The Dow Racing hauler has been loaded and locked, as the diesel cranks up and teams head for the planes home you can still smell the fireworks and fuel and tires in the air. A weekend that started P4 on the practice board ended in a flash of light and the scream of tires. Sparks shown the contact with wall and track.
Qualifying 10th put Austin in a great position for a stellar night in the Lonestar state. Expectations and hopes were high and big, but sometimes that just means they crash that much harder.
The Xfinity race and the Cup race mirrored each other with conditions, firing off tight at the three-quarter exit mark. The 3 car fell through the field early on and stabilized around 14. During the first stop the car slid beyond the sign for Austin, this put the 3 car straight and the 44 had come around and angled into his stall. This locked Austin in his pit and pushed him back around twenty-third.
Martin Truex Jr. took the race lead and charged through the field, after green flag stops Austin was the fastest car on the track and stayed ahead of Truex by sheer determination and speed. Willing the 3 car through the turns and riding it down the straights Austin slowly gained, caution came out and circled the Dow Chevrolet back to the front. Stop after stop the team made up positions and time on the slow road for Austin.
Slugger stayed on top of adjustments and the crew executed all night long. This propelled Austin to restarts inside the Top 10 and helped him gain positions, improving under green as high as 4th. A caution with 60 to go saw Austin and Martin stay out while everyone else pitted. That’s when Lady Luck got hungry and went looking for some food…
Having only 2 green laps on his tires, Slugger thought they would be every bit as good as sticker tires since practice they fired off faster on scuff tires. Instead, just after green the 3 car dropped.
This is where it gets fuzzy, so I will describe it as I see it on video. Coming off the turn the 11 was below the 48, they came up behind Austin, the 11 underneath pressured the 3 up, as Austin held his line and came off the turn a lane higher than the 11 the 48 got into the back of the 3 pitching it sideways. The tires grabbed as Austin corrected and shot him into the outside wall. Careening off the wall through traffic the black and white Dow Energy & Water painted Chevrolet pitched violently towards the inside wall. The front end skidded along the inside wall facing the famed 3 into oncoming traffic. When the smoke cleared 13 cars had been involved including the 27 of Paul Menard and 31 of Ryan Newman, both RCR teammates.
Adding insult to injury as the team scrambled to make repairs, NASCAR held the 3 team on pit road for speeding multiple times. While this is usually a penalty of starting at the tail of the field, they claim to have warned the team and therefore penalized them further.
After pit road fabrication the lap times maintained in the 30 second range which was the average for most of the night. Austin piloted the 3 to a 19th place finish. After the fight and scramble to the Top 5, an ounce of luck put Austin just 3 positions above his career average finish in Fort Worth. While it isn’t the result I wanted and it sure as heck isn’t the finish the team wanted, we can move forward knowing that the car was better than the result.
Besides, in the end… The hero still gets the girl.
“When it’s time to go you know you’re welcome back, where the people pledge allegiance to the Hag.”
-Pledge Allegiance To The Hag by Eric Church-