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Craig Murto: Off-weekend showcases new talent

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has an off weekend, it’s an opportunity for the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series to showcase new talent.

The Xfinity Series raced at Road America, the road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Though the race was won by veteran Justin Allgaier, newcomers Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer finished second through third respectively, with Elliott Sadler rounding out the Top 5.

Some in the motorsports media have picked up on the saying that “road courses are the new short tracks.” Well, no they’re not; road courses are road courses. But the combination of left and right turns, as well as elevation changes, often results in contact as drivers try to maneuver the heavy NASCAR vehicles at race speed.

And that contact often results in exciting racing and exciting finishes, as the Camping World Truck series provides every time it competes on Canadian tire motorsports park, the circuit in Ontario traditionally known as Mosport.

The 2018 visit to Mosport was no exception. On the final lap, 18-year-old Todd Gilliland, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM), appeared to be on his way to his first victory in one of NASCAR’s top divisions. But on the final righthander leading to the checkered flag, Gilliland left an opening on the inside, and KBM teammate Noah Gragson aggressively filled the hole. The two trucks made contact and spun, opening the door for another young driver, Justin Haley, to race through for the win.

Social media and satellite radio were abuzz with varying opinions after the race. Some thought Gragson, who is in the playoffs, had no chance of making the corner and was wrong to dive into the opening he perceived. Others felt that since Gilliland is not in the playoffs, he should have been a good teammate and allowed Gragson to make the pass once he was there.

Both views are wrong. The correct opinion is that the incident was “just racing.”

Former legendary car owner Junior Johnson would have approved of the racing we witnessed. He often told his drivers to either bring back the steering wheel or the trophy, but don’t come back at all if they don’t make every effort to win.

Gragson took the blame for the accident. But he would have been more to blame if he didn’t dive for the opening presented to him. If he didn’t take his only chance to win, he should hang up his helmet. The same goes for Gilliland; if he rolled over for his teammate on the last lap, he shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a racecar. It’s nice to see new talent that’s hungry to win.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities this weekend to see live racing, as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) returns to Summit Point, West Virginia. The three days of racing will be free of charge to spectators, and that includes camping. There is no better deal anywhere, and no better way to get your racing fix.

In fact, you can head to Summit Point on Saturday, and after the Saturday races head over to Winchester Speedway for the Winchester 200, featuring Super Late Models on dirt. It promises to attract some good cars and will be worth attending.

Hagerstown Speedway is off until Sept. 14-15, when it reopens for the Small Car Nationals. Modifieds will also be in action on the 15th.

Dominion Raceway will hold its big event of the year on Sept. 20, the Thursday night before the Richmond Cup race. It should attract the largest NASCAR Late Model car count Dominion has seen all year, including Philip Morris, who just won $5,000 at South Boston (Virginia) Speedway on Saturday night.

South Boston hosts the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Tour on Nov. 3, so mark that on your calendar.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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