Texas Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 7, 2014 | 5:37 P.M. EST
Joey Logano avoided some strange happenings to win Monday's rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Texas weekend was already going to be a strange one, thanks to a unique schedule the track had planned. But thanks to "Mother Nature" and a few other circumstances, things got even weirder.
With the NCAA Final Four being held at nearby AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TMS rearranged the weekend schedule to run the Nationwide Series race Friday night, hold Sprint Cup practice and qualifying Saturday afternoon and then run the Duck Commander 500 on Sunday. It was the right call to try and work around the huge basketball event that drew nearly 80,000 on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, NASCAR’s weather challenges this season reared their head again Sunday with an all-day rain forcing postponement of the Sprint Cup Series headliner until Monday afternoon.
Although the skies cleared, the bizarreness was far from over. A jet dryer blowing the hinges off Brad Keselowski’s hood and Dale Earnhardt Jr. running into the infield grass before shooting up the track into the wall both happened with less than 15 official laps in the book Monday.
Things settled down for the bulk of the race until a dramatic ending that set up a green-white-checkered finish, forcing Joey Logano to reclaim the top spot he lost when caution flew just before he originally took the white flag as the race leader.
It was a fitting way to end a weekend in "The Lone Star State" that was truly one of the strangest in recent NASCAR history.
- The race got off to a strange start when several cars, including Keselowski's, had their hoods damaged by the forced air thrown off by jet dryers that were trying to get the racing surface ready for competition. Keselowski’s Miller Lite Ford took the worst damage, but NASCAR allowed repairs to be made on pit road without the 2012 champion losing his spot on the racetrack. The way the season has gone in terms of battling weather, it might not be the last time we see such a scenario in 2014.
- The strangeness continued when the green flag finally flew only a few laps into the race, when Earnhardt clipped the front straightaway infield grass and shot into the outside retaining wall. The impact triggered a fiery exit for Junior, with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson also getting a piece of the action when debris flew into his windshield - causing several trips to pit road for repairs. While Johnson soldiered on, the day was over for Earnhardt and half of the Hendrick brigade was knocked out of contention before things had barely begun.
- Although Tony Stewart started from the pole and finished 10th, the rest of the Texas weekend was forgettable for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick suffered yet another engine issue, left the race basically before it started and was credited with a 41st-place finish. Kurt Busch had a myriad of problems all weekend, including a cut tire and damage to bring out the race’s final caution on his way to 39th place. Danica Patrick finished 27th. SHR has two wins in the first seven races, but that’s almost impossible to believe based on the rest of the team’s performances so far this season.
- Texas featured more impressive outings for two of the sport’s highly-touted phenoms: Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. Elliott dazzled everyone Friday night by outdueling Sprint Cup regulars Harvick, Earnhardt and Kyle Busch on his way to his first career Nationwide Series win. And Larson, who came home third Friday night, followed that effort with a top-five run in Monday’s Sprint Cup Series main event. There will be challenges ahead, to be sure, but the early return on both Elliott and Larson has been nothing short of stupendous.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.