Friday, September 17, 2021

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A wet and whacky weekend at Indy

By Joe Dunn

It’s not really unusual to get rain at Indianapolis around the NASCAR weekend, so the rain that delayed the Silver Crown cars at ORP Thursday night was no surprise. Friday was another story as the skies remained clear for the entire day.

With the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on tap for Friday, the track was dry and clear for an uninterrupted schedule. Morning practices, afternoon qualifying and a race that was a treat to the near capacity crowd. Colin Braun was the top qualifier and shared the front row with veteran Mike Skinner, but the up front battle soon became a battle of Skinner, Todd Bodine, Ron Hornaday, Braun and Kyle Busch. Late race rushes by Aric Almirola and Dennis Setzer gave the near capacity crowd their moneys worth. As they approached the white flag, Hornaday had the lead by a nose over Skinner, but when they came around for the second white flag (?) it was Hornaday with the lead. Rick Ren jumped off the pit box to celebrate, only to wonder where the checkered flag was. It didn’t matter as Hornaday continued to lead for another lap.

We never did get an explanation about that extra flag, but it was 200 (or 201) laps of great racing that kept the fans on the edge of their seats all night. I still don’t know what the real future of the Truck series is, but I was not alone at ORP with a lack of confidence for the 2010 season. I hope I am wrong because these guys put on the best show for NASCAR fans.

Saturday morning brought rain to delay both Nationwide practice, at ORP and Cup qualifying at IMS. By mid afternoon the nationwide cars did get on the track for practice and qualifying began about 30 minutes later than scheduled. With the delayed qualifying at the Brickyard, the Cup regulars skipped Nationwide qualifying. In his sixth start in the No. 99 car of Michael Waltrip Racing, Knoxville, Tennessee’s Trevor Bayne watched his fast lap speed of 110.764 MPH hold out for the Coor’s light Pole.

Bayne got a good start and stayed out front for the first 36 laps, but when Michael Annett crashed in turn 3 bringing out the yellow flag Bayne was slowing the field going into one. As the pace car pulled onto the track between one and two, Bayne slowed to keep from hitting it and was hit from behind by Steven Wallace. The hit turned Bayne and NASCAR ruled that they both failed to maintain caution speed, and were relegated to the spots where they rejoined the field that had passed them. Neither was able to get back to the front, but the 7th place finish for Bayne was his best in the Series.

Shelby Howard celebrated his 25th birthday fighting an ill handling car all day. It was obvious that he was having a very difficult time trying to get the car through the turns, but the wheel chatter was wearing him out. Despite the problems and the crews inability to correct the problem, Howard hung in there and managed a 19th place finish.

Carl Edwards led the most laps and after regaining the lead with about 30 to go sailed to an easy win, with Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Steve Wallace rounding out the top 5.

At IMS, it looked like Juan Pablo Montoya was going to run away with the race, but a penalty for speeding on pit road, late in the race spelled disaster for the 42 car. Jimmie Johnson showed that Indy really is a follow the leader race as teammate Mark Martin was unable to get past Johnson and was force to settle for a second place finish.

Speaking of IMS, this is still NASCAR’s most unfriendly fan track with it’s very limited view of the racing surface. The flat and narrow track as well as the narrow pit road all work to make this basically a follow the leader track, with very limited areas to pass.

This week the three NASCAR series are spread out across the country. As the Cup cars head to Pocono, the Nationwide teams take on Iowa Speedway and the truck Series heads to Nashville, TN.

NASCAR Nationwide Series Meeting – NASCAR met with the Nationwide Series car owners Tuesday morning to discuss the new COT. With many owners opposed to the change, it appears that NASCAR will put off the debut of the new car from February until the July 4th weekend at Daytona.

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