You think these guys can’t hear outside noise?
Tell that to Ryan Blaney, who ended his winless streak at 59 on Monday.
Perhaps his victory was fitting. Waiting a day and a half of rain to stage the longest event on the calendar, the Coca-Cola 600, probably wasn’t a big deal for Blaney, who had been waiting since a win at Daytona on Aug. 28, 2021.
“I could shed a tear,” Blaney choked out just before doing so. “You start to feel like you can’t win anymore when you haven’t won for a while. It gets tough. So just super grateful for the (No.) 12 guys for believing in me.
But if there was ever a random sequence, it was Blaney’s. He was the only driver to make the playoffs last year with points and finished tied for third in the top five with 12. Monday scored his eighth top 10 finish in 14 races this year and fifth in the six last tests.
NASCAR HALFWAY: Will Ross Chastain enter by victory? Can Harvick hold out? Can Chase Elliott charge?
SPEED PHENOMENA: Is Ryan Blaney ready to roll? Are Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin okay?
NASCAR POLL: Chase Elliott destroyed Denny Hamlin, but should he be suspended? Bubba Wallace was! Vote!
Does the win mean anything to Blaney in the long run? Time will tell us. Note that the last time he won a race he won two in a row, winning at Michigan the week before heading to Daytona in 2021.
The future can wait, but Blaney’s wait is over.
Let’s move up a gear.
First gear: Denny Hamlin accuses Chase Elliott of ‘anger’ and calls for suspension
Boy is NASCAR in a Vlasic-sized pickle.
Could he really suspend his biggest star?
In the interest of fairness, he probably should. After all, the replay of Chase Elliott’s car turning left, hooking Denny Hamlin at right-back…straight into the fence…and just after the two made contact with Elliott going into the wall, is pretty damning. Especially given the precedent set by Bubba Wallace’s suspension from racing in October for running over Kyle Larson in Las Vegas in a similar, violent accident.
But there is some wiggle room here. First, and perhaps most importantly, Elliott denied any intention, saying contact with the wall caused him to lose control of his car. And, upon closer examination, Elliott was contacted from behind by Brad Keselowski, although it appeared to be coming after his car had already started to spin.
It’s another “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” for NASCAR, of course.
But Hamlin is among those who have made a decision.
“It’s a tantrum and he shouldn’t be racing next week,” Hamlin said. “The right back hooks are absolutely unacceptable. I do not care. It’s the same thing Bubba Wallace did with Kyle Larson. Exactly the same. He shouldn’t be running.
Second gear: Bubba Wallace hands the bird to Aric Almirola
The drama between Elliott and Hamlin made an earlier altercation in the same scene seem like ancient history.
Video posted to Twitter showed Aric Almirola and Wallace meeting to chat during a rain delay at the start of Stage 2. After Wallace bent over and started walking away, Almirola pushed him away with the two returning together while being separated by security. The conversation continued but no further contact was made.
The disagreement likely stemmed from minor contact between the two earlier in the race.
“At the start of the race I felt like I was giving Bubba a lot of room when we were racing against each other and when he caught up to me he shot me at the bird” , explained Almirola. “So I just went to ask him why he shot me the bird and he started talking and insulting me and I told him I wasn’t going to have this. Disappointing. That’s him , I know it.
Third gear: a not-so-lasting legacy
A difficult season reached cruel and unusual levels on Monday for Legacy Motor Club.
All three Organization participants went to the garage at almost exactly the same time, with Erik Jones and Noah Gragson both hitting debris and damaging radiators on the same lap.
And things didn’t improve after the repairs, as Gragson and Jimmie Johnson collided, causing an accident and prompting a caution. Together the three finished 32n/a (Jones), 36e (Gragson) and 37e (Johnson) a total of 627 laps behind.
Fourth gear: a second lap at Gateway
A run is barely long enough to get too big of an idea of what to expect at Gateway next week.
Joey Logano won last year’s inaugural event on the 1¼ mile oval which is shaped like Darlington and bank like Martinsville. Ford and Toyota combined to take the top six spots, with Erik Jones’ four laps being the only circuits led by a Chevrolet.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: NASCAR: Ryan Blaney ends drought and could Chase Elliott be suspended?