Consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.
• Expect to hear a lot about how Richard Childress Racing has two wins in 2017 while Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t have any.
The win totals are indisputable. But it’s also indisputable that after Austin Dillon’s fuel-mileage win Sunday night that both of RCR’s wins have come via strategy. Childress hasn’t beaten anyone straight-up in 2017 and likely won’t anytime soon.
Had the Coca-Cola 600 been a straight-up test of speed Sunday night, JGR’s Kyle Busch would have won. Busch passed quasi-teammate Martin Truex Jr. for second on the final lap and had the race gone 401 laps, Busch would have easily beaten Dillon to the finish line.
Instead, Busch had to settle for his fifth top-five of the season.
Joe Gibbs Racing is having a down season by the lofty standards its set over the past two seasons. But it’s still a damn good team. Busch is fifth in the points standings while Denny Hamlin is 11th and Matt Kenseth is 15th. Even rookie Daniel Suarez is inside the top 20 in 19th.
Meanwhile, Ryan Newman is RCR’s lone driver in the top 20 in points in 17th. Dillon is still outside the top 20 and Paul Menard doesn’t have a top 10 at a track not named Daytona or Talladega. Even with the wins it’s nearly impossible to argue that RCR has been a faster team than JGR.
The speed the JGR cars showed Sunday night was real too. Busch won the race’s first stage and Hamlin won stage three. Kenseth, who finished fourth, had a consistent top-10 car. He also won a year ago at Dover, the site of the next Cup Series race.
Yeah, JGR has gone the first third of the season without a win. But it’s still a better team than RCR and Roush Fenway Racing, another team who has a win in 2017. The wins aren’t far away.
• Landon Cassill hit the wall off turn 2 with three laps to go and pancaked the right side of his car. NASCAR, showing discretion it would not have exercised 200 laps earlier, declined to call a caution as Cassill drove his car to pit road.
At the time of Cassill’s wall-smack, Jimmie Johnson and Dillon were stretching their fuel ahead of Truex and Busch. A caution would have sent everyone to pit road and forced a two-lap shootout to decide the race instead of the nervewracking fuel-mileage race that was currently playing out in real time.
If Dillon and Johnson were jousting for the lead on the same pit sequence as the two cars behind it’s reasonable to wonder if NASCAR would have been a bit more cautious and thrown a caution. While the sanctioning body’s pragmatism in letting a race go to its natural conclusion can be refreshing, it can also be seen as another sign that caution standards are more up to the discretion of NASCAR officials than anything else.
• Sunday was a really weird racing day. Pascal Wehrlein’s car went on two wheels and roof-first into a wall in the Monaco Grand Prix and Scott Dixon’s car went barreling through the air after catapulting off Jay Howard’s in the Indianapolis 500.
The Coca-Cola 600 didn’t wait long to match the craziness. After something exploded out from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car 21 laps to the race, debris was strewn all over the exit of turn 4. Chase Elliott ran into that debris, which apparently punched a hole in his engine. Elliott’s engine burst into flames and his car slowed abruptly on the track, leaving Brad Keselowski nowhere to go.
Keselowski piled into the back of Elliott as Truex and Johnson barely got by. Thankfully, all the drivers in the three aforementioned incidents were OK.
At least with Sunday’s race being in NASCAR’s home city, Elliott and Keselowski had a chance to get home and comfortable as their fellow competitors had to wait out a 100-minute rain delay in the middle of the race.
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