Michigan, where winning was everything. Okay, points might have mattered for the likes of Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer, but for everyone else winning was the goal.
Michigan, where once again an Aussie did the play-by-play, but to be frank, Leigh Duffy’s accent is not a problem for me. I regularly watch the action from the Australian Football League, and it is totally a non-issue. An announcer has to inform, entertain, and it is helpful if they have one of those voices, one of those deliveries that allows you to just wrap yourself in like a warm blanket. That is how you keep fans watching and tuning in. NBC has not yet learned that, I am sad to say, but maybe the action on the track might overcome the deficiencies.
Not in the opening segment. They went fast, but they were strung out around the oval. A third of the field was lapped, and the dominating car, driven by Brad Keselowski, already has its wins. It was warm up where I live, but I decided to forgo the frosty beer for the moment. At least that gave me something to possibly look forward to.
Martin Truex Jr. is looking forward to the Chase, and he added to his playoff point total with yet another segment win in Stage two. Keselowski and Kevin Harvick were right behind him, but a couple of the others in the top 10 at this point made things interesting. Erik Jones had done well cruising in the top five, while Daniel Suarez was strong throughout the segment. Neither could make the Chase on points, but could they, would they win their way in? I guess that is why we watched the final run. Still, no beer for me. I am a patient, patient man with an iron will.
Kasey Kahne was not, as shortly after they resumed he popped in front of Suarez a fraction too early and got tossed to the scrap heap. Kahne is in the Chase, but out of that ride for next season. It did the Mexican driver no favors either, as his hopes for victory Sunday came to an end. At least we still had Jones.
A win would have worked for Bowyer. However, twice being caught speeding in the pits would not. Neither would a tire rub with 50 laps to go that turned into a flat. No win, and a squandered opportunity to make up some points was to be the fate for the man from Emporia, Kansas.
Joey Logano has a win, but it means nothing toward the Chase. His hopes for another went flat when his tire did the same with 15 laps to go. That brought out a caution, and that increased our interest. With nine to go at the re-start, four time winner Truex was running point, with Jones, Kenseth, and Elliott right behind him. Ken Squier and Chris Economaki could not have set things up any better for what we hoped would be an exciting finish with a lot on the line.
Truex took off with Jones, his Furniture Row teammate, behind him. They were all that mattered, though you could not tell from the NBC coverage as they focused on battles that in the long run were rather meaningless. It was sliding into ho-hum territory, I began to yearn for that long put off beer, but then a wreck with five to go allowed them to re-set.
Going into over-time, once again it was Truex, Jones, Kenseth, with Kyle Larson now fourth ahead of Elliott. Was it going to be exciting? Damn right, but that was thanks to Larson bursting between those Furniture Row boys as things turned green and away he went. It was his third win of the season and his third straight at Michigan.
So, did the standings change much? Nope. Kenseth finished 24th, but Bowyer dropped a further three points behind him for 16th place on the ladder. The gap is now 31 points, with McMurray 52 points over the horizon and Elliott now 62 on the other side of the crest. It was a good day for Larson, Truex, Jones and, thanks to bonus points, Harvick. It was a bit of a bummer for Kahne and Suarez.
Next up is a Saturday night at Bristol, an event good enough it attracts fans just because it is what it is. Kenseth, Logano, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are previous winners who desperately need to re-live some of those good old times. Get your friends together for the race next weekend. Tell ‘em that Bristol represents the kind of action NASCAR presents every week. Hey, sometimes friends lie to friends over a cold beer. Which reminds me…