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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Aug. 24, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXLV
Winning a race, I mean.
This past weekend was perhaps a first in NASCAR history: three first-time winners in the three national touring divisions during a single weekend.
Three first-time winners. Three first-time celebrations.
It reminds me of high school. Everyone is amused by the burnouts.
As we await NASCAR's final decision regarding the policing of victory celebrations given their penchant for rendering cars unable to be easily or thoroughly inspected, we can only marvel at the qualities of the celebrations we witnessed last weekend.
But first we need to marvel at the performances that resulted in these three wins.
Brett Moffitt finally led a lap after five NCWTS starts: as in the final lap at Michigan International Speedway to win the "Careers for Veterans 200." Moffitt wheeled his Toyota Tundra like a seasoned veteran, in his own right, to earn his first career truck series victory. And the celebratory burnout that followed Moffitt's win was nothing short of magical.
As in, it was as if Moffitt had the power to conjure up clouds of smoke that blinded the crowd's view of his No. 11 Toyota as it spun its wheels near the finish line. The truck all but disappeared in the post-race whiteout.
Usually we don't see whiteouts in Michigan until at least January.
Meanwhile, across Lake Michigan over in Wisconsin, first-time XFINITY winner Michael McDowell led teammate Brendan Gaughan in an overtime one-two finish for Richard Childress Racing in the "Road America 180." The narrow layout of Road America made a sweeping, sliding burnout almost impossible to accomplish, so McDowell did the next best thing.
He pointed his Chevrolet Camaro's nose toward the retaining wall and let 'er rip.
McDowell's car was, like Moffitt's, swallowed up in a cloud of thick white tire smoke. If anything, NASCAR executives should have been pleased by what McDowell did because his winning Chevy remained pretty much intact. Post-race inspection wasn't hampered by bent sheet metal and crumpled front and rear clips.
Meanwhile, back in the Wolverine State, there were the events of Sunday afternoon.
Kyle Larson finally got the 300-pound Sprint Cup monkey off his back when he took the checkered flag and won the "Pure Michigan 400." His restart with only nine laps to go was nothing short of perfect, albeit made all the better with a bit of help from Michigander Brad Keselowski. Chase Elliott could only follow Larson as the Target Chevrolet zeroed in on the finish line and win number one for the 24-year old "Drive for Diversity" program graduate.
And there was much rejoicing.
For starters, Kyle Larson finally got a Cup Series win. The victory (his first in 99 Cup starts) locked him into this year's Chase for the Championship and snapped a 99-race drought at Chip Ganassi Racing. The timing of this particular win could not have been better. Not only did it accomplish all of the factors just mentioned, but it also occurred at MIS, a race track with a rather interesting Victory Lane.
As Kyle Larson demonstrated last Sunday.
I'm one who complains about the overdone nature of the victory burnout. Seen one burnout, you've seen them all. Or so I used to think….
Maybe it's just the excitement of scoring that first major win, or maybe it's just the fact that a younger driver understands how to generate an all-important viral moment, but what Kyle Larson did at MIS was quite amazing.
Where else can a driver spin his car into Victory Lane?
The winners' circle at Michigan is such that the champion can park right in front of the fans – no rolling your machine down pit road and into some secluded spot near the garages…. Victory Lane at MIS is a grassy slide off the frontstretch in clear view of the media, and Larson took full advantage of this prime real estate.
Watch his burnout and you'll see more than just tire smoke. You'll see, through the clouds, Larson twirling his No. 42 Chevrolet into Victory Lane, and doing so while having his hands and his steering wheel out the driver's side window. I caught the play-by-play of Larson's post-race celebration on the radio, and even experienced pit reporters seemed truly amazed by what they were seeing.
As burnouts go, Larson's was truly an in-your-face, drop-the-microphone kind of display, a display intended to announce his rise to championship contention. He may not have dropped his mic, but he did something even cooler.
He dropped his steering wheel. While sliding into Victory Lane. While bathed in tire smoke from two worn-out Goodyears.
We rarely get to see performances like we did last weekend, and that's truly too bad. There's something reaffirming about celebrating a first-time win. And we got to do that three times in three divisions.
The first time is always memorable. It's apparently a good thing to celebrate, too….
TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:
A: In order to cut downforce and increase speed, the Stavola Brothers team closed off the top air inlet with tape (on a 1996 Ford Thunderbird, this was the half-circle shaped opening). As a result, the car would run a little warmer. At a place like Darlington, running a bunch of tape was not necessarily a good thing since the cars would pick up a lot of sand.
As a result, a number of drivers ran hot late in the race, like Terry Labonte. Stricklin's No. 8 was not immune to overheating issues. For the last 90 laps or so, the car ran warm and spat water out the overflow from time to time. During his final stop, the Stavola Brothers crew didn't remove any tape, but sprayed water into the grille, as can be seen here.
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus a look at Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 in the Critic's Annex.
Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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