Column By: LEE SPENCER / NASCAR – SPARTA, KY – When it comes to racing etiquette, the rules of conduct vary from driver to driver.
Following Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s faux pas at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, which eliminated Kyle Busch and five other competitors from the field, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was expecting an apology.
But the call never came.
“I am disappointed that he did not (call),” Busch said at Kentucky Speedway on Friday in advance of Saturday’s Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “You wipe out half the field and pretty sure there would be a pretty busy Monday for him, but there wasn’t, so apparently he just doesn’t care.”
Stenhouse, who is currently 16th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, was the defending winner of the Coke Zero Sugar 400. He won the first two stages but was collected in a wreck with Kyle Larson in the closing stages of the race.
“We definitely brought what I feel like was the best car in the field,” Stenhouse said. “Winning two stages was nice but obviously we wanted to win at the end because that would get us into the playoffs. I was frustrated with myself causing crashes like that. It was definitely a bummer of a night.”
The night was worse for Busch who finished 33rd after completing just 64 laps. Will he approach racing Stenhouse differently in the future?
“I can’t – I can’t worry about people that far back in the field,” Busch replied.
Bowman looks to build on recent success
Alex Bowman is living life on the bubble.
The driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet is currently 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.
But without a check in the win column, Bowman could be on the outside looking in for the Playoffs.
“There is definitely a good bit of pressure obviously that comes with it,” Bowman said. “Really last week was probably the most pressure that I will see until we get to Indy if things keep going the way they have. Definitely in the back of my mind I was looking at the No. 95 car (Kasey Kahne) leading laps and some of the other guys up there, I was like, ‘oh this could get really bad for us.’ Glad it didn’t turn into too bad of a night for us, still got solid stage points and all that.”
Bowman led the Hendrick Motorsports contingent for the past two races – at Chicagoland Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. His 10th-place finish last Saturday was his third consecutive and seventh top-10 result since becoming the driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet. Bowman’s 66 laps led this season also tops his three teammates.
“For me, it’s just we have to keep putting races together and keep running solid top 10 and hopefully that gets us there,” Bowman added. “Obviously, we would like to win before the cutoff, but I think we can do it on points we just have to keep moving in the right direction.
“We have kind of struggled to get stage points this year and that has really put us farther behind than I think we would be if we got stage points of how we finish. But we will just keep working at it and I think we can make it.”
After serving as the test driver for HMS, Bowman is well-versed with the systems on the Hendrick campus. His time spent with crew chief Greg Ives has been invaluable for getting up to speed. He feels the team is finally showing the consistency that was missing in the first half of the season.
“Working with Greg is a ton of fun,” Bowman said. “It’s been great working with him. I think we have been pretty solid. We have finally seemed to put races all the way together the last three weeks, not have any big mistakes and finished where we deserved to finish.”
The fine line between bold and over the line
When three Xfinity Series drivers – Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick were asked to name which driver was the most aggressive, no one hesitated.
Both Custer and Hemric turned and cast their eyes on Reddick.
That’s understandable, given the 22-year-old Corning, California, driver’s checkers-or-wreckers attitude. Reddick was sidelined in the last two races.
“Tyler’s hit the wall like in every single race,” Custer said. “He definitely gets after it ever single lap.”
Reddick did not back down from the assessment.
“Yeah, I’m going to take a guess that I’m the most insane of the bunch,” Reddick replied. “That’s probably why I’m behind them in points, too.”
Yes, Reddick earned his first career NXS victory before either Custer or Hemric here at Kentucky Speedway last fall. He scored his second victory in the season opener at Daytona in February.
But the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevy trails his peers in the NXS standings. Hemric is currently second behind Elliott Sadler. Custer, 20, is third, 26 points behind Hemric. Reddick ranks sixth.
“My experience comes with age,” said the 27-year-old Hemric. “I try not to be that guy.”