1. Chase Has His Day
I’m going to call myself out. I have been very skeptical, if not critical of Chase Elliott. I was of the belief he was all fluff and no substance, a young man gifted a top ride because he is the son of a NASCAR legend.
Time for me to eat some crow.
Chase Elliott put on a show at Watkins Glen. He had to be perfect every single lap to hold off defending series champion Martin Truex Jr., who also just happens to be one of the best road course racers in NASCAR. Even when Elliott did slip up entering turn one on the final lap, he had the wherewithal to knock the car out of gear to avoid spinning out. And let’s not kid ourselves, Elliott isn’t known for his road course prowess, which makes Sunday’s win even more impressive. Who would have dreamed Chase Elliott would win his first Cup race at Watkins Glen while fending off one of the best in the business?
Not that you need it…or even care, but you earned my respect Mr. Elliott.
Sunday was also a victory for NASCAR. The soon-to-be most popular driver outduels a Cup champion for his first win at one of the sport’s most popular tracks in front of a national audience. Whoever decided to air Watkins Glen on NBC rather than NBCSN deserves a raise.
2. A Breakthrough for Chevy?
I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but is it possible the Chevy teams are starting to figure out the new Camaro? Elliott’s win is the first for Chevy since the Daytona 500, a span of 21 races. It’s a much-needed shot in the arm for Chevy.
I’d prefer to reserve judgment until after Michigan because I want to see some sustained results, but this is the second week in a row Chevy has put four cars in the top ten. If the upward trend continues, things could get really interesting down the stretch.
3. Ho Hum Playoff Bubble
For there to be any drama over the next four weeks, someone outside the top 16 needs to win a race. And the way this season has gone, that’s very unlikely. If it were going to happen, it would have come at Watkins Glen. Instead, Elliott secured his spot in the playoffs, a spot that was pretty secure already.
As for the bubble, Alex Bowman is still sitting pretty. He increased his point lead another six points over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
For Bowman, the next four races are simple. Stay out of trouble and hope no one behind you wins.
As for Daniel Suarez, he’s put together back to back top-five finishes, but his net gain on Bowman is just five points. He’s running well enough to catch Stenhouse for 17th, but he needs Bowman to have at least two bad races just to have an outside shot. Or he could just win a race.
Playoff Standings With Four Races Remaining:
14. Aric Almirola +141
15. Jimmie Johnson +102
16. Alex Bowman +62
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -62
18. Paul Menard -72
19. Daniel Suarez -89
20. Ryan Newman -92