Home / Aaron Bearden / Pace Laps: Mediocre Monster, Trouble Teammates and Bad Calls
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Pace Laps: Mediocre Monster, Trouble Teammates and Bad Calls

Sprint Cup: No Passing Zone – When even winner Jimmie Johnson says, “rough race today” then you know conditions were difficult at Dover. The Monster Mile was simply mediocre. NASCAR’s new rules package meshed with aerodynamic awfulness and the result was that passing was near impossible.

At times, during 15-lap stretches of the race, only one position within the top 25 would change. That’s right; one. It would take almost a full green-flag run for tires to wear and driver skill to finally make a difference in being able to push past some cars. Your opportunities to move up were simple: restarts, pit strategy, wait 50+ laps. And that was about it. For drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who started from the rear, there was no chance at ever making their way to the front. It was just too difficult, “clean air” dirtying the competition to the point everyone seemed to leave the racetrack frustrated.

“The top 5 cars were so equal that it was just – you couldn’t pass,” Johnson said. “You really just could not get by somebody. If they made a bobble or a mistake you could close up, but then the next set of corners, they would get back to the bottom and run a line and kind of hold you up and you couldn’t get anywhere.”

Competition concerns like this one were doubtless on the mind of the nine-member driver council that had their second meeting with NASCAR officials Saturday night. Those in attendance remained tight-lipped but it’s clear the single-file, “stuck in place” style of racing like the type we saw at Dover this weekend has left everyone involved with the sport concerned. Tom Bowles

XFINITY: Teammates Clash at Dover – Roush Fenway Racing is in a critical state, especially with Jack Roush’s advanced age and no clear replacement for him within the organization. On Saturday, Chris Buescher brought the team to Victory Lane for the second time this season, but did so using fuel strategy – the way Roush has won multiple races in the past.

However, Buescher, the promising driver that could be the future of the team, got into teammate Darrell Wallace, Jr. with 10 laps remaining at Dover. The two were not pleased with each other, and the lack of sponsorship for both drivers is likely a major part in their displeasure.

Regan Smith captured a $100,000 check due to the first Dash 4 Cash event occurring at Dover. Smith earned a third at Dover and would have benefited from Buescher running out of gas, but he was running inside of the top five throughout the day at a track that is statistically mediocre for him. As the season moves on, he appears to be running stronger than his teammate, Chase Elliott, and that will be something to watch for. Joseph Wolkin

IndyCar: Blame it on the Rain – Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing are the dominant teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The two organizations have scored four wins, 12 podiums, and hold the top three positions in the championship points standings. Through the first half of 2015, they’ve been nearly unstoppable. That is, until rain falls.

Three of the first eight races of the 2015 IndyCar season have been ran in wet conditions. In those three races, Penske and Ganassi have gone winless, combining for just two podium finishes.
The results aren’t due to poor performance – the two teams have led 74 out of 162 laps in the three races. However, they’ve failed to play strategy correctly in each race, falling short of victory lane.
It all started in Louisiana. Juan Pablo Montoya led a race-high 31 laps, but his team brought him down pit lane at the wrong time, resulting in a fifth-place finish while James Hinchcliffe drove to victory. On the first day in Detroit, the team came to pit road too early for rain tires, letting Carlos Muñoz and Marco Andretti drive off to a large lead. On day two, Montoya’s pit crew failed to give him enough fuel. After his teammates crashed out, Montoya stalled on the last lap to finish 10th.
Penske and Ganassi have been nearly unstoppable on dry tracks, but given their issues in the wet, don’t be surprised if you see other teams doing rain dances at future races.  Aaron Bearden

Short Tracks: It was one of the biggest weekends of the year for the 1/4-mile North Carolina bullring fondly known as “The Madhouse”. The NASCAR K&N Pro East Series was visiting Bowman Gray Stadium with what was sure to be close quartered racing in the 150 lap event. Out front though, Scott Heckert set sail after being fastest in practice and qualifying for a flawless victory. His HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks teammates Dalton Sargeant and J.J. Haley swept the podium.

The news of the two-day show was in the weekly headlining Modified division where multi-time track champion Tim Brown was looking to set a record as the winningest competitor of all-time at the Winston-Salem facility. The driver, who works for Michael Waltrip Racing during the week, passed Ronnie Clifton on the outside for the lead in the second half of the 100 lap feature to go on for the record setting victory. Brown did not stop there as he went on to get career win number 75 the following night. Aaron Creed

Sports Cars: Inappropriate Officiating Leads to Injury at Belle Isle – Last weekend, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship held the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Belle Isle Park on the undercard of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Much like INDYCAR and Pirelli World Challenge (who cancelled their second race, which was due to air live on CBS Sports Network, due to rain), TUSC struggled with rain.

