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Time to Park It: Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400

The "Big Machine" on Sunday has been on a tear since the sport returned.

Finally, a race that actually did not have any political news leading into the race, but it did have something missing for sure.  Not seeing Jimmie Johnson at the track in a sense is like seeing the Bulls on the court the year after Michael Jordan called it a career the second time.  It just felt odd, but sadly it was necessary.

Although Justin Allgaier was a great choice to fill in, his race, along with many others, kinda took a major turn.

It has been a long while since we have seen incidents on pit road like we saw on Sunday, at least ones that caused a crew member to be taken to the hospital.  It brought in many memories of when there was the incident on pit road at Homestead about 20 years ago where we saw one crewman get mauled and laying on the ground.

It’s the reason that next week many teams voluntarily put on helmets, using anything from race helmets to motorcycle designs to protect themselves.  A season later, it was made mandatory to have the over the wall crew be dressed the same as the driver, full helmet and full firesuit.

What many forget sometimes is that these days, these pit crews are as athletic and agile as you’d see on a football field or basketball court.  You wouldn’t see that type of reaction or maneuvering years ago from these crews, and it shows how much teams invest in their road crews to be able to pull off these extremely quick pit stops.

When something like that happens, you immediately fear the worst.  But, seems like everything worked out in the end for the team, and the crewman is going to be just fine.

What ultimately was the big story wasn’t the race, but the wrecks.  Specifically, the tire failures that caused some of the hardest hits I have ever seen at this track.

Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman, and especially Denny Hamlin, all took some of the hardest hits on the day thanks to tire blowouts.  No one took a harder hit than Hamlin when he did so in the lead, at the fastest part of the track, and slammed the barrier.  The “ouch” from Harvick’s radio said it all, for sure.  Why Indianapolis always seems to have this experience with tire troubles is beyond me, especially since the entire 2008 debacle where 11 laps meant a caution to save face.  Still, one thing I certainly think played a factor in this is the late start, which meant as the track cooled down, speeds increased, and couple that with the hotter weather it just made a crazy combination that caused the tires to give out.

Goodyear went with a newer left side tire, and the same right side tire as 2019, for this race, but at the same time the race a year ago was run in September, not July.  All I know is that seeing tires blow out reminds me of burnout contests and something goes terribly wrong.

One thing that hasn’t gone wrong is this budding respectful rivalry between Hamlin and Harvick.  Since we’ve returned to the track, these two have been the ones to beat every single time.  When one is leading, the other is not far behind.  When one has trouble, the other capitalizes.  All the while, you don’t see either of them try to take the other out, and drive dirty.

On the track, and in the garage, these two certainly are showing how an on-track rivalry in this era should be.  When one has a bad incident, show compassion, and that’s what Harvick did immediately after seeing that hit.  He certainly wanted to race him for the victory, instead of seeing Hamlin crash out.  Would have made for a wild finish had Harvick been able to run him down, no question.

In the end, right now we are seeing the lead drivers, both prior to the stoppage and after, rising to the top.  Harvick has four wins to his credit, and Hamlin matches.

Whichever eventually wins the title is uncertain, but right now it is time to park it.  That is at least, until this next weekend when we head to the Bluegrass State.

About Dustin Parks

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