I love the Sunday before Memorial Day. It is the best racing day of the year with the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600, and this year was especially cool for me because I got to watch with my boys (the girl, despite my best efforts, not so much of a race fan). It was fun explaining to the three-year old why his favorite drivers, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, were not racing in Monaco. Despite all the issues with NASCAR, I still want my kids to be race fans.
Kyle Busch. Oh, Kyle. I’m sure you have seen the video of Kyle shamelessly being, um, well, Kyle. I get everyone likes winning. I get being upset about losing. You know, winning, it’s better than losing. But if things don’t go your way, accept it graciously. It’s not like he got wrecked or got a questionable penalty that kept him from winning the Coca-Cola 600. Some drivers have defending him for his sullen answer, but I think it’s indefensible. You make millions of dollars driving a race car, your life isn’t that bad. Suck it up, and answer a few questions.
For the obvious reasons, Austin Dillon’s win is a great story: For the first time since 2000, the No. 3 was back in victory lane is a NASCAR Cup event. First-time winner. It gave people another reason to talk about Dale Earnhardt. But there are a couple other cool thing about it: Dillon’s crew chief was calling the shots in his first race. Justin Alexander was named crew chief for the No. 3 team on May 22, replacing veteran Slugger Labbe. Taking a gamble like that on your first day on the job is pretty boss. It also gives Richard Childress Racing as many wins this year as Penske Racing and Hendrick Motorsports (2) and more than Joe Gibbs Racing (0) and Stewart-Haas Racing (1).
Dillon’s win also puts him in some rarified air with David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth. All of whom had their first win in the 600-miler at Charlotte and won championship. Casey Mears and David Reutimann also got their first career wins in the event. For Reutimann, it was one of two career wins and is Mears’ only career win.
I literally hit “send” on the email with last week’s column two minutes before NASCAR released its 2018 schedule, so my commentary on it is a bit late. I don’t care, here goes:
— The Daytona 500 moves up a week, back to its traditional President’s Day weekend. This is a good thing because it gives NASCAR the opportunity to give the teams one more week off. The weeks off are also better spaced out throughout the year.
— The Brickyard 400 now will be the last race before The Chase begins and Richmond moves to the second race of the playoffs. I like this because it makes Indy more relevant. However, if the racing stinks again, they need to stop racing there. Moving Richmond into the playoffs puts another short track in The Chase, which is full of 1.5 tracks (but actually with fewer than this year with Charlotte and Chicagoland changes).
— Las Vegas gets a second date. Money talks and New Hampshire walks. The Chase will now kick off at Vegas.
— Charlotte moves up in the schedule to the last weekend in September – the last race of round one. Not a big deal. The big deal is the race will be conducted on the “Roval” that uses a large part of the oval track and portions of the infield road course. like a road course in The Chase, but I am not sure it should be the infield course at CMS. Why not Watkins Glen, Sonoma, Road Atlanta, VIR, or my personal favorite, Willow Springs?
— Chicagoland seems to be the big loser here. They move from the first race of The Chase way back to July 1.
Overall, the schedule changes should be good for building excitement. I like that NASCAR is throwing something at the schedule to try to boost attendance. Will it work? Meh, doubtful, but the effort should be applauded.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly NASCAR column. He can be reached at email@example.com.