Most of the race was dry. There were showers from time to time, but not enough to allow for rain tires. In the last three minutes of the race, rain started falling once again. The No. 58 Porsche driven by Jan Heylen got caught out by the conditions and spun into the tires in turn 1. Rather than put out a full course caution, which would have ended the race at a reduced pace, IMSA officials decided to keep the situation under a local yellow. Heylen was in harm’s way the whole time.

On the final lap of the race, it started to pour. With everyone on slicks, the track became a skating rink. Officials made the decision to send workers out to Heylen’s car while drivers were still at speed. At the same time, James Davison crashed his Aston Martin at the start-finish line, breaking the steering on his car. Davison then hit the safety truck before plowing into the tires. A worker can be seen on the tire barrier in pain after the crash. Leh Keen and Spencer Pumpelly were also involved.

https://youtu.be/6pvfCl2AYB0?t=1h18m

Heylen was taken to the infield care center, but was ultimately released (Heylen later tweeted that the doctor told him that he’s “still Belgian.”). However, one unidentified worker was taken to the hospital. According to IMSA, the injured safety worker is in stable condition in a local hospital in Detroit. He suffered several broken ribs in the incident, a collapsed lung and a “non-operative injury to the spleen and kidneys.”

These injuries were unneccessary. IMSA knew that Heylen had crashed already before the rain picked up in intensity. They should have put the full course yellow out with maybe half a lap to go (for winners Dane Cameron and Eric Curran). Perhaps that would have allowed the drivers to slow down enough to prevent the incident from magnifying to the degree that it ultimately did. Also, they should have waited to move the truck out. Never want to see that. Phil Allaway

NHRA: Win a VIP experience with Ron Capps! Enter by June 14 to enter a VIP NHRA experience with Ron Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car team at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Winner will get two (2) reserved seat tickets for Saturday along with VIP parking, two NAPA hats and a race proven piston or rod, all signed by Ron, as well as the opportunity to meet and take photos with Ron. See our official entry page for complete information and to enter.

NHRA Drag Racing

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19 comments

  1. Avatar

    I am fearful that NASCAR is pleased with this aero package. How could they be, and shame on them. Worst racing in sometime. Odd season. How is anybody’s interest being held?

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      The interest is not being held, look at the ratings, look at the stands, lots of empty
      seats at Dover, and they’ve already ripped out about 30,000 seats.

      I had the race on for background noise while I was working.. Barely paid attention to it..

      Friday, the truck race, who ever was in the lead at the end of lap one had a huge lead…
      I knew it was going to be a stinker, so I didn’t even see them finish lap 2…. I changed
      the channel…

      Now they are talking about keeping these rules for next year… Costs too much to
      change the cars… How can they not change them, they can’t afford to keep them,
      by the end of next year there will be nobody left watching any of it.

      This whole aerodynamic thing is stupid… I know there has always been aerodynamics
      involved, and teams are always trying to make downforce… And all the cars are the same…

      They used to be able to play with the front fenders and the angle of the rear spoiler… Some
      cars were set up for more downforce, and higher corner speed, but didn’t have it on the straights,
      some cars set up for less downforce, lower corner speed, but they could haul the mail down the straight,
      approximately same lap times, but the cars were different enough that they could pass…

      The rear spoiler used to be a $15 chunk of steel… Now its a $2000 piece of crap that has to be bought
      from the Nascar approved vendor, and I’m sure that company pays Nascar dearly for the privilege.

      The cars used to rely more on mechanical grip… Some guys setting them up soft for the long
      run, some setting them up harder for speed on the short run… Again.. creating a difference
      between the cars… Now they are all pretty much the same, the purpose of the suspension now
      is to get the body work to seal to the ground.

      They used to be able to choose their rear end gears, and transmission gears, now all that is
      dictated to them… The guy with a lot of confidence in his engine, or nothing to lose, runs
      a lower gear, and can pull up out of the corner harder, but might not have as much top end
      at the end of the straight.

      BSki had a good tweet a few weeks ago… Something along the lines of “Downforce is
      ruining all forms of motorsports”

      I don’t care if they are setting a new track record every week, I can’t see the difference
      between 180mph and 190mph, just show me a good race… If I wanted to see a parade
      of cars in single file, I’d go stare at the highway.

