THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR heads north to New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
NASCAR heads to the Magic Mile this week in New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. This track produces racing similar to what you see on a short track, but the biggest difference is its banking or lack thereof. This track is easily the flattest on the schedule, as there are only two degrees of banking. Because of its tight corners, there is a good chance we see some beating and banging as we have in the past. This is the last race before NASCAR goes on its unprecedented two-week break for the Olympics.
Last week, Kurt Busch scored his first victory of 2021 after fending off his little brother Kyle Busch in a remarkable battle. In the closing laps of the race, it appeared that Kyle had the upper hand on his brother as he was pulling away, but it all came to a head when he approached the #42 car of Ross Chastain. To help his teammate, Chastain raced Kyle extra hard, causing him to lose time, allowing Kurt to catch up and make the winning pass. After the race, Kyle was none too pleased with Chastain's antics. "Just shows you what kind of a driver he is," Busch said in his post-race interview. The move by Chastain sparked a debate among NASCAR fans on whether the move was fair. When Ross was asked about it, while he didn't explicitly say he intentionally held up the 18, he did allude to helping his teammate if he needed it in his post-race interview. I understand why Ross did what he did. He had an opportunity to help a teammate out, and he took it. This has been going on ever since auto racing began, and for Kyle to get as upset as he did was a bit of an overreaction in my opinion. Ross raced him hard but clean, and he didn't even make contact with him.
The Silly Season is now in full effect as the first two dominoes began to fall. It was announced Thursday that Xfinity regulars, Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton will be promoted to cup as they will drive both the #2 and #21 cars for the Wood Brothers and Penske Racing. While we had an idea that Cindric could very well be moving up to Penske next season, Harrison Burton came as a bit of a surprise considering his close ties to the Toyota camp. Originally though, the plan was for Cindric to take over the 21 for a year while they figured out what they were going to do with the #2 car, but those plans changed as soon as it became apparent that Brad Keselowski would be moving to Roush-Fenway Racing to become a driver owner. This allowed Roger Penske to move Cindric to the #2 car and move Burton to the #21 car. Both of these young drivers have shown a lot of speed in the Xfinity Series, as Cindric won the championship last year and Burton captured his first career win as well. These two drivers have a lot of upside and can very well contend for wins on the big stage. It will be fun to see these two develop as we go along.
Unfortunately, this leaves Matt DiBenedetto the odd man out as it was announced he will not be returning to the Wood Brothers next season and will be a free agent looking for a ride. While Matt has shown flashes, including contending for a win at Road America two weeks ago, it always seems like he's had trouble closing out races. These next five races before the playoffs will be crucial for him to find a competitive ride next season. I wish him all the luck and would love to see him get another chance, but it seems like the window is closing for this popular journeyman driver.
The driver that I have winning this week is Kevin Harvick. If you listen to Harvick's in-car audio, you can tell that this season has been tough for the 2014 champion. Yes, the speed has been there, and I am sure there are a couple of drivers that would kill to have this kind of season with 6 top fives and fourteen top tens. But after the incredible season he had last year, this has been a massive disappointment. On the bright side, the team is going to a track where they have had more success than anyone. He has won here three times and has the highest average finish in recent races, as he hasn't finished worse than second. A win would be a huge boost of momentum for this team and if this Stewart-Haas Racing team can get hot at the right time, watch out, there's a reason they call Harvick the closer. Look for him to take the #4 Ford Mustang to victory lane on Sunday.