CRANDALL: Now things are getting interesting...

CRANDALL: Now things are getting interesting...

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: Now things are getting interesting...


To steal a page from the Robin Miller playbook, a collection of thoughts from the last few weeks:

  • Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. put on a repeat performance at Watkins Glen, and thankfully NASCAR is getting to enjoy it this year as the garage didn’t wake up to Monday headlines that Brian France had been arrested. The former CEO has been all but erased from the sport in the year since, and you aren’t hearing many complaints about that.
  • A fired-up Jimmie Johnson is a rare sight. But as I tweeted after the race, the seven-time champion has lost all patience over the last few years as his team has spiraled downward. He’s out of patience in trying to turn the team around. He’s out of patience in making something happen to get in the playoffs. And now he’s clearly out of patience – and not hiding it – in giving guys the benefit of the doubt, as evidenced by his firmly sticking to his guns that Ryan Blaney dumped him.
  • It was a good call on the part of Chad Knaus to want his driver, William Byron, to stand up for himself after being booted by Kyle Busch going into the inner loop. But the execution was terrible, and hopefully a lesson for the future. The younger driver was schooled by Busch as he brake-checked and escaped without damage, while Byron needed repairs.
  • Bubba Wallace, on the other hand, had much better execution. Wallace didn’t destroy Busch’s car or day, but his message was heard loud and clear. Wallace wants respect, and good for him. Good for any young driver who isn’t afraid to fight back when they feel like a veteran driver is showing an air of entitlement on track.
  • The frontstretch interview with the winner that Fox and NBC Sports do is a great concept, and helps show a driver’s immediate emotion. But can we please stop asking the expected follow-up question, “how about these fans?” It’s not genuine, and not needed.
  • I had a follower on Twitter respond to the story about Erik Jones bagging points by saying they remember when the sport wanted to get away from the mentality of drivers racing to have a good points day. Sorry, but points are always going to matter one way or another. Even with a win-and-you-are-in format.

Erik Jones chases down a few more points. Image by Whitton/LAT

  • How terrible must it be to be Matt DiBenedetto? The guy finally gets the best opportunity of his Cup Series career and he’s still not able to enjoy it. DiBenedetto mentioned it Sunday afternoon – he’s fighting for his racing life as he continues to hear about how he’s going to lose his ride to Christopher Bell.
  • Shout-out to Watkins Glen for its fifth consecutive sellout. The area is beautiful, the atmosphere at the track is one of the best on the circuit, and the racing continues to deliver.
  • Good for you, Austin Cindric. He finally broke through for his first career Xfinity Series win, and did so in a thrilling and clean battle with AJ Allmendinger. Cindric is a good kid who hears a ton of criticism mostly for his lack of domination in a Team Penske car and for being the son of Tim Cindric. But he did everything right from start to finish on Saturday.
  • Speaking of Penske, where was Joey Logano on Sunday? Nowhere near the front, that’s for sure. A 23rd-place finish knocked Logano out of the points lead and maybe took away the regular season title and its 15 valuable playoff points.
  • Ross Chastain can’t be that surprised Justin Allgaier repaid the favor. Chastain has all but taken pride in how hard he races, and has admitted he probably pisses off his competitors because of it. As one Truck Series competitor said to me a few weeks back, Chastain is one of the most “frustrating” drivers to race. So when Chastain ran all over Allgaier in the inner loop you knew retaliation was coming, and Allgaier owned up to it afterward.

Chastain races hard – and that’s a cue for his rivals to reciprocate in kind. Image by LAT

  • On that note, there has been so much frustration from drivers in recent weeks: Daniel Suarez unhappy with Wallace. Johnson and Blaney. Wallace and Busch. Byron and Busch. Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse. Stenhouse and Jones. Ben Rhodes and Brennan Poole. Rhodes and Tyler Dippel. It has been entertaining to watch, and is a nice lead-up to the playoffs.
  • About time, Stewart Friesen. Before Cindric it was Friesen to who broke through Thursday night for his first Truck Series win. He and his No. 52 team had thrown away a few wins every which way well before Eldora, and Friesen embarrassed himself by wrecking on lap 1 in Turn 1 the week before at Pocono. With the first one out of the way, Friesen still faces the task of getting it done on asphalt.
  • Eldora was a great race, wasn’t it? Or at least the laps that were run under green were. Who fell asleep at the controls though with all the extended cautions and wasted laps? You could hear the chorus of boos from the fans in the grandstands through the television, and admittedly I was doing the same at home.
  • The Truck Series playoffs will be set this weekend at Michigan, and one spot is up for grabs. Two drivers who aren’t on the grid as it stands are Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland. Should either or both fail to make the postseason, I can’t imagine that will make the boss too happy.
  • According to Denny Hamlin the penultimate race at ISM Raceway might see the use of PJ1. It’s a needed band-aid for the track. Remember, next year ISM is the site of the championship race, and NASCAR cannot afford to go from crowning its champions in entertaining fashion in Miami to what is often a ho-hum event out west. So, let’s give it a shot and hope it spices up the action.