• It was not the finest of days for Hendrick Motorsports.
Three of the team’s cars ended up crashed while Jimmie Johnson had a long pit stop near the end of the race that relegated him to a position outside the top 10.
We’ll start with Alex Bowman, who spent the day subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88. Bowman ran well and steadily improved his position throughout the day. He cracked the top 10 and seemed headed for a finish in that neighborhood until a tire rub happened from a discombobulated restart.
The tire exploded on Bowman’s car with 31 laps to go as he headed into turn 1. His car careened into the wall at the entrance of the corner and his day competing for a good finish was toast.
At almost the same time Bowman hit the wall, Chase Elliott, who was a few cars ahead of the No. 88, did so as well. A tire rub was the culprit for Elliott too.
His sheetmetal was damaged when Martin Truex Jr.’s car couldn’t get going on a restart. Truex only had 4th gear and Elliott was just behind Truex. As Truex struggled to get up to speed, Elliott dove to the inside and made contact with Tony Stewart. The contact with Stewart made Elliott’s left rear tire smoke and he too slammed the wall after the tire ruptured.
Kasey Kahne had a top-20 run foiled when he was caught up in a crash with Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman. Larson went spinning after contact from Edwards (who was nudged by Newman) and Kahne had a window to get through the accident.
However, he was clipped as he tried to avoid it and suffered significant damage to the right side of his car.
Johnson ended up having the best finish of the day. He started first, though wasn’t a factor at the front of the field for much of the race. He was in position for a top-10 finish as well, but was still on pit road during the last cycle of pit stops as most of the field exited ahead of him. Why? He slid through his pit box and was forced to back up before the team could pit the car.
Thanks to the late-race attrition, Johnson ended up 12th. Kahne was 25th, Bowman was 26th and Elliott was 34th.
• Your weekly Tony Stewart points update is likely going to end here. Stewart’s second-place finish moved him to 28th in the points standings. Stewart is now 67 points ahead of Brian Scott, the driver in 31st in the standings. Remember, Stewart has to be in the top 30 to make the Chase. We think he has that locked up.
And not only is Stewart a shoo-in for the top 30, it doesn’t feel too crazy to wonder if he’s really going to be a factor in the Chase. He’s finished in the top seven four times in the last five races. Those are finishes that stack up with almost any other driver in that time frame.
• After Truex lined up near the front of the field with just fourth gear available and after the disaster that was the finish to the fall race at Talladega, we’d be cool with NASCAR forcing cars it knows have gear issues to start at the back of the pack.
While Truex (and any other driver) understandably does not want to concede position with a wounded car, is the risk of wrecking the field or causing an accident with a known issue worth it for NASCAR? In our eyes, it isn’t.
Granted, it could mean teams start to speak in code over the radio, but for a sanctioning body that likes to say it errs on the side of safety, this seems like a logical step in the name of safety.
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