By admin | June 27, 2010
By Richard Allen
Hopefully a lesson was learned on Sunday in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The lesson was that a NASCAR race can have an exciting ending without the use of ‘debris’ cautions to bunch the field and thus contrive a close, highlight filled finish.
This race showed that the ending can take care of itself as long as drivers have a desire to win.
After a caution at lap 35, the race on the one-mile oval went just over 200 laps before seeing another yellow flag wave. But unlike so many other races in recent history, each caution in the late laps was legitimate.
Kasey Kahne’s blown engine put oil on the racing surface at lap 240. From there, the drivers took care of everything else. Some great competition was seen over the course of the last 50 laps throughout the top-10.
With 25 laps remaining, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson were in the midst of a nose-to-tail and side-by-side battle for the lead. In the meantime, drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer were racing for other positions inside the top-10.
At lap 283 the intensity really amped up as Juan Pablo Montoya was spun by the lapped car of Reed Sorenson. Differing pit strategies on those late caution flags assured that there would be passing and scrambling over the course of the final laps.
Jeff Burton’s car began to slip back as he had stayed out on old tires while others had pitted. His ill handling Chevrolet tagged Kyle Busch’s Toyota on lap 290 which sent the two cars spinning.
After that, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch carried out a hard fought, fender rubbing battle for the win. It was one of the best late lap fights in a NASCAR race in some time.
And the battle was carried out without the aid of a staged caution flag.
For those who would argue that the middle section of the race was boring, I would agree to an extent. However, look at what that long green run really did. It eliminated those who did not have the ability to keep up. Think of the many races over the last two seasons in which a driver slipped into a good finish he did not really deserve but got when contrived events kept such a driver in contention.
Now, I still firmly believe that the mid-sections of races could be more entertaining if NASCAR would loosen up on the many restrictions they impose on teams, but that has been and will be a topic for another day.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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