Mark McCarter: In NASCAR, winning is always in style

Mark McCarter: In NASCAR, winning is always in style

June 15th, 2017 by Mark McCarter in Sports - Nascar

Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr., right, greets Ryan Blaney in victory lane Sunday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.. Blaney won the race for his first Cup Series race victory, while Wallace became just the eighth black driver to compete in NASCAR's top series.

Photo by Matt Slocum

GQ magazine, that arbiter of male fashion for those who know Tommy Hilfiger is a designer and not a former Dodgers outfielder, has proclaimed NASCAR a "new touchstone" for "culture and style."

That's only one of two highly notable things that happened related to the Cup and Xfinity series visiting Pocono Raceway last weekend. (OK, three, if you want to count a black driver in the field for Sunday's Pocono 400.)

GQ raved that "all the guys working on the track, from the drivers to the pit crews, looked awesome."

The magazine went on to say NASCAR's "bold color schemes and logos feel genuine, authentic, and fresh because of their anti-design look We're living in an age when everything bad is good, and right now it's Nascar's (sic) turn to represent the worst — and thus the best — fashion has to offer."

It went on to show pictures of hoodies inspired by over-logoed NASCAR jackets and tri-color pants inspired by crew members' britches. I'd elaborate, but surely your new issue of GQ will be arriving any moment, and I'd hate to spoil it.

So let's turn to victory lane, a popular winner and the slim but growing possibility NASCAR's playoff system could get discombobulated.

Ryan Blaney didn't just earn his first Cup Series win, he beat Kevin Harvick to do so. Pretty amazing stuff there. Great last few laps.

Blaney is the 10th different winner in 14 races this year. There are 12 more races until the playoffs. So what are the chances of seven more different winners befouling the "win-and-you're-in" scenario?

Unlikely, but less far-fetched each week.

Consider those without a win this year. Harvick. Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth. Jamie McMurray. Clint Bowyer. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (I know, I know but there's always the chance for a sentimental win at Daytona). We're still waiting on Chase Ellliott's maiden victory, and it doesn't look like rookie Erik Jones is far behind.

Blaney became the third first-time winner in five races (Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega and Austin Dillon at Charlotte) and the fifth since last August (Chris Buescher at Pocono and Kyle Larson at Michigan).

Between 2011 and 2016, only AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola were first-timers. There were five in 2011 — Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, David Ragan and Regan Smith — but none has made a real impact.

This year feels different. This feels like the dawn of an era for the new faces NASCAR has been banking on and desperately needs. I can't tell you that Blaney is going to become the next great fan favorite. I can tell you there was a parade of fellow competitors going to victory lane to congratulate him.

And he looked genuine and authentic and fresh.

  •  Last race: Blaney brought the Wood Brothers their 99th career win but first since 2011.
  •  Next race: Firekeepers Casino 400, Michigan International Speedway, 3 p.m. EDT Sunday, FS1
  •  Pick to win: Brad Keselowski.
  •  Pit notes: Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. was penalized three times for speeding on pit road in his Cup Series debut Sunday, then briefly passed out after the race. Wallace said he was "so bummed out and frustrated with myself," and that led to the medical episode. Wallace became only the eighth black driver to run a Cup Series race. Brad Keselowski's contract at Team Penske expires at year's end, but he hinted Tuesday he'll soon sign a new deal. Danica Patrick has gone viral this week after a video showed a testy exchange with fans who booed her for not signing autographs. She could have handled things better, but NASCAR allows too many people up-close access, and fans — of all sports — must realize the athletes are in their workplace and have greater priorities than autographs.
  •  Fast Five: 1. Martin Truex Jr., 2. Jimmie Johnson., 3. Kyle Larson., 4. Brad Keselowski., 5. Harvick.
  •  What they're saying: "I get really hard on myself when I mess up It's just something I've got to work on. I like to win. I can drop the mic and pick my nose, but I don't want to do that." — Wallace, taking a shot at Busch's post-race churlishness last month at Charlotte.

Contact Mark McCarter at markfmccarter@gmail.com.

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