OBSERVATIONS: Johnsonville 180

Fans have been begging for more road courses and short tracks with Road America being one of those mentioned. Saturday’s Johnsonville 180 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series proved why.

Although the event was dry at parts with the field single-file, the battles for position that broke out in the second half were worth every single penny of admission. They were close, with drivers trying to out-smart each other through the 14-turn course en route to the checkered flag.

There may have been more battles than giving credit for, which perhaps would result in the event having a higher grade, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell watching NBCSN’s broadcast. The course may be four miles in length, but we need to rid of some of the commercials here. Furthermore, saying that they’re part of “NASCAR non-stop” does not make them less painful. Combined with Dave Burns and Dale Jarrett in the booth, and this was one of their poorest events. 

James Davison almost played the role of spoiler, closing on Justin Allgaier in the late stages. However, a mistake was costly and proved to be too much for him to overcome as the JR Motorsports driver cruised to his fourth win of the season. If there was any question about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s organization and their strength after a quiet summer, those questions are now being erased as we near the playoffs.

The final couple of races before they begin will prove to be interesting between Allgaier and Christopher Bell, though, with only a mere five points separating them for the regular season championship. Bell entered Road America with the advantage, but contact from competitors on two occasions handed him a poor finish.

He was first knocked-off the road after contact with Allgaier, followed by being punted around by Matt Tifft. For the record, though, he still gets our accolade of the day for how he handled the first incident.

You can’t just let this event go without speaking of the special drivers whom entered the fray for a one-off. While Bill Elliott stole some of the headlines, Katherine Legge and Conor Daly left the lasting impression.

Legge ran up front in the top-five following a strategy play before fading back due to a spin; however, she managed to fight her way back to a top-15 which is commendable in her second career series start. Meanwhile, Daly ran as high as 10th in his first ever XFINITY race until getting caught up in an incident not of his making late. It’d be nice to see both of these drivers get more opportunities as they proved they can run right there with the best.

There’s also this one lasting thought to think about, too, especially if we’re getting more road courses.



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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.