If Chase Elliott had not earned his stripes after a breakout season last year, he earned them today by holding off Martin Truex Jr. for a second straight year at Watkins Glen. Both drivers outclassed the field as they were the top two for a majority of the race and beat the third-place finisher by nine seconds once the checkered flag waved. With fairly similar cars in terms of quality, Elliott could not find a way to pull out to more than a second lead on Truex, even with a clean-air advantage. Truex would cite aerodynamics as the cause for not being able to get to the bumper of Elliott, but in all fairness, Elliott had the better car and Truex overdrove his car multiple times and used up everything the car had while Elliott kept his cool. Elliott rebounded from a last-place finish at Pocono last Sunday and claimed his second victory of the 2019 season. Erik Jones scored his fourth straight top-five finish while Matt DiBenedetto scored his fourth top-ten finish in seven races with a sixth-place outing today. While the battle between Truex Jr. and Elliott for the win was clean, multiple drivers had incidents due to a loss of tempers.
Early in the race, Kyle Busch spun himself out after hitting the bump in turn one that shot his car up into William Byron. Busch would take his frustrations out on Byron by running over him on entry into the bus stop. Byron retaliated in the worst way possible by indenting his front into the rear of Busch’s that would eliminate Byron’s chances of a quality finish. In the final stage, Ryan Blaney turned Jimmie Johnson in the carousel, which led to a heated discussion between the two after the race. The main event of today’s on-track tempers occurred between Busch and former protegé of Busch, Bubba Wallace. None of NBC’s cameras witnessed any prior incident to the scuffle on the front stretch but as Busch went to the inside of Wallace, Wallace nearly drove Busch into the wall and instead of Busch making the pass that he could have made, he decides to ram into Wallace, leading to back-and-forth ramming down the front stretch and Wallace turning Busch in turn one. After the race, Wallace said, “I’m here to get respect. I don’t care if it’s Kyle Busch. F*** him.”(via Nate Ryan/NBC Sports). Wallace would receive both criticism and praise from the NASCAR social media world for turning Busch, which leads into how they viewed today’s race.
Somehow, someway, a few members of the NASCAR media found a way to criticize the racing product, specifically the battle for the win between Elliott and Truex Jr. Matt Weaver, of Autoweek, tweeted, “But you’re a special kind of ignorant if you’re denying the effect extreme aero had here”. Jeff Gluck, of The Athletic, took a much calmer route, “Yes, dirty air played a factor. But Elliott made no mistakes in the face of constant pressure from Martin Truex Jr. Impressive drive”. No one can deny that dirty air played a role in Truex not attempting a pass on Elliott but what these media members are doing is that they are using this negative narrative about the current aero package in the Cup Series and spinning it in a way to make today’s race look worse than what it was. Instead of viewing every race as a separate entity, these races are thrown under the same umbrella to further undermine an aero package that has delivered more than it has failed.
Next week, NASCAR will head back to a track where this rules package failed in June: Michigan.