BRISTOL, Tenn. — NASCAR made as big of a buzz as it has all season with Saturday night’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Matt DiBenedetto was on the verge of a huge upset in the 500-lap night race just a few days after he learned he was losing his ride. Cue contact with Ryan Newman. Cue an ill-handling No. 95 Toyota. Cue Denny Hamlin making the pass for the win.
What would have been the biggest NASCAR moment in a long time wasn’t. But talk about it will linger, and linger longer than usual with a Cup off day this weekend.
But the excitement generated by Saturday night’s finish shouldn’t fade away. Up next for the Cup guys is the highly anticipated Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day weekend, a race almost everybody loves.
And just because Cup is off this week doesn’t mean there aren’t fun races on the schedule.
Both the Xfinity and Truck series head to road courses this weekend for two of their respective highly anticipated events, as well. Xfinity will race Saturday at Road America and the trucks will hit the pavement at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday.
For Xfinity, the trip to Road America marks the end of the series’ Road Course Season, the third stop at a twisty track in the past four weeks. Austin Cindric won the first two, also won the pole at Bristol and will be one of the favorites to win this weekend.
The list of former winners is an interesting one. Since the series started going to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, in 2010, those who have visited victory lane are Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, Nelson Piquet Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, Brendan Gaughan, Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, Jeremy Clements and Justin Allgaier.
Some of those even came in the rain. The forecast looks dry for Saturday, but expect the unexpected at Road America.
The trucks get the Sunday spotlight at a track that has been just as wild for them, producing everything from a spin-and-win to a photo finish to a fight on the frontstretch. It’s the lone road course on the series’ schedule, so all the craziness of road course racing comes out for this one.
CTMP has had a truck race each year since 2013 and, like Road America for the NXS, has never produced a repeat winner. Those who have claimed the trophy in the Great White North include Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Cindric and Justin Haley.
Tentatively, none of those drivers are scheduled to race this weekend. That means a first-time winner for the track.
Will that be good news or bad for the series’ playoff drivers? Only Brett Moffitt is safe after his Bristol win. Ross Chastain, Stewart Friesen, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton will have to race hard but smart. The rest of the postseason field, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill and Tyler Ankrum, already find themselves in a points position where they may feel inclined to put it all on the line.
The storyline of Bristol and DiBenedetto might have more than a couple competing headlines after this weekend.
Justin Epley is a sports writer for The News Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-443-9042.