This weekend’s race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL separates the old-school fans from the newer NASCAR fans quicker than anything else does in the sport.
Most of the old-school fans like me look at the ROVAL as a gimmick. I have no problem with including a road course in the NASCAR playoffs, but this is not a road course. Newer fans love the mayhem and unpredictable nature of the racing the ROVAL is sure to produce again.
Some of the best racing in NASCAR history on non-short tracks or superspeedway tracks happened at Charlotte before downforce increased and power decreased. Including a gimmick race like this in the playoffs would be like Major League Baseball playing playoff games on a Little League Field or the National Football League using Canadian Football League rules for their conference championships. This is not racing fit for the NASCAR playoffs.
Until Ryan Newman came to Roush Fenway Racing, the whole world believed this team was way behind the competition. While they are still not on the same level asJoe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing or Team Penske, the program is better than we thought it was over the last few years.
It was way back in 2014 the last time a Roush driver was able to post double-digit top 10s in a season. That season, two of their drivers, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, managed that task in the same year. This season, Newman has finished in the top 10 in 11 races so far, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has only done so twice.
Stenhouse Jr.’s record actually got worse this year, with fewer top fives, top 10s and lead-lap finishes. This poor performance while his teammate was qualifying for the NASCAR playoffs cost Stenhouse Jr. his job in favor of Chris Buescher. As they run into each other at the track this weekend, I can imagine Stenhouse Jr. saying with all of the Seinfeld-esque disgust, “Hello, Newman.”
Cuts are Coming
It seems like each and every week we hear about ways that NASCAR is considering changing the sport to save teams money. This week, we heard the rumor that NASCAR is considering removing live pit stops in the lower levels of the national tours.
In the past, every time NASCAR has thought up a way to save teams money, the teams have found a new way to spend that money. Technology costs lots of money, and as the sport gets more technical, the amount of gadgets and expensive engineers has soared.
When I used to attend open practices at tracks for teams, it was common to see four or five mechanics and maybe one engineer on his or her computer. Now, when you see practice sessions on race weekends, there is a complete table of engineers tapping away on their computers.
The reason for the need for cuts is obvious because series sponsor money has dropped quickly. NASCAR and the teams also know they might not get as lucky with the next television contract, which is keeping the tracks and teams healthy now. Cuts are coming in NASCAR racing, but I hope they change their mind on pit stops because that would take away one of the team aspects of the sport.
Fantasy Insight – ROVAL
Last Week’s Results
Win: Kevin Harvick – Finished seventh
Place: Denny Hamlin – Finished third
Show: Kyle Busch – Finished second
Long Shot: Clint Bowyer – Finished eighth
This week’s race is the first of the elimination races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The track was also tweaked to make it better than last year’s ROVAL, which adds to the unpredictable nature of this event. In statistics, you need a minimum of five pieces of data to have any relationships develop. This season, the smartest money has been placed on the big three teams always finishing up front.
Win: Harvick – Good road-course racer, but does that translate to the ROVAL?
Place: Busch – Will be up front as usual.
Show: Martin Truex Jr. – Going for the first-round sweep.
Long Shot: Newman (80-to-1 odds) Has a good shot to pull off the huge upset.