You know what they say, “rubbin’s racin’.”
The race last weekend was what NASCAR envisioned when creating the playoff system. This race was two playoff drivers that were fighting desperately for their guaranteed spot and their chance to race for a championship in Homestead-Miami.
Without a doubt, Martin Truex Jr. could have raced Joey Logano dirty. He could have run him up the track or turned him, but instead, they ran side-by-side for the final five laps and showed what clean, good, hard racing is.
But it’s Martinsville.
Logano knew how deep he could drive into the corner compared to Truex. Driving on the high side for the last several laps, he had to drive deep into the corner keep pace with the 78. Logano knew he had a better entry, but Truex had a better center drive off, knowing he had the lesser car, what would Logano have to do to give himself a chance to win?
The white flag waved as they both crossed the line and Joey, being in the high groove, had to choose the best option that put him in a position to win. Does he stay up top and lose the drag race to the faster car of Martin Truex Jr., who was better during the long run or does he let him go to try a classic bump-and-run? Is it better to be first or second entering the final corner with everything on the line?
Oh yeah, its Martinsville.
Logano let him go coming out of two. He knew the answer to that question. He tucked in behind Truex down the backstretch and into three, he used his strength to his advantage. Logano didn’t wreck him, but he moved him. Logano created a gap down low for a classic Martinsville drag race to a finish. Truex overcompensates by applying too much throttle off the corner, gets into Logano and a classic drag race to the line turned into a fistfight in a dark ally. Truex came out the loser by finishing third, as Denny Hamlin became a lurking benefactor of the altercation. Fans were booing, tempers were flaring, and crumpled sheet metal showed the wear and tear of 500 laps.
That was Martinsville!
Truex was upset and understandably so. They had raced hard and clean. He had worked his way to the front from a starting spot deep in the field after failing inspection before the race. He had the faster car in the end but lost the race within the last few hundred feet with the checkered flag waving in the air. His comment of “He may have won the battle but he ain’t winning the damn war,” is precisely the thing NASCAR needs heading into the last three weeks of the season. A rivalry, a place where fans can choose sides and cheer for who they thought was right.
Will there be retaliation? I’d hope not, as wrecked race cars only lead to more wrecked race cars, but I’d expect to see hard nose racing. The quote of “No quarter given and everything taken” comes to mind. That is what makes rivalries unique to see on the track.
Was Logano’s move justified? Absolutely. If roles were reversed, would Truex bump-and-run Logano into the last corner. Absolutely. It’s Martinsville, and it was everything we were hoping to see.