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      kb and Bob have pretty much captured my thoughts. Track speed records mean nothing. If you can’t pass I don’t care how fast they go. Get rid of as much downforce as possible. Get back to mechanical grip. Get the cars up off the ground so we can see them bounce. Make them look like something that runs on the street. The racing will be SO much better and people will be able to relate to what they see.

      Most articles now reference aero-push. Have we reached a tipping point or is NASCAR still pretending the racing is wonderful because we have “close racing”. Close racing means “can’t pass”.

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      Good comments by all of you. I don’t know how NASCAR can be happy with this crap. I know they were willing to trade “racing” for “racertainment” but what is being presented every week isn’t even entertaining. I used to spend my entire weekend on NASCAR, I’d work my plans around the racing – not anymore.

  2. Avatar

    it’s clear the single-file, “stuck in place” style of racing like the type we saw at Dover this weekend has left everyone involved with the sport concerned.

    Tom, you would think so, but IMO I see no evidence that NASCAR, the only entity that can MAKE any substantive changes is aware of it.

    For the past several years, I have considered Dover so boring that I was really annoyed that we were still going but my family (except for me) are all Johnson fans, so off to the race we went. However about a year or so ago, Dover implemented their “extra” security plan and botched it. They didn’t have enough staff – the lines to get thru the gates into the track were over an hour long. It was a hot and humid day and it was not a good thing. So we dropped our tickets to the spring race. Last year, they changed the parking so that instead of being able to park at the mall, we had to park down in some field by the track — of course they still charged us the $30 for the privilege and that was the end of it for us.

    considering what I saw on TV yesterday and I didn’t bother to come in to watch it until around 3 p.m. or so, I didn’t miss a thing by not going to the track or even not watching it on tv.

    NASCAR has a problem with its “product”. If the drivers were finally willing to go as a group and try and discuss it with management, well, that says a lot, but I don’t expect it to change a thing, which is really a shame for the fans.

    • Avatar

      Another reason, besides the high speed parade, I don’t go to the track anymore… Its not a full
      weekend anymore… Less support races, less practice, more restrictions on where you can go,
      security in the stands telling you to put your shirt on, and sit down, the little cooler thing after
      9/11 was a bunch of garbage, then there were telling us there was a 6 beer limit even though
      the itty bitty cooler held 8….

      Went to Watkins Glen for 10 years.. It was so much fun back in the mid 90’s, girls flashing,
      mud puddles, coolers bigger than coffins in the stands… Friday morning was a 5 and a half
      hour cup practice. 7:30 to 1:00 I think it was… Walk the track with the scanners, and listen to
      them talking about shocks and springs and all that… Saturday was a full 10 hour day of on track
      activities, and you could walk the track and see what kind of view you had from all the different grandstands, lots of parties and stuff going on in town also….

      Fast forward 10 years… You had to sit in your assigned seat the whole weekend, they limited
      where you could go so you couldn’t see the whole track, far far less practice, on track activity
      went down to almost nothing, and then we had to find something else to do…

      Went to Texas a few years ago, just for old times sake, what a waste… Flew in on Friday,
      some quick practice on Saturday, then a parade of Busch of cars… Then an absolute stinker
      of a race on Sunday…. It was horrible, I paid decent money to be entertained, and they barely
      entertained me… And only for a few hours… Then I had to pay to go find something else to do…

      I’ve said this before… The cars have gotten SO loud… Sitting in a bubble, can’t talk to anybody for 3
      hours… Went to a local track, and had an absolute blast…. Took me a few weeks to figure out why
      it was so much fun… Mufflers… It was still loud, still sounded like a race, but you could talk to the people you were with… Mufflers added a LOT to the race experience… Just my 2 cents, and I NEVER EVER thought I would say put mufflers on a race car…

      I have no plans to go to another race anytime soon, if ever.. I see no point, its not the economy, its
      the crummy experience for the money.. The last few races I went to, I left feeling like I got cheated..
      That didn’t used to happen, I’ve probably been to 30 races, and there have been quite a few times, just
      went for Friday, practice and a mod race at loudon, and I’ve done a Friday at Phoenix, practice, qualifying,
      I think a Southwest, or Winston west race…

      Now I don’t even care.

    • Avatar

      Ah memories…good times.

