The long week at Charlotte can be summed up in exactly one word…redemption. Sure, the focus now suddenly goes to the turnaround to be at Bristol in three day’s time, but that will be covered in the next piece.
Ever since last Wednesday night, one word and one driver has been on everyone’s mind: redemption, and Elliott. So close to victory, Chase Elliott was booted out of the way. We all saw it, and no matter who’s side they are on, whether it is Elliott and his single-finger salute, or Kyle Busch and his explanation of trying to move up and misjudgment, everyone can firmly agree that the end result is the same. One car that had a chance to win, instead lost.
Fast forward to Sunday, and victory once again was in grasp.
But as is the case often in some of these races, especially with the leader, it’s a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t situation. Choosing to pit just before an overtime run was the undoing once again for Elliott. In a situation like that, the problem isn’t necessarily the call, but hoping others had the same idea.
If this was a place that ate tires the same way I eat tacos, such as Atlanta or Darlington, making the call to come in is pretty much a given. Tires at those places are a premium, since the surface is worn and seasoned. But a place such as Charlotte, which uses the traction compound, at that point it is all about track position. Taking tires at that point, unless only a couple cars stay out, is simply not the right call. Alan Gustafson is an experience, and talented, crew chief, but that call ultimately cost Elliott a crown jewel event, and Elliott has yet to win one of those in his career.
Two races, two heartbreaks, but two very different situations.
So having to return to the same track days later, and knowing all eyes are on his team, that is a challenge, which is something he surely is used to by now, and has taken to. After all, all eyes were on him when he took over the No. 24 in 2016, and then all eyes were staying on him until he got that first win in 2018, despite running out of gas in the process.
But this was a much different feeling. Two consecutive races that he could win, one of which he should have won, means the focus was on the No. 9 team, and justifiably so.
This time, the third race was not just the charm, but the redemption. In actuality, the redemption began on Monday with that Truck Series win that also involved a bounty being redeemed. However, it came full circle once the checkered flag waved on Thursday. That moment was the one that many fans from home wanted to see. At the same time, it still felt weird seeing a driver slinging donuts to an empty grandstand. In a sense it makes me wish it was back in the 90’s when drivers simply finished the race, and went to victory lane.
We’re all still learning with this happening, and it certainly is an odd feeling to step out of the car, in victory, to silence.
Although as we saw last week with Chase Briscoe, sometimes exiting to silence gives a chance at reflection of what has occurred in life and what is most important.
NASCAR is back, but I guess we should park it for a couple days. Thunder Valley is on the horizon.