By: Ashley McCubbin
The track was soaked, and the drivers had many words to describe conditions on Saturday afternoon. But the fans had one response in the chaos that ensued – excitement.
While the usual road course aces rose the occasion at the front of the field, you never knew whether the driver pacing was going to dominate, or wound up in victory lane, or be backed in a wall. The ever-changing track conditions depending where the water settled produced a challenge for the drivers, beyond the usual aspects of the ROVAL that are of conversation. When the leader spins out on a couple occasions, that is all you need to know.
There is debate on whether it should have occurred as it did, wondering if safety was too much of an issue due to darkness and water pooling. Though ultimately, everybody could see decently as they did get through the corners solidly utilizing the apexes, with just minor spins being the name of the game. With NASCAR ensuring cautions were thrown if someone hit significantly or stuck, the sanctioning body deserves an applause this time around.
Now knowing the cup drivers will face the same road tomorrow, the advice is simple – stay on the track, and avoid mistakes to survive and make it into the next round. A bunch of drivers got lucky with their point cushions when issues ensued, like Ryan Sieg, while others like Justin Allgaier drove their way back to the front. However, Harrison Burton will be wondering what if after mechanical issues took him out of contention.
A.J. Allmendinger is one of a few who has road course experience in the rain, via running the IMSA Sportscar Challenge. However, it is not the same in every aspect as everybody knows how much a stock car drives differently. Though a combination of all his knowledge together, he was able to make his way forward through the final 40 laps, passing Chase Briscoe and holding him off to score the win.
Briscoe could have easily won, as he had better pace and braking ability than his competitor. However, a mistake of getting into the throttle too soon going into turn one on a late race restart sent him around and a poor finish.
Noah Gragson also showed enough pace to win, but an adventurous day with a total of three different spins saw him pass a bunch of cars to place second. He also got reminded that having enemies can be a bad thing, as one of those incidents were due to contact from Riley Herbst sending him around. Anybody recall their contact at Texas Motor Speedway on Lap 5?
Gragson has been aggressive all year, and some people began to wonder if that would come back to bite him – whether doing something himself, or another competitor affecting the outcome. Herbst got his taste of payback in dumping Gragson out of the lead, though Gragson returned the favor in running into him under the green flag.
Now with Herbst out of the playoff picture while Gragson is still eligible, it could be something to watch – especially with Martinsville as the final race in the Round of 8.