts and observations. Normally I do not offer statistics, although at times I may reference what different broadcasters, among others, have said or alluded to.
I would like to thank David Nance for inspiring me to write this.
Our National Anthem was sung a bit slowly by Sierra Black and at the end of it, we saw the beautiful flyover by the A-10 Warthogs from Nellis Air Force Base. We then saw the pilots from the 66th Weapons Squadron of the flyover planes give the Command to start engines. Very nice.
The broadcast booth told us Martin Truex Jr and NASCAR had teamed up to honor cancer patients and Gold Star Moms by placing names on many of the cars in the race. I felt that was a good thing.
Kevin Harvick started on the pole with Kyle Busch on the outside. Prior to the green flag, the announcers spoke with Kevin and he mentioned how the heat would affect the cars and drivers and that it would be very slick. He also mentioned that things would change once the sun went down and the track was in the shade more.
Chase Elliott pushed Harvick to the lead and then took the lead himself and he was leading at the end of the first lap. I was happy to see that Ryan Blaney had made it from 15th up to 5th by lap 18. NASCAR called a competition caution on lap 25 and all lead lap cars pitted. Kyle Busch came off pit road first with Denny Hamlin coming off 2nd. Joey Logano pushed Hamlin to the lead. During these laps, Chase Elliott expressed his dissatisfaction with Logano for blocking him.
By lap 32 the cars were single file and were beginning to get very strung out. Hamlin won the first stage by 3 seconds over 2nd place and the rest of the field was over 6 seconds behind. Not much to see there, Folks…
Kyle Busch came out of pits first and started on pole for Stage 2, but Harvick pushed Logano to the lead. However, aggressive driving helped Hamlin get the lead back and Elliott followed him and was up to 2nd very quickly. After that, Logano and Kyle Busch got together, and Logano had to pit for possible tire problem which put him a lap down. On lap 12 of the 2nd stage, Elliott passed Hamlin under green to take the lead.
Meanwhile, Kyle expressed concern over possible tire problem after contact with Logano, but it was agreed he should stay on track and wait for caution as it did not look too bad and the car was handling okay. By this time, Alex Bowman had made it up to 3rd but there was no mention from the booth about this. It took them about 12 laps to finally mention it on the air. Green flag pit stops began with 43 laps left in the stage. The 18 crew had a problem with their air gun and lost many seconds on their stop and quite a few spots on the track. Elliott won stage 2, but only by 3/10ths of a second. The racing was much more competitive in this stage.
Hamlin came off pit road first for the beginning of Stage 3 with Bowman coming out 2nd while Elliott lost 2 spots on pit road. Bowman quickly passed Hamlin, under green, for the lead with a very impressive run. Two laps later, Hamlin took it back. Other than that, there was not much action and the broadcast booth people zeroed in on the top 2. Surprise of all surprises, mysterious debris that we fans never saw caused them to throw the yellow for the 4th caution of the day on lap 191. Hamlin came off pit road first and Truex, Jr came out second. Once again, Elliott lost 2 spots on pit road. The restart found Hamlin and Truex fighting for the lead, but Matt DiBenedetto moved into 2nd after a 4-wide race for position. Austin Dillon lost his power steering and was also running hot with 66 laps to go. He had lost some of his belts and made it to pit road, so they didn’t have to throw a caution for him. Cars were very strung out again with 35 to go and green flag pit stops started. After leaving the pits, Bowman passed Hamlin under green. About this time, Jimmie Johnson had a tire problem, and the caution was thrown. This really messed up the running order. Because DiBenedetto was on pit road at the time, he came out as leader with Kurt Busch now 2nd. The choose rule also played a part in the position of the drivers. It was a mess, and I don’t know how they figured it all out and got all the drivers in their rightful positions.
Right after the restart, they were 3 and 4-wide for several rows. Kurt Busch took the lead from DiBenedetto. Shortly after, John Hunter Nemechek spun, and the caution came out with 17 laps to go. They took the green again with 12 laps to go. With 7 laps to go, William Byron spun and hit wall right after getting into Christopher Bell, after Bell hit the wall and slowed a bit. This brought out another caution and set up a green/white/checkered restart. Kurt Busch took the outside and went on to take the win followed by DiBenedetto, Hamlin, Truex and Bowman. It was a very surprising finish.
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