The annual Watkins Glen race weekend has been arguably one of the best weeks of the year in NASCAR. The road course races a lot like a superspeedway but produces tensions of a short track. That didn’t change this year.
We leave Watkins Glen with several new found rivalries.
Justin Allgaier vs. Ross Chastain
Ryan Blaney vs. Jimmie Johnson
William Byron vs. Kyle Busch
Bubba Wallace vs. Kyle Busch
Jimmie Johnson confronts Ryan Blaney on pit road following Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen
It all started on Saturday when Chastain had contact with Allgaier early in the Zippo 200. Allgaier, was sick of being disrespected by Chastain so he vowed to end it by the end of the first stage.
“He ran into my door going down the back straightaway and then the bus stop and then proceeded to hit me about three different times and proceeded to spin me out on purpose in the bus stop and tried to put me into the outside wall on the exit to the bus stop,” Allgaier said. “His idea of ‘not how you race the way at all,’ I mean I think he should look in the mirror. And that’s not the first time, either. You look at Daytona and I was completely inside of him and he just cranked a left. Last year at (Las) Vegas, he put me in the fence trying to battle for the lead.
“There’s been multiple times I’ve been on the receiving end. He can look at it however he wants to look at it but I feel like I finished it today.
On Sunday, it got going with Busch. In fact, the drama started and ended with him there.
Busch should have had a chance to win Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen. He had a very fast race car this weekend at Watkins Glen. His teammates finished 2-3-4. A fourth Toyota in Matt DiBenedetto finished sixth. Busch, had just as good, if not a better car that all four.
Instead, he leaves Watkins Glen with an 11th place finish.
It’s all because Busch didn’t keep his cool on Sunday afternoon. It all started when he spun while trying to pass William Byron for second place early on. Busch for whatever reason thought that it was Byron’s fault for his spin. He got revenge in running Byron off the track and sending his No. 24 Chevrolet through the grass in the bus stop with the second to last lap of the first stage.
Busch, was back up to fifth at the time. He didn’t need to do that. Byron, got revenge under the stage break and damaged Busch’s car as a result. That made Byron, Chad Knaus and his former boss Rick Hendrick mad at him.
“I didn’t know that until someone told me that coming in here,” Hendrick said of Byron being told by Knaus to wreck Busch. “You know, I think it goes down — like back to what I said. I think if you let guys push you around and you let them know that you’re not going to let that happen — and I think he got the worst end of the deal when Kyle brake-checked him and knocked the front end out of the car. But sometimes in the heat of the battle you want to do things, and if you thought about it a little bit more maybe you’d just settle down and go finish the race. But in the heat of battle — and I didn’t know Chad told him to, but if I’d had a radio I’d probably tell him the same thing.
“I think you have to stand your ground in this sport. If you let people push you around, they’re going to push you around. He’s running up front, so I think this was his eighth front-row start, and he’s learning. People don’t cut him any slack because he’s a rookie, then he needs to let them know he’ll come back. I think probably in hindsight he would not not messed with Kyle and would have had a chance to have a really good finish with a good car.”
Then, Busch made his way back through again but on Lap 61, had a run-in with former Truck Series driver for him Bubba Wallace. Again, it was a move Busch should have avoided.
Wallace got his NASCAR career started with Kyle Busch Motorsports. The Alabama native raced for KBM in the NASCAR Truck Series in 2013 and again in 2014. He won five times with them. But, following Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, I don’t think Wallace will be welcomed back at KBM for a while.
On Lap 61, Wallace went low to block Busch while exiting Turn 7. I’m not real sure as to why, but Wallace was clearly upset with something his former boss did to him on track just prior. Busch, wasn’t too thrilled with Wallace’s move and went to run into Wallace’s No. 43 Chevrolet. Instead of paying Wallace back, Busch should have just let it go, same as what he should have done earlier in the race with Byron.
As a result of Busch’s retaliation, Wallace was even more mad and hooked Busch into Turn 1.
“I’m going to get my respect on the track, and I don’t care who it is,” Wallace said of his incident with Busch. “That’s for when guys fail to think about the young guys, I guess, or with me. I won’t put up with no shit. So I flat out wrecked his ass back. I guess we’re even. We’ll see. … “That’s what happens when you get run over. You just pay him back. So I won’t be like, ‘Oh, it’s Kyle Busch, he didn’t mean to.’ … (Expletive) him.”
Johnson, had some similar choice words for Blaney in their run in too. He was running solidly in the top 10 in the closing laps and was going to capitalized on a big points day. Instead, contact with Ryan Blaney with 29 laps-to-go has “the seven-time series champion fuming.
“He just drove through me in the carousel,” Johnson said of the run-in with Blaney. “I tried to hear what he was trying to say…but his lips were quivering so bad when he came to speak. I don’t know if he was nervous or scared or both…I don’t know what the problem is. He just drove through me…and spun me out. And clearly that has big implications with what we are trying to do for the Playoffs tight now, so clearly not happy with his actions. … We scored points in both stages which was nice. We were setting up for top-eight to top-10 and got drove through. He claims it was just racing. So I can hardly wait to go racing. Everybody stay tuned.”
Blaney’s side was that he didn’t purposely try to get into Johnson and that Johnson left a lane open and he tried to take it.
“It was just racing,” Blaney said on his take of the contact between the two. “He had old tires. They just did gas only and he was pretty slow and I passed 10 guys off the bus stop all day. He hit the third curb pretty bad and got in that position and he was up and I had a good run. I was there. He left probably a lane-and-a-quarter or so, and I took it. At first he didn’t turn down like I thought he knew I was there, and then he kept coming. I tried to check up and it was just too late. I mean, obviously, I didn’t mean to spin him out. I don’t want to do that. It’s obviously an accident, but he was upset and I can’t blame him for being upset about it. We’re just racing hard and I thought there was a lane there and it just closed.”
Blaney said that despite the two speaking on pit road that Johnson is still mad.
“He’s angry. I can’t blame him for being angry. He’s trying to get in the Playoffs right now and have good runs. Trust me, the last guy I want to spin out is Jimmie. We always race great together. I’ve looked up to him for a long time and still do, and he’s the last guy I want to spin out. It didn’t end well. He wasn’t happy and I can’t blame him. He’ll probably race me pretty hard here for the next few weeks, but I can’t blame him for that. It was definitely not my intention there.”
Nevertheless, Johnson spun and got into the tire barriers exiting the inner loop. He’d continue on but only finish 19th. He’s now tied with Newman for the final playoff spot heading to Michigan.