Yesterday was a big day at the Holland Speedway (OH) for both local fans and the NASCAR community. It was the final race weekend for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and there were a lot of storylines and interesting characters to follow.
There were three marquee events – the 250-mile Monster Energy Cup Series race, the 60-lap Bumper to Bumper Series race, and the 30-lap Dash for Cash – which all had important messages to convey and a winner to be decided. Let’s take a look back at what happened yesterday at the #madeinohio speedway:
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race
The #30 car of Chase Elliott was in front of a sold-out crowd at the start of the race, and he quickly established a commanding lead over second-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. (pictured above with Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and all the other competitors. Truex started the race with a seven-point lead over Denny Hamlin, but that advantage soon disappeared as the top three drivers began trading the race for position.
The championship contenders were almost indistinguishable in the early going: Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex were running side-by-side up front as the only three drivers on the lead lap.
The three formed a classic battle line as they came onto the backstretch for the first time around lap 10. The race reached its midpoint as the drivers passed through one of the most historic turnarounds in NASCAR history: the entrance to the backstretch. It’s here that we find the five or six most memorable plays from yesterday’s race. They will remain etched in the minds of NASCAR fans everywhere.
The Bumper to Bumper Series Race
The Bumper to Bumper Series saw the greatest comeback in its brief history. After a 10-year absence, the Bumpers got their groove back in 2019. They started the season incredibly well and went into the first winter race as slight underdogs. That was despite the fact that several regulars, including Martin Truex Jr., entered with the goal of defending their title. They wanted to show that the Bumpers weren’t the same old team, that they’d learned from their mistakes and were ready to reclaim their place at the top of the paddock.
Entering the final race of the season as the favorites, the Bumpers knew that they had to play their cards right to have a chance at taking home the spoils. They started slow but kept their heads up, looking for opportunities. A mid-pack car broke down, and the Bumpers pounced on the opportunity. They passed Kyle Busch, who was in the midst of a strong run, and took over the lead. From there, they never looked back. They ultimately won the championship by eight points over Kyle Busch.
Ryan Blaney, who led a race-high 109 laps, got the win, the championship, and the $100,000 bonus for leading the most laps. Kyle Busch finished second, and Martin Truex Jr. came in third. The Bumpers ended the season as they began it: as the three-time defending champs. The early bird and the long dog finally reunited: yesterday was truly a happy day in the Bumper to Bumper camp.
The Dash for Cash Race
The Dash for Cash, named after the late Rick Hendrick, is what happens when the Monster Energy Cup Series and the Bumper to Bumper Series collide. It’s been a wild couple of months for the Hendrick teams, who entered the final race of the season hoping to finally take home some hardware. They knew that a strong finish would be the key to ending the season on a high note. A win here would put them in the driver’s seat for next season. With their sights set on the big prize, the Hendrick vehicles stormed onto the track. They started on the outside of the front row and worked their way to the front. They didn’t need to look far as the first five or six cars were already lining up for the start.
They soon worked their way through the field and were able to take the lead on lap 30. They never looked back, cruising to an easy victory. Ryan Blaney won the race, his first of the season, and took home a cool $125,000. The Hendrick teams were over the moon with the results of the race – at least they could finally take some time off after all that hard work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the team had been in the middle of a 12-race win streak.
Kyle Busch came in second, and Martin Truex Jr. brought home third. With three races left in the season, it was still anybody’s race to win. The team that finishes first, second, and third in this final stretch will split $250,000 – a huge monetary incentive for these last three races. The regular season finale is scheduled for Nov. 23 in Las Vegas. Mark your calendars now!
To lend some context to yesterday’s events, let’s take a look at some of the key roles and responsibilities of these drivers and how they performed.
Chase Elliott (son of three-time Cup champion and NASCAR legend Bill Elliott) made his Monster Energy Cup Series debut last year and quickly established himself among the elite. He made the right move at the right time, taking over for an injured Hendrick driver and finishing sixth in his debut. He followed that up with a solid finish in the season opener in Atlanta. He didn’t quite match that performance in the second race in Texas, but he still finished in the top ten.
Ryan Blaney (brother of two-time Cup champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Blaney) has been one of the most consistent performers all year. He started the year off on the right note by scoring a top ten in his first three races. Then, disaster struck: the team was hit with hard luck and had to pull out of the next race. After that, he finished outside the top ten in the next six. Finally, he found some good fortune with a sixth place in the Clash at Charlotte.
A trio of youngsters – Alexander Rossi, Kody Lundy, and Logan Simmerman – also made their NASCAR debuts yesterday. Rossi, from Italy, started his NASCAR career with a bang, winning the season opener in Atlanta. He followed that up with runner-up finishes in both the next two races and then won the Dash for Cash race. His only other career start came in the 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix at Sonoma, where he finished 11th. He was a perfect fit for the #30 Chevy: he had three top tens and a sixth place finish in the first ten races he started. He won his first career pole at Michigan and finished third in the points.
Logan Simmerman (brother of Ryan Simmerman, who races for Joe Gibbs in the Monster Energy Cup Series) started his NASCAR career with a bang, as well. He won the 200-mile race in his first start and followed that up with two more wins – in the Bumper to Bumper and Dash for Cash races. He also finished second in the Atlanta race and third in the Texas race. He struggled a little bit at Darlington, but he still managed to finish in the top ten.
Kody Lundy (grandson of Bob and Bill Lundy, who co-founded Lundy’s Labels in 1935 and owned one of the first asphalt plants in North America) started his tenure in the Cup Series in the same way he started most of his other races this year: well back in the pack but still hanging on for dear life. He managed to eek out a couple of top tens before finally breaking through for a win at Kansas. He also finished second at Atlanta and Texas Tech. And he won his first career pole in the Clash at Charlotte. It was a decent debut for the upstart team as they look to make their mark in the NASCAR circuit. Not bad for a first-time qualifier!