Kyle Busch’s career long slump at Martinsville Speedway ended in spectacular fashion this weekend at the half-mile paperclip – as he swept both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup races in commanding fashion. But has his impressive performance stirred up controversy, in the process? Maybe – here are our top five things from Martinsville:
1. Kyle Busch gave us a REAL reason to eliminate Cup drivers from lower series: If you listen to the show, you already know our long-standing position on Cup drivers in lower series – but the other side always argues that (a) Cup drivers can’t win the championship anymore, and (b) those Cup drivers are an integral part of attracting fans and sponsors to those series. Even if we concede those points (which we don’t), Kyle Busch made all of those arguments irrelevant in Victory Lane Sunday when questioned about how he broke his Martinsville slump, responding:
“It certainly helps to be able to run other divisions, and that’s why I do it – is to pay off on Sundays.”
NASCAR banned testing at sanctioned tracks in 2009, and all testing, even at non-sanctioned tracks, in 2015 – a move designed to save owners money and prevent large, well-funded teams from getting an unfair advantage over smaller organizations. So what is the end result? Those big-name drivers and teams have funneled their test money into Xfinity Cars and Camping World Trucks – so now drivers from Gibbs, Penske, SHR and other well funded groups have an even MORE expensive way to affect testing, leaving small teams and drivers at an even greater disadvantage.
Kyle exposed Cup drivers in lower series for exactly what it is – testing for the race on Sunday. As such, NASCAR has a legitimate reason to stop it.
2. Kyle, fortunately, threw the ‘team’ idea out the window at the end of the race: This is a Wilson pet-peeve – I got a little confused on a few of the restarts, thinking I had mistakenly flipped over to the Formula 1 race, because – in multiple instances – the leader was choosing the outside lane. At Martinsville. That’s possibly the stupidest thing a driver could do…unless they have a deal in place with their teammate: the other guy agrees to let the leader get in front of them uncontested, in return for the leader choosing the outside lane instead of forcing the aforementioned teammate to the kiss-of-death outside. On one hand, I get it, but on the other I find the practice thoroughly annoying – if you wanted to start on the inside, you should have been faster.
Fortunately, Kyle didn’t play team-politics on the final restart, forcing Matt Kenseth to the outside, restoring my faith in competition. Kudos to The Shrub on that one.
3. Maybe Martinsville actually is like a road course: Just look at A.J. Allmendinger’s performance Sunday afternoon; he was consistently good all day, and on fire at the end. If this had been a 550 lap race, we’d probably be talking about his amazing win right now. Danica was pretty good, too (for awhile, at least). Both of those drivers have extensive road-racing experience, and A.J. in particular showed how corner entry and aggressive braking here can pay dividends. The funny part is that the ‘Dinger specifically said after the race that Martinsville isn’t like a road course, but he was just being cagey – it is, and that is why he had such a great day.
4. Here’s a fun drinking game to try next week: This one is really easy, too – whenever any Waltrip says something strange or ridiculous that isn’t associated in any way with the comment that came before, take a drink. Just make sure to have a lot of booze on-hand, and a designated driver at the ready. You’ll probably pass out before the mid-race report. And there is a special double-shot rule whenever Mike Joy joins in the fun by making an inexplicable Feng Shui reference.
5. It is cool when the Truck series gets to run on Saturday: The Camping World Truck series doesn’t get enough quality airtime, and it should. The majority of races are Friday evening, when East-Coast fans are headed out to dinner and West Coast fans are still at work. It is a bummer, because the racing in that series is so much fun (go back and watch the end of Martinsville, and ignore Kyle Busch – that would have been a great ending to watch). How about Saturday night Truck races every week? It would have been nice to see a few more fans Saturday at Martinsville, too (wait – what about those Cup drivers in the race brings the fans out?!? That’s the argument for having them, yet the crowd was tiny…explain, defenders of the Buschwackers…)
Next Week: Saturday night, under the lights in Texas!