Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pocono Erupts For Kyle Busch

The Overtons 400 weekend kicked off yet another NASCAR weekend filled with off-track concern and continued a recent surge of on-track racing that has intensified in competitive ferocity.

The big off-track story is the word that Target stores is quitting its racing commitments; the rumored subplot behind this is a divorce of team owner Chip Ganassi and his wife and that she was the one who actually controlled that sponsorship.    Whatever the particulars, the loss of Target sponsorship is a major blow to racing in general given the company gained superb attention from its racing endeavors between over one hundred Indycar wins (four of them Indianapolis 500s) and victories in NASCAR including two wins so far in 2017 for Kyle Larson.  

If there is reason for optimism, the recent arrival of Overton's sponsorship of several races gives some reason to believe they will also sponsor a car for a few races, with cobbling together of other sponsors by now the longstanding method of filling in the sponsor gaps.    Certainly Kyle Larson's surge of success provides a sponsor a platform from which both benefit.

The Truck Series opened the NASCAR portion of the Pennsylvania 400 weekend and the sport now seems to be seeing a surge of great racing that began at Indianapolis.   After Kyle Busch crashed out the fight for the lead swelled into a spirited fight between John Hunter Nemechek and Christopher Bell, a battle that threatened to rival the ferocity of the Xfinity Series Brickyard 250 last week.   Bell finally got past Nemecheck and was gone for his fourth win of the season.

The Overtons 400 turned out to be a surprisingly tranquil affair, except it started with a bang when Matt Kenseth broke loose and it stacked up some eight cars behind him.    Jimmie Johnson's crash and Kyle Larson's busted driveshaft (a fitting upshot to his weekend) were the only other incidents as pit sequencing dominated the race; Kyle Busch seemed to sequence himself out of contention when he took four tires on his last stop and fell over six seconds behind.   Busch, however, stormed forward and punted his longtime enemy Kevin Harvick just enough to surge to the win.  

The win was the 100th in some 340 starts for Toyota dating to its merger with Joe Gibbs Racing.  JGR accounts for eighty-four of these wins while Barney Visser has won seven times fielding Toyotas, the now-defunct Michael Waltrip outfit won seven races with Toyotas, and the Dietrich Mateschitz team sporting Red Bull colors won at Michigan in 2009 with Brian Vickers and 2011 at Phoenix with Kasey Kahne.

Given this level of success and how much Toyota has meant to teams - and also speedways; the scuttlebutt has long been that the Fontana speedway is kept going in substantial part to some level of Toyota sponsorship - it remains perplexing that some fans still insist on denouncing the brand's participation in NASCAR.   The sport certainly shouldn't be saying no to participants like Toyota.

BTW the Firestone sign on the Tunnel Turn scoreboard is still there....for the NASCAR weekend,  just as was the case in June.  

So the long national nightmare for Kyle Busch is over and the NASCAR tour hits Watkins Glen next week - and given Watkins Glen's history we mean hits. 

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