NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Things We Didn’t Learn at Kentucky

  1. What worked and what didn’t with the rules

It was hard to get a handle on the package this week as there were simply too many other variables between the repave and reconfiguration of the track and a different, harder tire from Goodyear. The small changes we saw at Charlotte Motor Speedway were promising and the slightly bigger ones at Michigan International Speedway even more so, but Kentucky Speedway was a wreckfest. Whether that was due to the package, the repave or the tires is simply unknown for now.

NASCAR may consider running the package again at Michigan, which would be helpful for the teams to gather more data. However, if it’s slated to be implemented everywhere next year, NASCAR would be well-served to have an open test at Charlotte first to get better data on a mile-and-a-half track, as those are the most common tracks on the circuit.

  1. How to get good racing on a newly repaved track

If there is, in fact, a way to get better racing out of a new surface, nobody’s found it yet. Of course, running at night didn’t help, and the harder tires didn’t help matters either. Tracks need to be redone from time to time, but that should be necessitated by the track becoming unsafe, not difficult or uncomfortable. Racing is supposed to be difficult and uncomfortable. Hopefully the repave trend is over for a while, since there are very few tracks left without a recent one, and maybe the racing surfaces can survive the weather longer than previous pavement could.

  1. That tires like Fred Flintstone’s don’t work very well in racing

Actually, fans learned this one ages ago.  NASCAR and Goodyear, on the other hand, appear to have missed the memo. Moving on.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Harder tires aren’t popular amongst competitors or fans. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
  1. Whether we’ll see anyone else win their way into the Chase

Just a few weeks ago, the conversation was whether we’d see 16 or more winners this season before the Chase. With eight races remaining before that field is set, it’s possible that we’ll see five different faces in Victory Lane… but highly unlikely. Brad Keselowski shut out any takers at Kentucky with his fourth win of the season, and a quick glance at the remaining tracks and winless drivers shows a few opportunities, but more likelihood of repeat visits.

There are a couple of standout possibilities. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Michigan or Pocono Raceway and AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen International come to mind. On the other hand, a couple of drivers who looked to be on the brink in May, like Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon, have cooled off a bit. Early in the season, five or six different winners in eight races is no big thing; at midseason, five or six different winners in eight weeks is unlikely. Five or six different winners who don’t have a win already? That’s an even steeper number.

  1. Why archaic technology is still used

A pit penalty for Martin Truex, Jr. on Saturday, while absolutely the correct call under the rule book, does bring to mind the questions of why, in a day where NASCAR has more technology on pit road and in the cars than ever, pit road speeds are still averaged rather than simply based on simple speed or the reason the needle tops 45 (or whatever the limit may be at any given track) at any point.  It can be done without adding a speedometer — as a nod to the purists — and would eliminate the current practice of speeding in a particular segment. Listen to any team’s radio on Sunday and you’ll hear a crew chief reminding his driver to speed at a certain point, as Truex did Saturday night. The solution is simple and attainable here.

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salb

Why do the teams know where the timing lines are on pit road? doesn’t that encourage the sort of thing that happened with Truex? If they can’t/won’t let fans know where the timing lines are on the track used to determine running order, why give teams that edge on pit road?

rg72

Exactly. It’s the equivalent of cops publicizing where every speed trap is located ahead of time.

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