After a 68 minute rain delay, the Cup drivers got back to it with few cautions until the very end when the final caution came out with Chase Elliott on his way to what appeared to be Victory Lane.
Byron Williams spun sending the race into overtime. Elliott had led 38 laps at that point and surprisingly pitted for fresh tires. Nearly every other driver in the top 5 stayed out on old tires, putting Brad Keselowski in the lead.
Once the green flag flew it was a mad dash to the finish with Elliott passing cars to grab third while Keselowski held off Jimmie Johnson and Elliott.
I understand that had Elliott not pitted, Keselowski and others may have pitted for fresh tires. But it was obvious that clean air was what you needed at Charlotte and I would have thought that trumped tires, especially with just a couple of laps to go. Had there been five or six laps to go, tires would have made more sense, but that is why I am not a crew chief.
Staying with the longest race of the season can be a challenge for fans and it will be interesting to see the ratings pre and post rain delay. But those that did got to see drivers with the lead pretty much stay in the lead for quite a while. Alex Bowman led all drivers with 164 laps in front, Kurt Busch dominated the early part of the race with 54 circuits in front and Martin Truex, Jr. led 87 laps. Joey Logano also got in front for 26 laps.
Jimmie Johnson looked to have his best race of the season in second but failed post race inspection leaving him with a last place finish. We’ll have to wait to see if the team appeals the penalty but NASCAR was pretty firm about the decision.
In what has to be one of the funnier moments this season, Denny Hamlin won the Wednesday night race at Darlington, after I gave him the kiss of death, and donned a mask featuring his grinning face. It was pretty hilarious and clever of him. It looked great in Victory Lane and was funny to hear him talk while appearing to have a huge grin on his face.
This week sees another Wednesday night race, this one at Charlotte Motor Speedway and then on to Bristol, Atlanta, Martinsville, Homestead and then Talladega – all without fans in the stands at this point.
The Wednesday night races are a nice touch given our pandemic situation. With bars and restaurants closed or partially open, and given your personal preference for risk tolerance, the races have been a nice distraction and gives you something to fill the void. It will be kind of sad to see them go away now as NASCAR gets back to a weekend schedule.
Here’s hoping you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and God bless all those families who have served and given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
(Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media, and used with permission)