Monday, August 29, 2016

Weekend Sees Kyle Larson-y

Before Kyle Larson won the Yankee 400 Brett Moffitt broke through to HIS first NASCAR win in the Michigan Truck 200

Kyle Larson made it look easy in the Yankee 400 at Michigan International Speedway, this in his 95th start with Chip Ganassi's team and 99th overall after four 2013 races with the Harry Scott Chevrolet.   His career has shown a  plethora of good finishes but the longer it went without a win the more one had to wonder if he truly had it in him to win at the Cup level.   Even changing crew chiefs from Chris Heroy to Chad Johnston (with a one-race fill-in role by Phil Surgen at - ironically - the Michigan 400) wasn't seeming to help with some downright radical swings of fortune almost race to race.   The Michigan win comes off back-to-back bottom-half finishes.

The breakthrough has now come as far as a Cup win goes.   Now he needs to start sustaining it, especially as he did something astonishing becoming the first non-Hendrick Chevrolet outside of Stewart-Haas Racing to win since DEI was an independent outfit.    Larson also continues a curious renaissance for Chevrolet (four of the last six races) at Michigan International Speedway, once almost exclusively a Ford track.

That weekend also saw Indycar finish the rain-delayed Firestone Texas 600k and the final eight laps exploded into a fantastic drafting fight (won by Graham Rahal, a veteran of such shootouts after 2015's immortal MAVTV 500 at Fontana) the likes of which NASCAR doesn't see yet should be seeing

NASCAR tested another reduction of downforce for the Michigan race and the result was the same as with low downforce everywhere else - and in continuing contrast to the high-downforce lower horsepower package of the Michigan Truck 200 and the much higher downforce of the Indycars at Texas - higher to where those cars are underpowered relative to how much grip they generate. NASCAR thus continues not getting it about repeating the same mistake hoping for a different outcome.

The finish of the Michigan Truck 200 showed anew the competitive renaissance underway for the Truck Series, with amazing competition at Daytona, Kansas, Texas, and now Michigan with some memorable moments at Kentucky as well.  Brett Moffitt, a Grimes, Iowa native and  former ASA and K&N East racer (driving in the East series for veteran Busch North racer Andy Santerre), has driven for a strikingly high number of teams (JGR, Michael Waltrip, now Jeff Hammond and Tom DeLoach's Truck Series #11); he won nine times in the K&N East series for JGR, Waltrip, and twice for ex-Indy racer Shigeaki Hattori.  He then ran most of 2015 for the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Cup team and has one race in the Xfinity series, a 9th at Iowa in the Robby Benton Toyota.   The Michigan win comes in only his sixth Truck race. 

Another young gun in NASCAR is Christopher Bell, but his career is taking a disturbing turn with yet another crash, this one when he blasted into the lead then the Truck got out from under him

It was a whale of a weekend leading to NASCAR's Throwback weekend at Darlington.

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