When it rains, it pours.
What could’ve been a day of celebration and excitement at Circuit of the Americas, quickly became a day of unknowns and reckless abandon as NASCAR failed to take the necessary safety precautions to deliver a quality product for its drivers and fans.
At the end of the day, it was Chase Elliott holding the lead after pit-stop cycles with 14 to go and picking up a caution for heavy rain and little-to-no visibility.
He joins an elite list of drivers that have won six or more races on a road course.
While there was quality racing at certain points, the NASCAR at COTA phenomenon is going to be remembered for the bad rather than the good.
Austin Cindric got the upper hand on the field early as he had the experience and talent to pace everyone else on slick tires, while others struggled on slicks and pitted for wet tires.
The rain got heavier and heavier as the laps counted by and a mess was bound to happen. However, it didn’t happen in the first stage as differing strategies shook up the field and created some dramatic battles for the stage win with Michael McDowell, Bubba Wallace and Ryan Preece running in the top five.
After a caution for a stalled Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano found himself out front on the ensuing restart and he held off the field to collect his third stage win of the season.
The messiness of low visibility reared its ugly head in the second stage as Kevin Harvick didn’t know when to brake and caused a chain reaction that ended the days of Wallace and Christopher Bell. During this time, Ryan Blaney cut a right rear tire and suffered heavy damage.
Harvick voiced his concern with the conditions today.
“We don’t have any business being out in the rain, period,” Harvick said. “I’ve never felt more unsafe racing in my whole career.”
The mess turned hazardous as the field went high speed down one of the longer straights on the course, Martin Truex Jr. ran over a slow McDowell, which led to Cole Custer plowing over a slow Truex and totaling both of their cars.
Truex was also frustrated with the conditions.
“It’s dangerous,” Truex said. “You can’t see anything and you are just mashing the gas and praying no one’s going to be there.”
A red flag was brought out to get standing water off that straight.
The race resumed as the rain lightened, which led to some quality racing between Cindric and Kyle Busch for the stage win. Cindric faded late, allowing Busch to win his second stage of the year.
The final stage came down to who didn’t spin out when the rain turned into a monsoon. The track was soaked and standing water was everywhere on the flat parts of the course.
Another horrific moment nearly happened in the closing laps as Kurt Busch locked the brakes at high speed and nearly collected his brother and Austin Dillon.
In what was the only smart decision of the day from NASCAR, they brought out the caution and that would be all she wrote.
The win marks Ellliott’s 12th in his Cup Series career.
Kyle Larson picked up his third straight second-place finish. It’s also the second time in a row Hendrick Motorsports has finished 1-2.
Logano finished third and Ross Chastain picked up his first career top-five finish in the Cup Series. AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top five.
Rookie Chase Briscoe scored his first career top-10 finish with a sixth-place run.
McDowell finished seventh to set a new career high for top-10’s in a single season with five.
Alex Bowman, pole-sitter Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.
William Byron’s streak of top-10 finishes ended at 11 after he finished 11th.
The Cup series returns to familiar grounds for the longest race of the season in Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday.
Unofficial point standings: