NASCAR road course racing sees wild finishes and upsets
The Cup Series and ARCA West took on Sonoma while the XFinity Series and ARCA Menards Series went to Mid-Ohio
It's not every week that the entire NASCAR circus heads off to road courses throughout the country. And it's not every week that all national series produce good racing. But from ARCA to Cup, although Trucks had a by-week, the racing was good and competitive. The Cup Series and ARCA West visited Sonoma for the first time in two years, on an all-new layout, giving the teams a fresh challenge that was called "harder than Bristol Dirt," while the XFinity and ARCA Menards series were on safe ground at Mid-Ohio.
Cup Series: Kyle Larson dominates
Kyle Larson came off a dominant win at Charlotte last week, where he became the first driver to lead more than a thousand laps this season, to unwelcome ground: a road course. At Sonoma specifically, he had an average finish of 17.5 going into Sunday. So while he has been consistent, few expected he would challenge his teammate Chase Elliot who had found so much success on road courses previously.
Kyle Larson celebrates the win at Sonoma
Ultimately, though, he found Victory Lane, which he credited to just keeping the car on the track as the team figured out a new Sonoma layout. With a slew of cautions in the end, though, it came down to a final restart and just keeping the car straight wouldn't beat a hard-charging Chase Elliot. In the end, Larson seemed to find - and beat - Elliot's advantage in the braking zone that's been key to his success.
With their fourth 1-2 finish in as many races, Hendrick is firmly establishing itself as the team to beat, and the Chevys have definitely overcome the teething issues they faced with the Camaro introduced two years ago. Unfortunately for them, it'll be an all-new car for everyone next year to figure out. That car will shake up road courses even more, borrowing techniques from the XFinity car that have helped it offer sports-car-quality races.
XFinity Series: AJ Allmendinger capitalizes
The XFinity Series took on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after it had to be removed last year due to the pandemic, a track where AJ Allmendinger said "You’ve got to make your own passing zones." He would know, as he took home the victory with a wild three-wide pass with four-to-go, with the ensuing carnage sending favorite Austin Cindric's Penske 22 spinning into the grass.
And that pass for the win was from 19th with 19 laps to go. The team was penalized for not taking the required 50-second minimum for 'modified pit road rules' for the series, designed to minimize the number of team members required to bring to the track. He fought his way around leader Ty Gibbs, who came off an ARCA win at the track, from third to take the win for himself.
Not everyone was impressed with the move. Ty Gibbs said: “The 16 (Allmendinger) did us a little dirty there. I feel like there is a point, you know … we are racing in Xfinity cars at road courses. It’s always going to be rough, but he took it to the next level." And Cindric certainly wasn't happy to get torpedoed off the track.
ARCA West Series: Chase Briscoe prepares for the Cup race
2016 ARCA Menards Series Champion Chase Briscoe got out of his Stewart-Haas Cup ride on Saturday to enter the ARCA West Series, hoping to get some practice on an unfamiliar track to him in his first year in the series. He got quite a bit of practice, as he went on to lead every lap and win the race.
Chase Briscoe holds the flag in Victory Lane at Sonoma
Briscoe said: “I’ve never been out here. With no Cup practice or qualifying, it was kind of crucial to come run this race. I feel like I learned a lot just going out there and running 50 laps today and just learning the race track... It's a really cool place." He would get a positive impression, driving away from the field to a comfortable win.
While he might have only finished 17th in the Cup Race, Chase Briscoe can deliver. Stewart-Haas is having a terrible year so far, so look for him to improve as the team does.
ARCA Menards Series: Ty Gibbs wins again
Ty Gibbs came to Mid-Ohio after dominant form in the ARCA Menards series up to this point, winning all but two of the races this season, including the last four in a row - leading every lap last week en route to his win. But he didn't get the pole for Friday - that went to points-leader Corey Heim. And Brandon Jones would lead the first several laps.
Ty Gibbs takes a corner at the Daytona Road Course
But after that, it was lights-out for Gibbs. Heim saw the top spot on a restart, but would ultimately be issued a penalty for jumping the green, as well as a further penalty for speeding on pit road while serving his drive-through penalty, finishing seventh and handing Gibbs an easy win.
Either way, it was a great drive for Ty. The grandson of Joe Gibbs has a bright future ahead of him in the sport, already driving, successfully, for his grandfather in the XFinity Series where he nearly won that race at Mid-Ohio. He's got the talent and he's got the connections to be a future superstar.
eNASCAR Pro Invitational: James Davison survives
NASCAR has a great partnership going with iRacing, and the two announced a surprise project to scan some of the downtown streets of Chicago to create an imaginary street course in the middle of the city, exploring the possibility of NASCAR bringing itself to the fans rather than bringing the fans to it.
James Davison races down the virtual frontstretch on iRacing's Chicago Street Course
That track was released to all iRacing members following the race, but unfortunately the professional NASCAR drivers didn't seem to get much practice in before that either. They were figuring out the track as they ran the televised event, with showcase driver Joey Logano managing his first top-ten just by keeping his car running. James Davison took the win in a dominant performance, clearly knowing the track and the system, and wowing from his home in Australia.
If you want to explore what the future of NASCAR looks like: the official Next-Gen Car on a potential street course, or the current Gen-7 Cup Cars at every track on the schedule each week, then iRacing is the place to do it. NASCAR looks like it'll keep its partnership going, and it's been incredibly beneficial to both NASCAR and iRacing.