Come hell or high water (And high water did come) NASCAR will race, even if they mess things up.
Most ovals around the world have lights. Even tiny midget car ovals have lights. The inner oval at Daytona has them. That, however, is not the case for New Hampshire Motor Speedway. No lights mean no night racing and when you botch the start due to rain, no lights, mean botched racing. At least, Aric Almirola got the win.
Slick Tires Don’t Stick to Water, Remember That.
Just like last week, dashboards caused trouble for some drivers. Bubba Wallace, who was supposed to start 18th, had to make his way to the rear thanks to a screen replacement on his car. With that set, the race was ready to begin under cloudy skies. It took only eight turns for those very clouds to burst. Rain in turn one caused pole-sitter, Kyle Busch, to spin and bring in the first caution. The yellow flag quickly turned red, and everyone came to halt at pitlane.
The man at the front was not happy after getting out of his car. “We’re done, we’re going home. There’s no fixing that thing.” Said Busch to NBCSN. Everyone involved in the early crash was equally disappointed as rain came down two laps earlier and NASCAR did nothing about it, at least not at the right time. Speaking of time, the race was delayed for more than an hour. Such was the time left unraced that Wallace and Matt DiBenedetto took to American football and played catch with fans at the grandstand. But, at last, tarps were removed, and we were ready to race.
“A Race Against the Sunset”
The race was ready to resume. Nonetheless, NASCAR was now racing against time. New Hampshire Motor Speedway has no lights so the race would get shortened depending on the weather, track visibility, or both. A race against the sunset. Joey Logano got penalized for entering the pits when closed. He came in on an emergency to remove debris under the hood.
Meanwhile on the track, NASCAR officials made cars run plenty of laps under caution as they waited for trucks to dry the apron of the track. However, every caution lap meant a little bit less light to run under green. At this point, it was probably easier to race on Monday, NASCAR is stubborn though, they were committed to Sunday. Chase Elliott finally took the green flag, on lap 23 of the first stage.
Anthony Alfredo brought in the second caution of the race as he spun right at the front stretch. Christopher Bell had good pace coming off the restart as he went head-to-head for the lead against the reigning champion. Ryan Blaney took the stage point from Elliott at the end. The first part of the race was finally done but. The race against sunlight wasn’t over.
A Dry Racetrack at Last
Kevin Harvick got the lead after the top of the pack took for the pits before the start of the second stage. Behind him were Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Blaney who were ready to cycle back to the front. In usual conditions, they could’ve caught up to him but having no traction compound on the corners made things tricky.
Eventually, Elliott climbed to the second spot before him and Harvick had to stop for a fresh set of tires. They did so under another yellow flag as Quinn Houff’s double-zero Chevy hit the wall. Harvick held the lead by the edge of his teeth. SHR’s number four had the lead but neither he nor anyone knew for how long would they be racing halfway through the second stage. There was still sunlight out in the track so, as far as NASCAR was concerned, drivers had to keep on rolling.
Chris Buescher and Wallace made contact near the entrance of the road course and brought out another caution a few laps after the last pitstop. Joey Logano got himself back to the lead lap 140 laps after his penalty, all he had to do was survive at this point. With only 27 cars on the lead lap, he had to go through a lot of traffic to gain track positions.
His teammate Brad Keselowski got his second stage win of the season in stage two.
The Final Countdown
The final stage was supposed to run as originally planned but, remember that race against the sunset I told you about? Well, the biggest star in the galaxy did not want to play along. The delayed race was shortened to only ten laps halfway through stage 3 due to poor visibility. At the front, a bunch of underdogs: Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Blaney.
Almirola had the worst luck ever this season. The Smithfield number 10 seemed a magnet for crashes and unfortunate events. Flat tires, nose first crashes, fiery explosions, and even filling its insides with dirt to point of not being able to continue. They say the bad times make the good times sweeter. That was the case tonight.
After all the mishaps and the damaged body panels, Aric Almirola crossed the finish first in what could very well be the upset of the season.
What’s Next for NASCAR?
Next for NASCAR is a summer break. All three national series will take a two-week break for the Olympics. The Greatest Season Ever will be back on August 8th at Watkins Glen.
Missed last week’s race? Check it out HERE
Featured Image: Getty Images