Yes, racing is racing, but sometimes you really have to wonder.
In a weekend that offered up some great racing excitement, the final corner of the inaugural Chevy Silverado 250 left a bad taste in fans’ mouths as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made its first visit to Canada.
In what should have been a spirited wheel-to-wheel battle to the finish line, fans gathered at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) on Sunday instead watched Chase Elliott take a completely undeserved win after some dirty driving in the last turn.
After battling leader Ty Dillon side-by-side down the Andretti Straight that leads to the final two corners, Hendrick driver Elliott drove into his rival in the last corner and spun him into the tires on the outside of turn 10 before continuing down the straight to take the chequered flag.
And let’s be clear about it: This wasn’t one of those racing deals.
The tape leaves little doubt that part-time truck racer Elliott never intended to try a pass in Corner 10; he came from a long way back and the angle of his truck meant there was no way he was ever making the turn. Instead, he torpedoed Dillon No. 3 truck on the right rear, essentially using his rival as a brake to slow his truck and robbing his fellow Chevy driver of the victory.
To make matters worse, the 17-year-old, who is the son of former Sprint Cup driver Bill Elliott, now goes into the record books as the youngest ever winner in the truck series.
After the race, Elliott offered an almost laughable explanation of the final corner, saying he was next to Dillon and knew his rival was going to chop him off. Those with a better grasp of reality saw Dillon take the normal racing line into 10, unaware that Elliott had transformed his ride into a heat-seeking missile.
“I really hate to win them like that, I really do,” Elliott said in Victory Lane.
“That’s not how I race and that’s never been how I’ve raced before.”
Yeah, if you believe that, you likely also think that former NHLer Gordie Howe really felt bad he went into a corner and force fed one of his elbows to a rival player.
Unfortunately for Dillon, the takeout by Elliott cost him a shot at closing up on points leader Matt Crafton who finished tenth on the day. A win for Dillon, who is the grandson of Richard Childress, would have allowed him to slice 14 points off the lead and move into second place overall, 43 behind Crafton. After being punted by Elliott, he’s now 63 back of top spot due to his 17th place finish. James Buescher is second, 47 points back. Drivers get 47 points for a win.
Although he had reason to be angry for the cheap move alone, having a driver who has only started six of 14 of the truck races this year impose himself so dramatically into the championship fight seemed to irk Dillon most.
“He just gave up on racing and dumped me,” Dillon said.
“It was going to be an awesome points day for us and I was racing hard but man you just don’t go through the grass to wreck somebody. It killed our truck; it killed our day. What’s the point? You have to be smarter than that when you come into these races and earn respect.”
Dillon also warned that he would dole out some payback at this weekend’s race in Iowa.
While it ended on a sour note, the good news is that the race, which drew an estimated 50,000 fans, served as a terrific audition for the track. There’s no secret that CTMP’s owners would love to see a NASCAR Nationwide series race grace the 10-turn, 3.957-kilometre road course in Bowmanville, Ont.
Canadian stock car fans went without a Nationwide race this year after Montreal’s Napa 200 was axed following a dispute between the promoter and NASCAR. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve hosted a Nationwide race six times between 2007 and 2012 and treated fans to some great action before it went away.
Co-owners Carlo Fidani and veteran racer Ron Fellows have invested millions of dollars into the facility since buying it two years ago to help attract more series to the old Mosport International Raceway, which hosted Formula One eight times between 1967 and 1977.
The expansion of the pitlane makes it possible to host a NASCAR track series race, as the old configuration didn’t have the room to accommodate 36 track pit stalls needed for a truck race. A Nationwide field is 40 cars.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series also raced on the weekend in Bowmanville, with Quebec driver L.P. Dumoulin taking his second consecutive win this year at CTMP after a victory in May. He crossed the line in the Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 just 1.142 seconds ahead of Martin Roy. Two-time Canadian Tire series champion Andrew Ranger was third.
For more from Jeff Pappone, go to facebook.com/jeffpappone