By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
AUSTIN, Texas – At times, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas felt like the race with no end. Not just for race leader Tyler Reddick, who survived triple overtime to score his victory, but for everybody else.
With three late cautions extending the race length from 68 laps to 75, more than a dozen vehicles were damaged in the ensuing restarts. Dive bombs, door slams and what Jenson Button calls “massive whacks”. They had it all.
A little too much for some. Alex Bowman was on the wrong end of a few massive whacks, however, still managed a third-place effort in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“You can’t be the one clean guy,” Bowman said. “The problem is if you don’t peek out and bomb the guy in front of you, the guy behind you does it to you.
“Like, so what do you do there? Right. It’s not right. The way we race is embarrassing and if 12-year-olds were doing it, we’d be yelling at them. But here we are saying it’s the best thing in the world on TV.”
Ross Chastain overcame a spin of his own with seven laps to go, which caused a caution. For the Trackhouse Racing driver, the slew of accidents was to his benefit as he rose to finish fourth.
His perspective? It’s all part of the NASCAR show.
“I don’t understand how we can be so upset about crazy restarts that we’re doing,” Chastain said. “It’s just, these cars are so tough. We can run into each other. And I mean, there’s just lines of cars all pushing each other on the brakes. Nobody is going in there saying, ‘I’m going to hit somebody,’ but it’s just the leader has to check up and it just magnifies itself.
“Are you not entertained? Sorry… [yells] Are you not entertained!? Come on. This is what we love. I don’t love it doing it, but this is… as a sport, we’re not boring.”
Kyle Busch was another driver on the positive end of the contact, coming home second in his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevy. The two-time champion found himself ahead of most of the mess, and in fact was positive about his race with Tyler Reddick.
“I got alongside [Tyler] Reddick there on that one restart into the esses and I could have forced the issue and pushed him off,” Busch said. “But, we ran each other hard, we ran each other clean and gave each other room.
“I respect the kid and he’s been nothing but great to me. So I give him respect back and so we’ve had some good races between each other. They were really fast. I mean, they deserve to win. There’s no sense in taking it from him.”
Further down near the eye of the storm was Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, who cracked through the top 20 to finish 18th on debut for Rick Ware Racing.
For the first-time stock car racer, the late restarts were “baptism of fire” as he tried to bring his No. 15 home.
“I have respect in some ways in terms of how they drive, in terms of their speed and how they can place the car, their car placement, very impressive,” Button said. “Some other things… a little bit disappointing. And, you know, it’s a tough one. It’s their way of racing, but when you’re not used to that, it’s tricky.
“It looks good on TV, I’m sure. But, you know, you could be minding your own business and get a whack in the rear corner and they weren’t even trying to overtake you. They just got to push from behind and it’s, it’s a tough one.
I also haven’t raced for three years, So that was just a hell of a shock to the system. So, you just got to go with it and it’s a baptism of fire, definitely. But, fair play to their race craft and where they can put a car. That’s what impressed me the most, some really good drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, especially on road courses, which surprised me a bit.”