We aren’t short on NASCAR storylines coming out of Kentucky. But did the best finish of the year overshadow a subpar race? How about that lack of tire wear? What about those questionable calls made during the race by NASCAR?
It’s the Monday Morning Crew Chief. Let’s dive in.
Kyle and Kurt duel for the flag
Before I say a word about anything else, let me praise this finish. I was the best of the year to this point — a perfect storm for this racing package. Two brothers battling it out on a green-white-checkered finish, with older brother Kurt coming out on top.
Kurt toppled Kyle on this day, perhaps evening up the ledger for earlier in the season at Bristol. It was a clean fight to the bitter end, with a surprise winner punching his ticket to the NASCAR Playoffs this fall.
The restart had a little bit of everything. Three wide, daring moves, new contenders and a whole lot of side-drafting. In the end, it was Kurt Busch with slightly fresher tires getting the best of his little brother, which is something that he hasn’t been able to do a whole lot of during his career.
Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on this package, this finish was everything. Flat-out, using every inch of the track, physical — yet clean battle for the checkered flag.
What a moment.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 14, 2019
The finish will make people forget a lackluster race
Ask yourself this. If Bubba Wallace doesn’t blow that tire with five laps to go, how do you remember this race? Joey Logano would have ridden off into the sunset, likely giving us a very forgettable race.
Should an exciting finish change our view of an entire race? It probably shouldn’t, considering the weekly debate that the industry seems to be having about this new 550 horsepower package.
Were there passes for the lead on the racetrack? Very few. Kyle Busch was able to go pass Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the lead early in the race, then Kurt Busch was able to work around Clint Bowyer for the lead in stage three. Outside of that, what did you see?
We saw Aric Almirola run behind Daniel Suarez in the first stage. We then saw Joey Logano on two tires ride behind Kurt Busch on no tires. Later on, we saw William Byron ride behind Clint Bowyer. While NASCAR will gladly tout their green flag passing statistics, just use your eyes.
It was extremely tough for better cars to make passes on Saturday night. Part of that was the new pavement, but most of that was the lack of tire falloff. Six different drivers led 15 laps on Saturday night in Kentucky, but that was due to the fact that there was quite literally no tire falloff.
This isn’t even a total attack on the new package. NASCAR just needs a tire that gives a little throughout the run to keep the integrity of a race. Otherwise, just about anyone could hold a lead on older tires.
Enough with the “uncontrolled” tires, NASCAR
First off, NASCAR has to revisit their “uncontrolled tire” rule. Denny Hamlin was popped for yet another penalty, this time for an “uncontrolled” tire that was literally within reach of the tire changer. The pit crew member even reached out to stabilize the tire before finishing tightening the lug nuts.
Look at the moment below.
UNCONTROLLED TIRES ARE A SCOURGE AND MUST BE SQUASHED AS THEY ARE HARMING THE PROGRESS OF NASCAR pic.twitter.com/j7QEdaZc9c
— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) July 14, 2019
You’ve got to be kidding me with that. Don’t we have bigger issues to address than this? Remember, we’re just 30 years removed from blue jeans and cigarettes on pit road.
It *feels* like NASCAR is trying to manufacture some drama and pressure on pit road with this rule. Do we really want this affected the outcome of a race?
Questionable call by NASCAR on William Byron
Out of nowhere in stage three, William Byron showed up ready to challenge for the lead. After staying out on older tires, Clint Bowyer had taken control of the race. However, Bowyer had a tough task ahead in holding off Byron, who appeared to be a tick better.
After a caution interrupted their battle, the following restart handed us a key moment of the race. Byron — with a lot of help from Almirola behind — looked like he got a head start on Bowyer during the restart, but quickly got off the gas to correct the mistake.
A sideways Byron managed to get back behind Bowyer before the line, nearly causing a massive pileup at the front of the field. Still, NASCAR opted to penalize the second year driver for a restart violation.
While Byron did jump ahead of Bowyer, it was pretty obvious that Bowyer was playing games with the restart. While that’s a part of this game, Byron was also getting shoved from behind AND made every effort to get back behind the No. 14 machine.
With it being a judgement call, this one probably should have been left alone, in my opinion.