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Blaming lapped cars in bad taste at Atlanta Motor Speedway race

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 13: NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. speaks with the media during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, and judging by Martin Truex Jr.’s post-race comments, he has lapped traffic, specifically Ricky Stenhouse Jr., to thank. Because, according Truex, he would’ve beaten Keselowski if it weren’t for trouble getting by Stenhouse on the final restart of the race.

“Yeah, I’m a lot frustrated, you know – lapped cars,” Truex said. “They just have no respect for the leaders running for the win. It’s completely uncalled for, ridiculous. It’s a shame. We lined up on that last restart behind all those guys that are a lap down, and I know they were racing for the lucky dog, which is all good, but once they got strung out, the 17 (Stenhouse) had a straightaway, and he just wouldn’t let me by. He just kept hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom, hugging the bottom and knew that’s where I needed to run. I kept telling – my spotter kept telling his we need the bottom. These cars punch such a big hole, and it’s so bad in dirty air, it completely killed us for 25, 30 laps to the point my front tires were gone once I finally got by him. Hell, I still ran down the 2 in two laps from half a straightaway. We clearly had the best car and were in position to win. Guys a lap down have to have a little more respect than that.”

Drivers’ code, if there even is one these days, seems to an observer to call for showing the courtesy of getting out of the way of lead-lap cars once lapped. I’ve always, kind of, had mixed feelings about this. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been a race car driver, always an observer. Anyway, I’ve never really thought that was fair, and here’s why:

It’s acceptable for a car in danger of losing a lap to race the leader hard in an attempt to stay on the lead lap, but once lapped, he’s supposed to get out of the way? Isn’t that lapped car, then, assisting the second-place car? After all, said lapped car held up the leader by trying to stay one the lead lap; then, he just let the second-place car go without putting up a fight. Simply put — the lapped car helped the second-place car close on the leader.

Okay, so that’s not the type of situation we’re talking about here. Keselowski was the “lucky dog” from the caution Truex was referring to, so he lined up with the two cars on the lead lap pre-wave-around (Joey Logano and Kurt Busch). The 20+ cars, including Truex, who took the wave-around before the restart, then, according to NASCAR rules lined up behind the lap-down cars, of which Stenhouse was one. There were only six cars a lap down, so the wave-around cars were still fairly close to the leaders, despite being behind lap-down cars. Also worth nothing, that final restart came with 43 laps remaining.

Caution timing benefits some and hurts others at times; that’s just the nature of the sport. So do pit strategy, rain, problems for others racing nearby, etc. When you get right down to it, Ryan Preece or B.J. McLeod are as much to blame for Truex not winning Sunday. After all, their pit-road incident during the cycle of green-flag pit stops is what brought out the final caution that created the situation with so many wave-around cars and a few lapped cars between them and the three cars (Logano, Busch and Keselowski) on the lead lap in front of them.

Since Truex restarted not very far back from the three lead-lap cars that didn’t take the wave-around and he had 43 laps to get to and pass those three cars, I equate his complaint to the all-too-often-heard gripe from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers in NASCAR Xfinity Series races about Xfinity regulars also on the lead lap racing them too hard. To me, that one’s like a Cup driver whining that the Xfinity Series regulars didn’t let him win. But that’s another subject for another day.

I’ll say this again — I’ve never driven a race car, so I won’t even pretend to know what that’s like. But as an observer of many years, that’s how I see it.

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Posted by on February 26, 2019. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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