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The Freshies - The Rise of NASCAR, Blocking, and Villains at Dover

Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images

By Adam Carabine

Best Attendance

Whatever happens in the world of NASCAR, there always seems to be a contingent of fans who claim that the sport is dying. They claim that attendance is down, the on-track product is suffering, it’ll never be like it was in the ‘good old days,’ etc. 

The fact of the matter is, it looks like NASCAR is on the upswing.  Dover looked close to being sold out, attendance overall has been up all season, and even the TV ratings are showing improvement.  

There are always going to be growing pains when something new comes along, and the Next-Gen car is an example of that. The short track package in particular could use some tweaking, and things aren’t quite where NASCAR would like them to be.  That is obvious.  

But to claim that things are currently awful and that the sport is dying is just not accurate.  A statement like that reflects poorly on whoever says it, as the evidence is clear.  NASCAR is trending in the right direction.  

Best and Worst Blocking

Much was made of the aero-blocking that was being done at the end of the race.  It was clear that leader Denny Hamlin’s car was not quite as fast as runner-up Kyle Larson’s.  However, Hamlin was able to keep Larson behind him with the power of aerodynamics.

For some, that’s disappointing.  They want to see the fastest car be the victor each week, and have them really deserve the win.  I’m sure it doesn’t help things that the villainous Denny (more on that later) Hamlin was the one doing the blocking.  If it’s Chase Elliott earning a win the same way, you probably wouldn’t see as much hate.  

As for what I think, of course you’d like to see more green flag passes for the lead.  But you also can’t fault the drivers for making the best of what they’ve been given.  The Next-Gen car is hard to pass with, especially for the lead. There are ways to exploit your lead if you have clean air, and aero-blocking is one of them.  

Does it make for the most exciting racing? No.  Is it within the rules? Absolutely.  And at this point since Denny has announced that he cares more about winning individual races than he does winning a championship, all the power to him. 

Worst Paint Scheme

This week’s worst paint scheme is a no-brainer.  Jimmie Johnson’s #84 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar Toyota Camry was uninspired.  

This guy is one of the most decorated drivers in the history of NASCAR, and unfortunately this week his car had the worst decorations.  Tell me I’m wrong.

Photo Credit: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Best Stats

Chase Elliott may not have won the race, but he had some impressive numbers in Dover.  His 5th place finish after starting P29 put him as the biggest mover on the day.  He had the most quality passes (green flag passes while in the Top-15) with 36, and his 8 extra stage points gave him 40 total on the day.  

Speaking of stage points, Martin Truex Jr. scored the most all day, with 17.  That put him only two points behind Denny Hamlin for most overall at Dover.  

Joey Logano had a rough day.  His P16 finish doesn’t sound so terrible, but he was passed 18 more times under green than he passed anyone else - the worst of any driver at Dover.

And finally, Dover’s 6 DNFs was the most we’ve had in a single race since Atlanta back in February.  The Daytona 500 still has had the most of any race this season.  Dover ranks third.

Worst Villain

Has Denny Hamlin surpassed Kyle Busch as NASCAR’s newest villain?  It’s a question that came up during this week’s episode of Racing Refresh Happy Hour, and it got me thinking.  

Kyle Busch was absolutely the villain for a long time.  He was cranky, rude, and downright belligerent, even when he didn’t need to be.  

Since moving to RCR, Busch has mellowed a lot, and Hamlin has seemingly taken over that role.  He certainly gets enough boos.  

But here’s where I’m having trouble with it.  Back in Kyle Busch’s grumpy days, there was no question that it was genuine.  His ire was terrifying, but it was real.  You definitely didn’t want to get on that bad side.  And then that hard exterior became so hard to shake. He’d win a race (and he won a lot of them) and he would be so happy to rub it in your face.  He would gloat like he was the scrawny kid that put on a bunch of muscle over the summer holidays.

I think Denny’s heel turn is all just an act.  It’s a marketing ploy, and an attempt to keep eyes on him.  Whether it’s for his own #11 car with Joe Gibbs Racing, or his 23XI team, Denny has found a way to keep himself in the conversation.

But it’s not real.  I truly believe Hamlin has no desire to be the villain.  I think this is his way of keeping himself, his properties, and the sport itself in the limelight.  I’m not against people marketing themselves, and I’m not even against people playing up ‘characters’ in order to do that.  But I don’t feel like Hamlin does a good job of playing the villain.  It’s not genuine, and it’s not believable.   

All of this being said, I’m personally annoyed by it, so maybe his villain act is actually working?

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