Runaways … Run, Run, Run, Run … Runaways

Martin Truex Jr. leads Kevin Harvick. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, June 4, 2018, 10:44 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

This occurred to me even before the Pocono 400 started. Martin Truex Jr.’s victory just underscored it. As in 2017, a recurring pattern has emerged. The one this year is something of a reversal.

The typical race of 2017 was a relatively pedestrian – an odd but accurate adjective for a competition of men driving automobiles – affair until the end, at which point it became wildly unpredictable and exciting. This year it seems as if the first two thirds of the races are competitive and exciting until, at the end, someone – most likely Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch or Truex – escapes the snarl and pulls swiftly away.

The format is almost exactly the same. The action has inverted.

Of course, as is the case with many rules, there are exceptions.

When he took the checkered flag, Truex had a comfortable advantage. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Everything is forever in a limited state of flux, but the former of the Pocono Raceway summertime dates was the season’s 14th race, and the aforementioned trio has combine to capture 11 of them. In general, it is because they are faster. Those not as fast try to take tactical advantage as the laps expire, but their ploys don’t often work.

Fans commonly ask me if I think the Chevrolets will catch up with the Fords. They’re getting better, but the current upward trend is with the Toyotas. The new Camaro won its very first race when Austin Dillon outlasted the Daytona 500 pile-ups, but since then:

Harvick (Ford), Harvick (F), Harvick (F), Truex (Toyota), Clint Bowyer (F), Kyle Busch (T), Busch (T), Busch (T), Joey Logano (F), Harvick (F), Harvick F), Busch (T) and Truex (T).

As I’m not at the track, raising my hands to ask questions, I must rely on transcripts of answers to other questions, and it seems as if many of them have no apparent relation to the reality that is there for the eyes to see.

This time Kyle Busch had to settle for third. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The winner invariably says it’s unbelievable how competitive these races are. Of all people, one would think the winner uniquely qualified to testify to the lack of competition, at least at the end and at the front of the pack. The season has had a whole six of them. Fords have won seven races, Toyotas six and Chevrolets one. The best news for the Camaros is that J.D. Power doesn’t do initial-quality surveys of race cars.

Winners have become NASCAR’s Marines, few and proud. Some may say it’s the way it should be. They aren’t the Jimmie Johnson fans. They used to be.

Yet, predictably, among the gracious remarks offered by Truex after winning were: “I felt like, throughout the week, every single weekend this year, I’ve felt like we could show up and win. You know, and in this sport, as tough as it and as competitive as it is, that’s really what you look for. … Hopefully, we can keep it going, but you never know.”

The true competition is back in the dirty air, where an army of disgruntled, anxious also-rans are striving not just to keep up but to keep the makeshift Big Three in sight. Dust isn’t in any of the major food groups.

This could change. At some point, this will change. I can’t wait.

 

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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