Three Big Stories: Gateway

MADISON, Ill. — Well the first foray of the NASCAR Cup Series to Gateway left us with much to discuss.

After 245 laps, I’m perplexed as to whyย Joey Logano is so polarizing to fans. Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin put on some fun dumb on-track bickering. Furthermore, World Wide Technology Raceway demonstrated it’s an excellent venue for the Cup Series.

Without further adieu, let’s dive into the Three Big Stories of Gateway.

Three Big Stories: Gateway

What do fans not like about Joey Logano

MADISON, Ill. – JUNE 5: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 5, 2022, in Madison, Illinois. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Following the Enjoy Illinois 300, long after the cameras shut off, Logano hung around on pit road to sign autographs and pose for pictures with race fans.

After the kid in theย Kyle Busch shirt took a picture with him, I chimed in and said, “See, he’s not so scary.”

Everyone cracked up.

To this day, I’ll never understand why Logano’s so polarizing.

For as much as fans worship at the alter of the late Dale Earnhardt, they don’t hesitate to boo the driver who’s most like him, on-track.

Case in point.

Logano pushed Busch up the track in Turn 1 to break his momentum. It’s a textbook example of the aggressive driving fans claim to want.

Yet he’s booed week in and week out.

What more do you want, people?

Three Big Stories: Gateway

The fun kind of dumb

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I asked The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck during the race what he’d rate the several lap cat and mouse routine between Chastain andย Denny Hamlin, on a scale of 1-10 on the Dumb NASCAR Scale.

Ten being it’s the fun kind of dumb and one being “What are we doing, guys?”

He rated it a 7-8.

Chastain bumped Hamlin and put him in the Turn 2 wall on Lap 65. On Lap 80, Hamlin made him use all of the real estate possible on the backstretch to overtake him.

But one driver wasn’t enough.

In Chastain’s defense, it was just a case of three drivers going for the same spot. Naturally, Elliott wasn’t pleased.

What put this altercation over the top was not only Elliott, but Hamlin got another swipe at Chastain, too!

What followed was some of the dumbest back-and-forth by drivers I’ve ever seen in NASCAR.

And I loved every second of it!

It only came to an end when the Tower told both of them they were a lap away from being parked for not maintaining minimum speed.

It’s the kind of fun dumb NASCAR that makes this league so much fun to cover.

Three Big Stories: Gateway

Gateway proved its worth

MADISON, Ill. – JUNE 3: The full field of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers pose for a group photo prior to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 3, 2022, in Madison, Illinois. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

I strolled down pit lane, over towards the after-party in Turn 1.

A good chunk of fans came onto the track to drink beer, smoke and party. One fan, whose name I forgot to get, said it was his first Cup Series race. I asked him if he’d consider coming back.

“Oh, absolutely,” he exclaimed.

Safe to say, Gateway passed with flying colors.

Ingress and egress were a non-issue and the track did great work taking care of the race fans on the property.

More importantly, the racing was good.

Sure, it could’ve used more tire falloff and the field got strung out at times, but there plenty of storylines and action to keep everyone engaged.

For a major metropolitan area like St. Louis, Sunday and the weekend as a whole was a rousing success.

You better believe I’ll drive seven 1/2 hours from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Madison, Illinois, again!

TOP IMAGE: Jeff Curry/Getty Images