Jenna Fryer, Associated Press
Published Monday, September 30, 2019 12:55
CONCORD, N.C. – Alex Bowman had just advanced to the second round of NASCAR playoffs, got out of the car and fell to the ground, dehydrated and overcome by the heat. While receiving medical attention, Bubba Wallace approached him and angrily splashed a liquid on Bowman's face.
This closing image culminated in a sloppy Sunday in scorching temperatures at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Chase Elliott won, despite colliding head-on with a tire barrier at the start of The Roval. Elliott was leading in a restart and entered the first corner when he locked the brake and his car went straight out of the way and crashed into the makeshift wall.
"I couldn't believe I did that. That was so stupid," said Elliott. "I don't know if you could have done anything more stupid leading this race than what I did there. Fortunately, our car wasn't too bad … fast enough to cross over there, I got the precautions at the right time. And It just didn't come out.
"If there is any lesson not to stop, today was the example."
Elliott celebrated by returning to the corner where he had earlier destroyed and placing his nose against the barrier before smoking the tires.
"I was coming back and saw that stupid thing and thought I couldn't pass up the opportunity to redeem myself," Elliott said of his celebration.
The winner, however, was not the center of attention in NASCAR's first playoff playoff race.
The focus was on the four drivers who would be eliminated from the 16-driver championship, and Bowman spent the entire race fighting for a spot in the second round. He crashed the car in the final moments of Saturday practice and had to go to a backup, then spin on the first few laps on Sunday, deliberately spin Wallace in anger and have to make way for second place.
But Hendrick Motorsports's 1-2 finish did not guarantee that Bowman would advance. Ryan Newman, back in the field, had the advantage of points in Bowman and Bowman had no control of his own destiny.
So Newman, running with Aric Almirola in the last few laps to try to advance, lost a chicane with two laps left and the mistake eliminated him from the playoffs.
"I felt like I made a lot of mistakes trying too hard," said Newman, who also stopped his Ford during a pit stop. "We didn't have the race car and that's what I had to do."
The point difference went to Bowman, who could not celebrate because he needed immediate medical attention. As Bowman landed beside his car and surrounded by medical personnel, Wallace approached him, the two of them had a brief verbal exchange, and Bowman seemed to laugh at Wallace just before Wallace was angry at the bottle he was carrying in Bowman's face. .
Bowman was later treated at the dehydration treatment center and said he spun Wallace for repeatedly throwing his middle finger on the tracks.
"I was fooled by all the straights for three laps, and failed him for three or four laps in a row in Richmond, so I'm over. He probably wouldn't be destroyed if I had the finger." back in the car, right? Bowman said. "Probably shouldn't repeat what he said to me, but not elegant by any means." Understand. I would be angry too, but he put himself in this place. "
It was a confusing day on the hybrid / oval circuit in Charlotte, where the odds of the championship ended for Newman, Almirola, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.
A late warning prompted NASCAR to halt the race for a cleanup and the drivers had to sit inside their cockpits, where temperatures hovered around 120 degrees. NASCAR employees were handing over water bottles, and Newman was among the many who radioed his team asking for ice bags waiting for him when the race was over.
Kyle Busch decided he wasn't going to sit in the heat and drove the car into the garage, calling it a race with seven laps remaining. He was three laps at the moment and was already locked in the second round of the playoffs.
Kevin Harvick finished third and was followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who was in danger of being knocked out of the playoffs but advanced to fourth place.
Brad Keselowski was fifth and followed by pole assistants William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney, while playoff riders took the top eight.
The track, typically a standard NASCAR oval, was modified for this playoff race for the second year in a row on a 17-lap, 3.28-mile circuit that uses the road course through the inner field and the oval. The turns and twists around the circuit are marked with baffles on the rear and front to slow down the cars and potentially increase the passage on the oval part of the track. An additional wrinkle from last year is a revised chicane revamped to make it a braking and passing zone.
NASCAR made it very clear in all communications with teams that skipping a chicane would be penalized, and Newman was one of many pilots who lost it and suffered a costly setback.
Erik Jones was the first driver knocked out of the playoffs after a horrific opening round.
He had a mechanical problem in Las Vegas, but met last week in Richmond to finish fourth with a 1-2-3-4 sweep from Joe Gibbs Racing. NASCAR then said Jones's car failed the post-race inspection, and the 42-point penalty left him last on the playoff field.
Jones was in an unmissable situation in Charlotte to advance to the second round of the playoffs, but went to the garage with damage to his Toyota at the end of the first leg and finished last. He officially pulled him out of the playoffs while the race was still underway.
"It's frustrating not even to have a chance throughout the race, you know?" said Jones. "It's unfortunate. We had three very bad weeks and some are ours and not others. I would love to move on and challenge the championship. I thought we could have gone deep this year." , but it's just the nature of the playoffs. "
Kyle Busch decided not to finish the race when NASCAR stopped her with seven laps left to clear debris on the track. Busch was three laps down at the moment and car temperatures hovered around 120 degrees during the parade.
With nothing to gain when the race resumed, Busch threw in the towel and left the track.
The opening race of the second round of the playoffs on Sunday at the Dover International Speedway. Chase Elliott won last year.