Australia. If there was any road to success on Sunday, it was to be a native of Australia. Perth-born Daniel Ricciardo led from start to finish to claim the Monaco Grand Prix. At Indianapolis, Toowoomba’s own Will Power kissed the bricks and drank the milk.
Unfortunately, the last Aussie to drive a Cup car was Tasmanian Marcus Ambrose four years ago. The closest we have now, according to my calculations, would be the boys from California. Going in, I guess that would have meant Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, or A.J. Allmendinger among our favorite mates to take hold of the tiller of their Yank Tank left hookers to burn off some motion lotion to finish the day doing some circle work.
Then again, betting on a Roger Penske driver might have been a good one. After taking his 17th Indianapolis 500 as a car owner, his boy Joey Logano led the opening lap at Charlotte. Maybe Joe Gibbs had the answer, as it did not take long before Logano was replaced up front by the trio of Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, and Denny Hamlin.
Tires became the early story. We soon discovered Austin Dillon was not going to win it. Since his Daytona 500 win, the lad’s performance has gone down under. He lost a tire, scraped the wall, and his hopes of even a Top 20 took a big hit. As to what I said about Harvick earlier, forget it. No Aussie luck came his way when he blew a front tread and pounded the wall late in the opening stage to end his day. They all came in, but Brad Keselowski missed his pit box. The good news was, he gained a dozen spots. The bad news is that without new rubber he fell like a stone on the re-start.
Rowdy claimed the opening stage. The wall claimed William Byron early in the sophomore stanza when he got loose and tore up the rear end of his auto. That provided the fans with a bit of excitement. Hamlin added some more when he and Johnson touched going into the corner, sending Johnson sideways in front of the pack. He managed to get Logano to skid, but everyone managed to avoid disaster. Still, you could not say things were boring.
For fans of Kyle Busch, the opening pair of frames was exciting, as their icon was the first in both. However, it was NASCAR’s longest night. A Kyle had an issue in the segment, but it was Kyle Larson who went for a slide all on his lonesome. Lots of smoke and fury, but no contact. Lots of smoke and fire a few laps later, as Ryan Blaney’s ride finally blew up as they earlier predicted and it went up like a Viking funeral pyre.
300 laps down and Kid Busch was still laying them down. It was as if he was the only one who mattered. Of course, the story of this one was going to be that he won, or why he did not. At least a dozen others still running had picked up some stage points, so there was no shortage of those who would be been more than happy to step into his tracks.
Jones had come to the pit second, he left 19th. Kasey Kahne cut into his pit box, caught the air hose of Jones’ tire changer and whipped it and the air gun away. Slick trick, though I doubt the victims of the deed fully appreciated the skill involved as much as others might have. You had to appreciate Ryan Newman’s quest to stay among the Top 20 in the standings for much of the race, but early in that final run, a wheel bearing issue sent him to the garage.
They all helped add some seasoning to the night, but they were all hamburger compared to the Busch steak. A perfect 70 point night, his 47th career victory, the fourth of the season. It was his first points race victory at Charlotte as he now has won at every active Cup series venue.
I know that Las Vegas has its own Eiffel Tower, but I guess there is a Sydney Opera House hidden around there somewhere. Good on ya, Mate.