Like the solstice, road course races only happen twice a year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It’s much less common to see five drivers make their debuts in one race, and Kevin Harvick winning at a road course — but, hey, both of those things happened this weekend.
Thumbs Up: Curb Hopping
There’s something about watching a stock car hopping over a curb when a driver’s working to shave a tenth of a second off their lap time. It’s one of the unique treats of a NASCAR road course race.
Road courses are unique in that when a driver uses up every inch of the racetrack, they’re usually going a bit beyond that limit. You can’t go faster by running into the wall at an oval (although Kyle Larson might disagree).
I overdrove the first 11 corners on our qualifying laps. Way too agresssive. But still a decent starting spot. pic.twitter.com/H1iv1W98YB
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 24, 2017
Come on. What’s not to like about a stock car on two wheels?
Thumbs Down: Chad Knaus’ Laptop Thief
Somebody stole Chad Knaus’ laptop and race notes from his rental car this weekend.
Stealing is never cool. Major thumbs-down to the thief.
But it kind of makes you wonder what was on his laptop, doesn’t it?
Like, was it actual important stuff crucial to the No. 48 team’s success over the years? Race-winning setups and detailed strategy notes?
Or ordinary stuff, like a list of birthdays of everyone on the team? His secret collections of poetry? What does Chad Knaus write in his diary?
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team won Stage 2 of the race at Sonoma and led 12 laps, so the laptop theft mustn’t have set the team back too far.
Here’s to hoping Knaus has a backup of his race notes and that Hendrick Motorsports has some level of security in place to remotely wipe a hard drive. (And, of course, wishing that none of the information landed into the wrong hands.)
Thumbs Up: The Visor Cam
For the first time in NASCAR history, a driver’s helmet visor-mounted camera made it to racing competition, much to the delight of TV viewers.
It was a blast watching Danica Patrick wheel around Sonoma Raceway from the vantage point of her helmet. The FOX Sports Visor Cam is about as close as we’ll get to experiencing what it’s like to be in the driver’s seat during actual competition.
As close as we’ll get, that is, until those Virtual Reality nerds figure out how to virtually put us inside the cars during a race. Hurry up, nerds!
(Aside: iRacing with a VR headset is a lot of fun, too. Would not recommend for the carsickness-prone, however.)
Thumbs Down: Kasey Kahne’s Luck
Kasey Kahne has crashed out of four of the last five races — none of which were his doing.
First, an unexpected crash at Charlotte. Then, he got tangled in a multi-car overtime crash in Dover. The next week, he experienced a brake failure at Pocono, leaving him in the wall. He broke the unfortunate streak by getting through Michigan without incident.
He almost made it through Sonoma cleanly, until a last-lap tangle with lapped car Kevin O’Connell sent Kahne’s No. 5 hard (really hard) into a concrete barrier.
Big hit. I was passing 15 to his right down front stretch. He panicked & turned right instead of left for the corner and destroyed us ♂️
— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) June 25, 2017
Kahne was fine after the contact, but he’s now mired 21st in points with 10 races before the end of the regular season. Things are going to have to turn around (and not his race car) if he wants a shot at a championship. It’s time to shed that walking-under-ladders habit, Kasey.
This thumbs-down is for the monkey on Kahne’s back. Begone, monkey!
Biggest Thumbs Up of the Week: Clint Bowyer
First, he reportedly lost power steering before the race even began. At an 11-turn road course, of all places.
Then, he went for a spin on Lap 22 (and somehow didn’t knock down a wall.)
He made contact with a spinning AJ Allmendinger, damaging the front of the No. 14 Ford.
He started the final stage of the race deep in the field, then drove all the way up to second place behind teammate and race-winner Kevin Harvick before the checkered flag flew.
All with a car that looked like it had just finished a race at Martinsville.
So close, @ClintBowyer.
This machine nearly got it done. pic.twitter.com/OC1ffKT5AK
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 25, 2017
It was an impressive run that would have even made Lightning McQueen proud — and for that, the unlikely runner-up gets a thumbs-up the size of the giant piece of tape on the nose of his car.