Does NASCAR need more mid-week races? ABSOLUTELY. The Toyota 500 from Darlington Raceway provided enough storylines to fill an entire season in just one night. A rain delay, field invert, unique race length, tire shortages, controversy between two big names, and a wild animal on the track. Did I miss anything? Probably.
In the end, it was Denny Hamlin who took the win in the rain-shortened race. He didn’t show massive speed the entire night, but he had a solid car with good long run speed, and just happened to be sitting in the best spot when the rain returned and ended the race. This is Hamlin’s second win of the season after winning the Daytona 500 at the beginning of the year. While it’s still early, it’s clear he’s following up on last year’s performance with another strong showing.
Speaking of strong showings, how about Clint Bowyer? Bowyer had his Rush Truck Centers Mustang out front for a race-high 71 laps, and captured the win in stage one and stage two.
The final stage wasn’t as nice to Clint as the first two, as his car really seemed to fall off once he got stuck in dirty air. He ended up having a tire issue late in the race and finished 22nd, but it’s safe to say that was a confidence boost for the entire #14 team.
Continuing right along with this theme of strong performances, this race was absolutely dominated by the Toyotas and Fords. The manufacturers combined to lead 168 of the 208 laps, won each stage and the race, and finished in nine of the top ten spots. A rebound for the Toyotas was expected after a less than thrilling performance on Sunday, and they certainly delivered, seeing as every Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished in the top ten last night. The Fords were led early by Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski, while Kevin Harvick found a little speed and track position towards the end in his Mobil-1 Mustang. Had the race stayed green, there’s a good chance Harvick would’ve been contending for back-to-back wins.
Finally, the biggest moment of the night came when Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott made contact. This moment could easily be its own article, but we’ll keep it short here. Elliott had a big run on the outside of Kyle Busch, and as Busch tried to get back in line behind him, he misjudged the gap, caught the left rear of Chase’s car, and spun him into the inside wall. The hit ended Elliott’s night, as he finished 38th, while Kyle stayed out under caution and finished 2nd after the rain came.
Many fans jumped to Twitter to cast their conspiracy theories about what actually happened and defend the sport’s most popular driver, but the truth here is that Kyle Busch, one of the most talented stock car drivers in the history of the sport, made a rare mistake which ruined Chase’s night. Nothing more, nothing less. Will there be any retaliation on Sunday at Charlotte? We’ll have to wait and see!