What Will Teams Do Next with Lug Nuts?
Just weeks removed from the new lug nut policy set in place by NASCAR, which states each car should have all five lug nuts secured in a safe manner, we’ve already found our first naughty boys and girls.
Following last week’s win at Kansas Speedway, Kyle Busch‘s No. 18 Toyota was found with all five lug nuts in sight, however, not all were tight, and it’s believed by some there was some tomfoolery afoot in the Joe Gibbs Racing pit.
Crew chief Adam Stevens will be on the sideline for this weekend’s action at Dover International Speedway, with Todd Berrier filling duties for the second time in 2016, having recently subbing for a suspended Cole Pearn (crew chief for Martin Truex, Jr.) at Phoenix International Raceway.
So, with the first group caught, where do the other teams go next? One of the ways the No. 18 team may have tried to slip the radar was by shaving the grooves off the stud and simply gluing the lug nut to the wheel to visually appear as attached.
Sly, devious and furtive. These are classic race team shenanigans at the podium once again. Can’t say I hate it. As author Yehuda Berg put it, “If you are messing around all day and then scream for certainty, you’re not going to get it.”
Or, you know, just follow the rules.
Sounds easy for us, but for more than 65 years, that has not been the NASCAR way. Unlike the American racing series we love, other sports despise the pushing of limits and prefer their athletes to play within the rules. NASCAR and many of its fans see it as simply trying.
As we enter Dover, the question remains for teams: Follow the rule, or try a little harder?
Why Did Red Bull Swap Kvyat and Verstappen for Spain?
Move over, kid. There is an even younger kid on the block, and his name is Max Verstappen.
You may have heard of him. He became – and will remain – the youngest driver to ever start a Formula 1 grand prix last year, just started his second season at Toro Rosso and has been a constant headline in the sport for all the right reasons.
In a shocking twist of events since the sport last raced in Russia, the 18-year-old Verstappen will replace Daniil Kvyat for Red Bull starting at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. As for Kvyat, the 22-year-old Russian will return to Toro Rosso, the team that started his F1 career in 2014.During Thursday’s FIA press conference, the FIA decided to seat both Kvyat and Verstappen alongside each other, as if to test each driver on how they could handle the situation.
From Kvyat’s point of view, it’s a bewildering scene. The young driver has made headlines recently after making contact with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the last two races, hitting him twice in the opening two turns at Russia before being handed a 10-second penalty.
Though his attitude was brash and reckless, I loved his audacious vocabulary afterward; he brings forth a level of personality F1 dearly needs. However, though it makes someone like me a little excited for next week’s race, it clearly didn’t fit right with team boss Christian Horner.
But many believe that was not the only reason for the mid-season swap. Red Bull could have made this decision in order to keep Verstappen from the hands of Ferrari, which has a near-retiree in Kimi Raikkonen. With a new connection with Ferrari power, Toro Rosso would not be a comfortable place for a favorite youngster in Red Bull’s eyes.
I just can’t stop thinking about Kvyat and how sharp of a jab this must’ve felt. Basically, Red Bull sees more value in Verstappen and decided to take action right at the sign of trouble. Though two races removed from a powerful podium result in China, Red Bull likely already had Kvyat’s near future planned out. If you thought Jean-Eric Vergne missing a Red Bull opportunity two straight years before losing his TR seat for 2015 was bad, wow.
An extra burn comes after looking at the standings, where Kvyat is ahead of Verstappen by eight points and in front of TR teammate Carlos Sainz, Jr. by 17 points despite missing the opening round in Australia.
Certainly one of the sport’s most intriguing situations in past years, two of the youngest talents in the sport will be tested like never before.
Do the Small Teams Have True Potential in Truck Series?
Two of the standout stories of Speedweeks in Daytona came on the Camping World Truck Series side, with Ryan Truex and Parker Kligerman. Two small teams with slightly more seasoned drivers were major threats to win the season-opening event at Daytona until Johnny Sauter stole the show on the final lap.
Still, the second- and third-place finishes kicked off a strong start to the 2016 season, as each has been able to not only race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Kansas, but also notched another three top-10 finishes combined in those races. Sitting third in points, Truex is hot off a sixth-place result at Kansas, while Kligerman may still a little woozy after a 62-g impact into the turn 4 wall ended his night.By Kligerman’s words, the Ricky Benton Racing team could face another challenge approaching the next 1.5-mile track of Charlotte next week, as even making it to the race track may not be doable.
Two more small teams that have the potential to continue their hot starts are Tyler Young and Brandon Brown. Finishing sixth and fourth, respectively, at Daytona, each has finished in the top 20 in the three races since.
More than XFINITY or Sprint Cup, the Truck Series seems to have such a firm grasp on bringing small teams and young drivers to the forefront. Though grabbing a win against the likes of Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters may still be tough, they’re proving that the potential is there.
Is This the Time to Shine for Alex Bowman?
Welcome back, Alex Bowman. Following a six-month hiatus from NASCAR action, Bowman will return to the racetrack this Saturday at Dover, where he takes the wheel of the No. 88 JR Motorsports car recently driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne.
Bowman, who hasn’t been in an XFINITY car since Indianapolis Motor Speedway last summer, will have among his best opportunities to impress in the series where names are made. But what can we expect to see from Bowman? Two years in smaller Sprint Cup Series teams preceded a full XFINITY season with Robby Benton’s team in 2013.
Since ’13, the 23-year-old found seat time with Shigeaki Hattori and Tony Townley, making a combined three XFINITY starts in the past two seasons. The most valuable experience in the second-tier series came with JRM in 2014, when he made two starts in the No. 5, finishing 12th and 17th, respectively. Though the finishes aren’t spectacular, he qualified seventh and fifth in those races before spending much time in the top 10 throughout each event, even running out of fuel at the Phoenix race.
Something tells me this time around will be different. It takes luck and skill to achieve something in this sport, but once you get that prime opportunity in a strong ride, that extra want-to will shine through on the racetrack.
The question of whether or not Bowman, making his fifth XFINITY start at Dover, will need adjusting time will soon be answered. We all know he’d love to go out and prove Earnhardt right. But that is precisely where his experience level will pay off. Safe to say 71 Sprint Cup races will do that to you.
With a nine-race slate in place, it may seem like a pretty good deal in itself. For this Arizona native, this deal can make or break his career in NASCAR.
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.
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