Road America impresses in Nationwide debut
It was an amazing showcase of great driving talents from all over the world, competing on a track that I hope is part of NASCAR for a long time into the future.
This race was added surprisingly last year after financial problems prevented a race continuing at the nearby Milwaukee Mile. Quite a transition from a 1-mile oval to a 4.048-mile road course that’s unlike anything most NASCAR drivers have ever experienced (it’s like you’re driving through the woods at one point).
Though most drivers in the field had never seen Road America before, a lot of great road racing talent from around the world was on hand, including some people who had won there in the past like Jacques Villeneuve (a 1994 CART race) an Paul Menard (a 2001 NASCAR Midwest series race)
And it wasn’t good just cause a bunch of people wrecked … actually, that’s not very good at all, as nobody likes a 1-hour red flag after a 7-car pileup.
What was good is the great battles through the field all day as drivers tried hard to pass on this difficult track; the awesome three-wide pass that Villeneuve made to pass Edwards late in the race; and Edwards’ march to Victory Lane from 14th after late-race pit strategy left him mid-pack after he dominated the first half of the race. My only wish is that we could have seen an Edwards-Villeneuve battle to end the race, but mechanical issues ruined Jacques’ day with a couple laps remaining.
Sure there were some silly moves by people who are just bad at road racing, but up front and even mid-pack, there were some great battles all day on a truly unique track that I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cup series visit one day (It’ll probably never happen, but no one saw this one coming either, so who knows?)
Among the notable finishes: A 4th-place finish for Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski on his first visit to the track; 3rd for Brendan Gaughan, 5th for Australian Owen Kelly; 6th for Gibbs driver Brad Coleman; 7th for Jr. Motorsports driver J.R. Fitzpatrick; and 11th for Colin Braun, who was stuck in the gravel pit early and could have had a much worse day.
Also, I have to mention the great effort by Morgan Shepherd, who stayed out all race, despite his limited budget, and avoided all the wrecks to finish in 19th. At age 68, that’s quite impressive and shows Shepherd still has the ability to race.
If the Sonoma race today is anything like Saturday’s race at Road America, I’m guessing we’ll have a few new converts to the Road Racing Fan Club.
Ford back in victory lane
Congrats to Ford for its first win this year in another of the top-3 NASCAR series. I’m sure Carl Edwards will win again this year (maybe even in Cup at some point), and other drivers like Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne will step up with a win or two. Ford may be struggling, but to paraphrase the bodies being picked up in that Monty Python movie, “they’re not dead yet”.
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