Aside from a wild wreck at the end of stage 2, Sunday’s race at New Hampshire was pretty straightforward. The cars that started up front stayed up front. And the guy that started first finished first.
Kyle Busch drove away from the field after a restart with 23 laps to go to get his third win of the season and first of the playoffs. The victory guarantees Busch will be a member of the 12 drivers who make the second round of the playoffs.
Busch narrowly avoided the craziest moment of the race, when Kevin Harvick spun off Austin Dillon’s bumper exiting turn 2 with a lap to go at the end of the second stage. The wreck collected last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr. and others as Busch ended up winning the stage.
As Harvick attempted to keep his car off the inside wall on the backstretch, a cloud of smoke from his tires enveloped the track. Cars behind him couldn’t see and his teammate Kurt Busch plowed right into the side of Harvick’s car.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also involved.
The most severe damage Truex sustained came from contact with Earnhardt Jr. The two drivers tried to back up to pull away from the crash at the same time and backed into each other.
Truex’s team was able to fix his car enough to where he briefly took the lead late after a two-tire pit stop under caution. But Busch snagged the lead right back from him and led the rest of the way.
While the wreck involving Harvick and others was certainly wild, the most wide-reaching moment of the day when NASCAR owners were asked about national anthem protests Sunday morning. Both Richard Petty and Richard Childress spoke vehemently against anthem protests, which is their right to do. But Petty oddly invoked the act of standing during the anthem as a virtuous move.
NASCAR, whose CEO Brian France endorsed President Donald Trump in February of 2016, has been silent about the topic of anthem protests. That’s not surprising. It’s very unlikely anyone in the majority white sport would consider protesting during the national anthem.
So while Childress and Petty look like they are taking hard stands, their words aren’t much more than symbolic red meat for NASCAR’s southern base.
Here are the points standings after the first two races of the three-race first round. The top 12 drivers move on to the second round and in the event of a tie, the highest finish from the first round is used as the tiebreaker.
1. Martin Truex Jr., 2,144 [won Chicago]
2. Kyle Larson, 2,127 [2nd at New Hampshire]
3. Kyle Busch, 2,119 [won New Hampshire]
4. Brad Keselowski, 2,098 [5th]
5. Denny Hamlin, 2,085 [12th]
6. Jimmie Johnson, 2,079 [14th]
7. Matt Kenseth, 2,078 [4th]
8. Ryan Blaney, 2,074 [9th]
9. Chase Elliott, 2,073 [11th]
10. Kevin Harvick, 2,069 [36th]
11. Jamie McMurray, 2,052 [16t]
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2,044 [15th]
13. Austin Dillon, 2,044 [19th]
14. Ryan Newman, 2,043 [13th]
15. Kurt Busch, 2,027 [37th]
16. Kasey Kahne, 2,025 [35th]
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