For the first time in the history of the series, World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois hosted the 36 entries of the Cup Series. While the Truck Series has run there before, it was a first for many of the drivers in the field.
In the weekend’s first and only practice session, it was the 22 of Joey Logano on top with teammates Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric making up the top-three. This would foreshadow a strong weekend for Team Penske who also found success in the NTT IndyCar Series on Sunday.
Next came qualifying. Advancing to the final round from Group A was Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton, and Ross Chastain. In Group B, it was Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin advancing.
The 14 of Chase Briscoe earned the top spot in the final round, putting him on the front row alongside the 2 of Austin Cindric. This was the first pole of Briscoe’s young career. Rounding out the top-five was the 20 of Christopher Bell, the 8 of Tyler Reddick, and the 12 of Ryan Blaney. Prior to the race, the 16 of AJ Allmendinger was sent to the rear for a driver change, the 15 of Parker Kligerman for a backup car, and the 99 of Daniel Suárez for unapproved adjustments.
At 3:46 p.m. on Sunday, the green flag was flown and Briscoe led the field around WWT Raceway for the first time. At lap 28, he was forced to pit with a flat left rear tire, giving up his lengthy lead. While the stage remained clean, the 21 of Harrison Burton got some damage from the 77 of Josh Bilicki (one lap down) and the 5 of Kyle Larson (lead lap) who nabbed 13th place from Burton.
The 2 of Austin Cindric earned the stage win after inheriting the lead from Briscoe’s pit stop. The 51 of Cody Ware was the free pass at the break. Cindric won the race off pit road with teammate Ryan Blaney close behind. Briscoe stayed out to get back on the lead lap, and the 9 of Chase Elliott was forced to pit twice to check his left rear tire.
At the restart, it was Cindric and Blaney out front with Blaney taking the lead a lap later. The big drama of the day came at lap 65 when the 1 of Ross Chastain sent the 11 of Denny Hamlin into the wall, bringing out the caution. Most lead lap cars pitted at this break with the exception of Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, and Chase Elliott. It was Busch and Logano out front for the restart with Busch holding the lead.
On lap 81, Denny Hamlin was out for revenge on Ross Chastain, albeit 11 laps down. He ran Chastain down the track and nearly drove into the grass trying to avoid him. However, no damage was done. This earned Hamlin a warning from NASCAR to knock it off.
At lap 95, the caution was brought out for the 12 of Ryan Blaney who took a spin from third with a flat left rear. The 77 of Bilicki was the free pass, and the field was split when it came to pit decisions. The 34 of Michael McDowell inherited the lead after the caution with the 8 of Tyler Reddick on his side.
On lap 102, Chastain earned himself some more enemies after taking out Elliott. The 23 of Bubba Wallace and 3 of Austin Dillon also took some damage after contact with the 21 of Harrison Burton. The 78 of BJ McLeod was the free pass at this caution.
It was once again McDowell out front at the restart, this time with the 10 of Aric Almirola inside. With Elliott, Hamlin, and Chastain all at the rear, the 1 got some hard contact from his newfound rivals, but stayed clean.
Another caution came out on lap 132, this time for the 23 of Wallace who was spun around by the 47 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Eight cars stayed out while the rest of the field pitted. McDowell finally conceded his lead to pit which put the 45 of Kurt Busch out front with the 5 of Kyle Larson beside him. Busch held off Larson just long enough to earn the stage two victory.
At the stage break, Parker Kligerman earned the free pass while 10 cars (including the leaders) came to the pits. At the restart, it was the 19 of Martin Truex Jr. out front with the 18 of teammate Kyle Busch beside him.
At lap 183, the caution was flown for the 8 of Tyler Reddick who took a spin from 16th. The 77 of Bilicki was again the free pass, and all lead lap cars pitted. This time, it was the 43 of Erik Jones taking the lead off of pit road. With Busch on his inside, Jones took the lead and held on. That was until lap 201 when the 47 of Stenhouse Jr. caused another caution. Seven cars pitted at the break with the 31 of Justin Haley being penalized for speeding.
It was Busch and Logano out front for the restart with Logano taking the lead. On lap 222, another caution came out for the 41 of Cole Custer who spun due to contact with the 38 of Todd Gilliland. Kligerman was again the free pass, and four cars pitted.
The restart at lap 228 once again saw Logano and Busch out front, this time with Busch taking the lead. While Logano was fighting hard, Busch was holding onto his lead until four laps to go. Then, the caution came out for the 4 of Kevin Harvick who hit the wall hard. Four more pitted here.
In the first and only attempt at overtime, it was still Busch and Logano out front. Busch had brother and manufacturer teammate Kurt behind him on the outside while Logano had teammate Blaney behind him on the inside. Logano earned the immediate advantage, taking the lead into turn 1 while Busch took it back on turn 3. At turn 4, Logano cleanly passed Busch for the lead and held on to win his second race of the year. The top-five was rounded out by Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, and Aric Almirola.
After the race, many were itching to hear what Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin had to say of their skirmish early in the race. Chastain owned up to his mistakes, saying “It’s one thing to do it once, but I just kept driving into guys. At this level, I’m supposed to be better than that.”
Hamlin, on the other hand, stated “We all have to learn the hard way. We’ve all had it come back around on us, and it’ll be no different.”
We’ll see what NASCAR has to say about that…
Keep an eye on those two as the NASCAR Cup Series continues at Sonoma Raceway on June 12th at 4:00 p.m.
Featured image from Pat Vallely.