NASCAR is being dominated by the same three drivers this season. We don’t think this is the week that’s going to change either.
You Win Some, You Don’t Win Others
Following his run at Sonoma, Kevin Harvick put it simply. “You’re not going to win them all,” he said. And he’s right. Remember how last week we voted him “Most Likely To Take The Checkered Flag” at the Toyota/Save Mart 350?
Well, we said then that 10 turns can throw a trick or two into the race. Harvick finished second. Martin Truex Jr. took the victory, his third this season.
So the Harvick to Busch to Truex saga of NASCAR domination in 2018 continues. At Sonoma, Truex took the win, not just because he took the turns better but from pit to driving ability, he stood out.
Truex gave up his lead on lap 81 of 110 to pit, then caught Harvick on lap 91 with a fresh set of tires.
Harvick and teammate Clint Bowyer pitted on lap 93, but a late-race caution that could allow them to close the gap of Truex’s lead never came. Bowyer finished third.
But keep your eye on Truex’s No. 78.
Sweet Home Chicago
Why? Because for the last two years, Truex Jr. also took home the checkered flag at Chicagoland Speedway.
But before we go all Truex-and-nobody-else, let’s take a look at something we haven’t focused on recently: the track itself. Harvick said this week that the asphalt at Chicagoland is “really worn out.” (Likely because unlike a lot of the other tracks, Chicagoland Speedway suffers through some rough weather during the winter.)
You mix a well-worn track with the expected high temperatures and you’re talking about a slick racing surface. And you know that translates to? Race cars rubbin’ more than normal.
Plus, for the last seven years, the track used to be the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener. Now the playoffs are more than two months away and the playoff opener track is Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That allows drivers to relax at the Overton 400 and not have to worry so much about their mistakes.
Intermediate Track is Where it’s at
Chicagoland Speedway is also an intermediate track. The Overton 400 is a 267-lap race on the 1.5-mile track (for a total of 400 miles). And you know who’s had success at intermediate tracks this year? Truex. He won at Fontana and came in fifth at Atlanta.
You know who’s had success at intermediate tracks this year? Truex. He won at Fontana and came in fifth at Atlanta.
Harvick is having a stellar season too with intermediate tracks, winning four of the last seven 1.5-mile races. That includes second at Michigan and victories at Atlanta and Kansas.
And since we haven’t talked about a Busch brother yet, Kyle Busch actually has placed in the top 10 in five of his last six races in Joliet, Ill.
As for a name you haven’t read a lot this season, write down Aric Almirola, who has finishes in all five intermediate track races this season. (He’s placed in the top 20 three times at Chicago.)
To Truex or not to Truex
While it’d be fun to see Martin Truex Jr. win back-to-back, do you know the last time a driver has won the same race three straight years? We don’t know either. We couldn’t find the answer. Which should tell you something.
Plus the higher those temps rise, the more hell that’s gonna be raised on that track.
But only two active drivers have raced at Chicagoland since its 2001 inauguration: Harvick and Kurt Busch. Harvick has finished in the top five nine times in the last 17 years. (That’s a record.) But he hasn’t won in Chicago since 2001. He’s breaking all sorts of other histories this year.
Maybe one of these days we will pick another NASCAR driver, but for right now, we’re just enjoying Kevin Harvick’s season.