I just finished watching the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series UNOH Battle At The Beach and needless to say, like anyone else who watched the finish of the race, I have my own opinion on the matter.
Before I get into the controversial finish between C.E. Faulk and Kyle Larson, I have to talk about the race track itself. I had a lot of negative feelings going into the event. I was dumbfounded when word came out that NASCAR would set up a temporary course on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile Daytona oval. However, after watching the late model race tonight and seeing how racy the track was, I have to say that I was impressed although I still would have preferred to see the event held at a permanent short track.
The feature event went better than I expected though the race had its share of beating and banging as would be expected in any late model short track race. There were numerous cautions but there were also several periods of good, hard racing as well. Everything built up to the final 10 laps that featured a duel for the race victory between C.E. Faulk and Kyle Larson.
Faulk dominated the second half of the 150-lap event while Larson saved his equipment until the very end. Larson took the lead from Faulk with eight laps remaining only for Faulk to make an aggressive but clean pass to get by going into the third turn later on the same lap. Larson tried to move Faulk out of the way in turns one and two the next lap but Faulk was able to hold his line and the race lead.
Things held steady between the two leaders until the final lap. Larson dive-bombed his car going into the third turn, getting into Faulk and getting his car sideways. Faulk held on only to get turned off the fourth turn by Larson. Faulk was sent spinning while Larson went on to cross the line first.
As someone who is a fan of late model short track racing, the finish was very disappointing on many fronts. It was very disheartening to see Faulk drive a smart and clean race all night long only for it to be taken from him in an accident that didn’t look like an accident. It would have been one thing had the two beat and banged but the only contact that happened between Faulk and Larson was initiated by Larson.
Unlike Faulk, Kyle Larson has big things lined up for him in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series. He has a bright future in the upper echelon of the sport and it seems to only be a matter of time before he makes it to the Sprint Cup circuit. He was only racing tonight’s event for fun. A driver that has as much talent as he has shouldn’t have to turn another driver to win a race.
Tonight’s event won’t turn Larson’s future one way or the other. It is very likely that he turned off a lot of fans. On the other hand, C.E. Faulk had everything to gain tonight. Even though he didn’t win, he did drive a fantastic race and hopefully he will reap some reward for his effort for hanging in there with the up and coming Larson.