Motorsports fans across America saw memorable moments aplenty this past weekend. And NASCAR provided most of them.
Most of it happened Saturday and much of it was set up by Mother Nature. It began at Michigan International Speedway Saturday afternoon in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race delayed for a couple of hours due to rain.
Brett Moffitt, a 24 year old from Iowa had never led a lap in 37 starts in the Truck series. That changed on the final lap when Moffitt charged past his Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters and young star William Byron as the two fought for the lead to secure his first career NASCAR touring series win.
Moffitt, who is running a limited schedule this season ,made no apologies after it was over.
“I’m here to win,” Moffitt said. “ I’m not going to wreck him (Peters) for it. I’m going to race him clean because I know he needs to get in the Chase, but this team needs to win and these guys deserve to win.”
As Moffitt was still celebrating, the NASCAR Xfinity series was in the final laps of its race not far away at the Road America road course in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin. Thanks to the rain delay in Michigan, the Truck and Xfinity races ran nearly simultaneously giving fans a workout with their TV remote.
The Truck race ended in time for fans to watch popular Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell lead 24 of the final 25 laps and hold off his Richard Childress Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan on a green-white-checkered flag finish to secure his first career NASCAR Touring series win. The driver, who competes fulltime in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series for Leavine Family Racing, is an underdog in the Cup series but popular with fans, and competitors, and his first win was a popular one.
Saturday night the attention turned to Texas Motor Speedway. In an IndyCar Series race delayed from June due to rain, the Firestone 600 finally reached its conclusion. James Hinchcliffe had dominated the race in June and that continued Saturday night with Hinchcliffe leading most of the final laps. In a three way side-by-side battle in the final laps though, it was Graham Rahal taking the checkered flag by 0.008 seconds; it was the fifth closest race in the history of the series. Rahal celebrated while a clearly disappointed Hinchcliffe could only wonder what had happened.
The most emotional victory of the weekend however came Sunday afternoon back at Michigan International Speedway.
In his 99th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start, 24-year-old Kyle Larson took the lead for the final time with nine circuits to go from leader Chase Elliott and executed perfect final laps to win by 1.2 seconds.
Many felt Larson’s first Cup win was long overdue. It was even more emotional for the driver after the untimely death of his close friend Bryan Clauson in a midget car accident on August 6 in Bellville Kansas. Larson, who graduated from the same open wheel ranks, knew in the final laps that the race was his. When he crossed the finish line Larson could be heard over his radio yelling the words Clauson said when he won. “Parked it!” Larson exclaimed.
“I was teared-up that whole last few laps, because I could just feel it,” Larson said in victory lane. “It was finally going to be it. This one is for the Clauson family. We really miss Bryan. We’re going to miss him. We parked it for him.”
The race was not only contested by two of NASCAR’s youngest rising stars, but marked the first time a graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity has won in the Sprint Cup series.
Sunday’s win also capped off an historic weekend for NASCAR as for the first time in its history, there were three first time winners in all three top touring series.
Exciting finishes, emotional celebrations, and three first time winners. There will no doubt be many more exciting finishes in the future, and many more first time winners, but a weekend filled with such events may never be seen again.