    • Avatar

      Well said! Yes, beyond the lousy racing on the track, the other thing that is missing is the “fun”.

  3. Avatar

    I am looking for the weekly race stats of how many and to who received the lucky dogs. These and the wave a rounds are part of the smoke and mirror show that Nascar is hiding, I believe they think, they are fooling us

  4. Avatar

    I am finally ready to accept the fact that NASCAR has no intention of fixing the aero…………(sorry dozed of ) issues that keep the racing dull and the fans agitated. As the Xfinicup race Saturday illustrates there is enough corporate endorsements and TV money to keep all the Frances in silk undies even if no one shows up or tunes in to watch. As long as there is enough champagne for the cornflakes who cares what the peasants want.

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      ..Tis the company mantra it seems.

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      As much as I don’t want to defend the Frances, I don’t think there is any “fixing” the aero problem. Look at F1, they have been trying to reduce downforce for years, and every time the engineers find sometime else

      Think about this: Gordon claiming that the Hendricks cars are short on downforce. True or not the fun part is that the winning cars are Chevies and all of them fit the templates. So wheres the difference? And how are you going to fix that as long as you allow ANY variation?

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      They need to get them up off the ground… This sealing the car to the
      ground thing is stupid.. Michael Waltrip several years ago had a good idea,
      Keep all the bodywork above the frame rails.. Go as low as you dare, but
      eventually you are going to slide on your frame rails into the wall…

      Edwards even suggested building some lift into the cars, upforce..

      Every team, no matter what the rules, are going to try and build as much
      downforce into the car as they possibly can… You can’t stop that, that’s
      racin’.

      The rules right now are built around sealing the car to the ground, which
      creates a TON of downforce…

      Also, they need to let them play with the cars a bit more… Let them screw around
      with the flare on the fenders again, let them choose their own gearing, let them adjust the rear spoiler again…

      Right now all the cars are literally almost identical, let
      the team determine their own balance of drag vs down force like they used to.
      Higher corner speed vs lower straight away speed or vise versa… Different gears to get a good run up off the corner but with a lower straight away speed, vs the
      other team that is pulling off the corner as hard, but has a bit more top end at the
      end of the straight.

      Just my opinion… Get them off the ground, lower downforce, let the springs and shocks and suspension be used like springs and shocks and suspension are supposed to be, don’t use them to seal the body off to the ground.. And let them play a little bit so that every car isn’t exactly the same… Same HP, same gearing, same drag, same downforce….. Its like IROC, and we all know what happened to them..

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      Along those lines, make them use the production grill, hood and trunk lid. That way at least we wouldn’t have to see one of these kit cars decaled up as if it were a Toyota Camary. Talk about stretching the limits of the imagination.

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      Don’t forget that you can generate downforce by letting air go under a car and controlling it path. Notice that the noses of all modern F1 cars are up in the air.

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      How about going back to more short tracks where racing is put in the drivers hands, not some engineer in a wind tunnel. These 1 1/2 mile tracks are gawd awful to watch and the schedule is plastered with them. Funny people don’t have many complaints about the racing at Martinsville.

  5. Avatar

    I feel that I would have to be a complete fool to either pay to see a nascar race or waste a Sunday afternoon watching on the tube. nascar needs to go away if they present a product and call it a race.

  6. Avatar

    Great comments. Agree with almost all of them. I fear things will continue to get worse until the ratings dip so low that the ridiculous tv contracts disappear. That is the only thing that will force NASCAR to change things up. TV has been running the sport since 2003 when NEXTEL took over and Brian forced the chase into a sport in which a chase/playoff format does not fit.

    For anyone that thinks the tv coverage is what makes a race suck, I can assure you that was not the case at Dover yesterday. With the exception of lead lap cars passing cars already a lap down, once the really slow cars and drivers were lapped (by about lap 50) it was a parade.

    Janice, the security lines never looked like they went beyond a 20 minute wait. Maybe they’ve hired more people or maybe less people are showing up.

    And yes Paltex, I do kind of feel like a complete fool for wasting my time/money going to the race. The only saving grace was spending some quality time with friends that I don’t get to spend much time with often. The night before the race I saw the band Rush in concert. Those tickets were $150+ but I walked away feeling it was worth every cent. I used to feel that way when I went to a Dover race but it’s been a long time.

    • Avatar

      hanging out with good friends that you don’t see often is a good enough reason to spend the $. I’m sorry that you didn’t see a good race because having a good time at the races with good friends is the best!