Three Big Stories: Road America

The more things change, the more stay the same.

The NASCAR Cup Series returned to Road America for the first time in 65 years. During the Jockeys Made in America 250, Chase Elliott added to his case of being NASCAR’s all-time best road course racer. Denny Hamlin escaped Wisconsin, still the points leader. NASCAR still refuses to believe in local cautions.

Without further adieu, let’s dive into these topics.

Three Big Stories: Road America

Chase Elliott: NASCAR’s new all-time best road course racer?

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – JULY 4: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Jockey Made in America 250 Presented by Kwik Trip at Road America on July 4, 2021, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Yes, the reigning Cup Series champion sits behind two other drivers on the all-time road course wins list; Jeff Gordon (9) and Tony Stewart (8). But is he already in that conversation?

Elliott’s only 25 years old, and he’s already won seven times on tracks with right-hand turns. Which makes up over half of his 13 career victories. Furthermore, with Watkins Glen, the Indianapolis road course and the Charlotte ROVAL left, he could surpass Gordon and Stewart before the season ends.

And it wasn’t a result of starting up front and leading the most laps (though he did the latter). Elliott was caught out by two cautions in qualifying and started 34th. He worked his way up to 10th in the first stage and led 24 laps on his way to victory.

At this point, it’s almost inevitable that Elliott usurps the aforementioned NASCAR Hall of Fame members.

Three Big Stories: Road America

Denny Hamlin leaves Road America with the points lead

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – JULY 4: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Red White & Blue Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Jockey Made in America 250 Presented by Kwik Trip at Road America on July 4, 2021, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Seven weeks ago, Hamlin winning the regular season championship was all but a given. Last weekKyle Larson stealing it was all but a given.

Sunday, Hamlin’s still the points leader. Albeit thanks to a teammate run-in.

Larson was on route to a top-five finish, when Alex Bowman‘s brakes went out on him. Heading into Turn 5 with six laps to go, Bowman clipped Larson and turned him.

So instead of taking the lead from Hamlin for the first time since February, Hamlin leaves Wisconsin with a three-point cushion.

How much longer it holds, time will tell.

Three Big Stories: Road America

NASCAR, embrace local cautions

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – JULY 4: A general view of cars on track during the NASCAR Cup Series Jockey Made in America 250 Presented by Kwik Trip at Road America on July 4, 2021, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Twenty-two minutes.

Kyle Tilley’s trip through the gravel and getting stuck in it on Lap 12, which rode out through the end of the first stage, lasted roughly 22 minutes. Not for a massive wreck or infrastructure repair, but for a stuck car.

I repeat. We spent 22 minutes under caution, at Road America, because a car got stuck.

This is unacceptable.

It needlessly breaks up the flow of the race. Which is important for a good road course race. Otherwise, you burn laps and grind the flow of the race to a halt.

Yes, I get that NASCAR doesn’t want safety vehicles on the track while the race is hot. It’s a valid concern. Moreover, it and the drivers are largely inexperienced with local cautions.

In short, however, experience alleviates those points. Sure, neither was a priority when the only road courses on the Cup Series schedule were Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but that’s not the case anymore.

If we’re gonna stick with seven road course races a year going forward, 22-minute cautions have to stop.

TOP IMAGE: Logan Riely/Getty Images


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