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The Watermelon Man Wins in Nashville

Image: George Walker IV/Associated Press

As the NASCAR Cup Series headed east from Sonoma to Nashville, the big story was Martin Truex Jr. Truex had captured his second win on the season at Sonoma, the week before the off week. It’s been debated that Truex is the top driver in the Cup Series right now, and that point still stands. But after this weekend’s race in Nashville, all eyes are once again on a driver that is used to having the spotlight on him.

A Big Win for Chastain:

After Sonoma, Ross Chastain was in a bit of a slump. He had only finished inside the Top-10 in one of the four previous races, which was Sonoma. Chastain had posted finishes outside the Top-20 in the previous three races before Sonoma. So, it was a bit of an unusual slump for Chastain. He and Trackhouse Racing came into Nashville with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Trackhouse saw the same track that they call home, Nashville, as a great opportunity to get their first win of the season. Right from the get-go, it was obvious that Chastain was going to be fast. On Saturday, Chastain earned his first career pole. This was considered a huge win for Trackhouse because it was also their first pole as an organization. The stars were starting to align, but there was one big step ahead of them.

On Sunday night, it was a battle between Chastain, Truex, and Denny Hamlin. It would come down to the final green flag pit stops for the win. Chastain’s crew got him out ahead of Truex, and he never looked back. This win is Chastain’s third career victory, and his first at Nashville. This victory is also a huge deal for Trackhouse Racing for several reasons. As previously said, Nashville is the same area that Trackhouse considers its home. Nashville is the area where team owner, Justin Marks, founded the team in 2021. Trackhouse Racing and Ross Chastain have been the big talk of NASCAR for the past year and a half. From the first win at COTA to the wall ride at Martinsville, Chastain continues to hold the NASCAR world in his hands.

A big hit for Ryan Blaney:

One of the biggest stories coming out of Nashville has to do with Ryan Blaney. On a restart on lap 147, the field stacked up after Brad Keselowski missed an upshift. This sent the field scattering around Keselowski. Unfortunately, Blaney was sent down toward the inside wall of the track, slamming into the wall. The problem with this crash is that the area that Blaney hit has no SAFER barrier. The SAFER barrier is a soft energy-absorbing foam that is supposed to reduce the impact from when the cars hit the wall. These barriers were introduced in Indianapolis in 2002. This was easily the most damage done to a next-gen car on the front end. The fact that it is 2023 and drivers are still finding unprotected concrete barriers on certain tracks, is quite ridiculous.

What to Expect from Chicago:

This coming weekend, history is being made in NASCAR. NASCAR is holding its first-ever street course race in Chicago. This race will be a test of survival. Nobody knows what to expect this coming weekend. These cars are not made for a street course. These cars are 3,000+ pounds and have terrible braking, so it will be a huge challenge for everyone. No one knows what to expect from this weekend. If there is one driver who is a safe bet, it’s Chase Elliott. Elliott leads all current drivers in road course wins at seven. Elliott won four road course races in a row dating from Watkins Glen in 2019 to the Charlotte Roval in 2020. If there is a safe driver to put some money on, it would be the current Road Course king.

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