Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Teardown Tuesday: Breaking Down the NASCAR Race Weekend at Michigan and Texas

Miss any of the on and off-track action at Michigan International Speedway or Texas Motor Speedway? Every Tuesday our Amy Branch breaks down the big storylines from the weekend.

Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
This weekend, the youth of the sport stole the show and gave fans a taste of NASCAR will look like over the next decade or two. Judging by what we saw in Texas and Michigan, it's going to be one heckuva ride.

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

Byron scores second win

At Texas Motor Speedway, the Camping World Truck Series joined Verizon IndyCar for a weekend of "No Limits" racing. While Saturday's Firestone 600 was rain-delayed and eventually rescheduled for August 27, the weather was fine for Friday night's Rattlesnake 400.

Matt Crafton looked to take the checkered flag, but after a six-lap battle, Kyle Busch Motorsports' William Byron passed the veteran and never relinquished his lead. The youngest driver to ever win a Camping World Truck Series race has now won two in his first year.

"It's all about heart, "said Byron, 18. "You have to want it and my team wants it and I see that every day."

Credit: Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images
Suarez breaks through to make history

Saturday, NASCAR turned its eyes to the Irish Hills and Michigan International Speedway for the XFINITY Series Menard's 250 Presented by Valvoline. It looked as if Kyle Busch was going to run away with it; he led a race-high 88 laps.

But Daniel Suarez, the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie from Mexico who recovered from a pit road speeding penalty, passed his mentor and former boss with just two laps to go, and became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR national series race. More importantly for the XFINITY rookie and his team, Suarez finally won. He is locked into the Chase, he is leading the points, and he has been incredibly fast all season. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota Camry was nearly speechless after the race.

"I just have no words honestly," Suarez said in Victory Lane. "I don’t think I can speak English or Spanish right now honestly. I can’t thank these guys enough for all the hard work – Joe Gibbs Racing for having the confidence in me along with Toyota, Telcel Mexico, Coca-Cola and everyone who helped put this program together."

Suarez dedicated his win to teammate Erik Jones and his family. Jones's father passed away last Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

"I just have no words to describe what I’m feeling right now," Suarez said humbly. "It’s just unbelievable and to win this weekend with my friend Erik Jones and for the loss of his Dad, it’s just unbelievable. I would like to dedicate this win to him."

Credit: Beth Reinke/Skirts and Scuffs
NASCAR's youthful future is here

Joey Logano, the 26-year old driver for Penske Racing, won from the pole at Michigan International Speedway, locking himself into the Chase after a frustrating first half of the season. He was followed past the finish line by rookie Chase Elliott, 20, and Kyle Larson, 23. Together they combined to make the average youngest top-three finish age in Sprint Cup series history - 23.

"That’s pretty cool," Logano said when informed of the record after the race. "The future of NASCAR is present. It’s going to be big. It’s amazing to see."

Logano is right - the future of our sport is here, and they are fighting every weekend to prove they have the chops their elder competitors do. Fans are seeing a changing of the guard, with young, talented drivers hungry and looking for rides as Jeff Gordon began what is likely be a trickling exodus of the veteran drivers over the next few years.

This year is Tony Stewart's final year in Sprint Cup, and drivers like Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson may not be far behind. NASCAR drivers used to drive into their 50s and later, and while that does still happen, it seems the youth movement is here to stay, at least for now.


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