The Martinsville Speedway races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year were completely dominated in a manner never seen before. What, if anything, should NASCAR do to alleviate the dominance?
Brian Keith: NASCAR’s intent was sound in keeping packages as uniform as possible, given that the Gen-6 car is on its way out the door. Having said that, it rebuilt the 2020 schedule with the short tracks, specifically Martinsville, taking a far more central role on the calendar. The short tracks won’t keep their luster with shows where the race leader doesn’t change for 90% of the race. Short spoilers would be a good start.
Mark Kristl: This package is not conducive to short tracks. When a driver complains about dirty air at a short track, there is a problem. NASCAR is too restrictive on the inspection requirements. If NASCAR deregulated some of those requirements, teams could work to find an advantage where this sort of thing does not happen. Sadly, I doubt NASCAR will do so, even at the short tracks.
Josh Roller: I don’t mind a dominating performance every once in a while, but Brad Keselowski‘s dominance in April was a one-time deal. Is there anything to the giant spoiler theory? Keselowski mentioned after the race that it was difficult to pass. Was it that difficult to pass, and if so, what caused it to be difficult? I’m not going to rule it out. With the Next Gen car, NASCAR needs to consider returning to track-specific packages or type-of-track-specific packages. The giant spoiler might not work well on a short track like Martinsville.
Vito Pugliese: The current Cup engine/downforce package was put together with intermediate tracks in mind. While the racing has been marginally improved (although the majority of the passes within the top five occur on restarts), it has made short tracks and road courses a bit of a long day. The pinnacle of motorsports in the United States shouldn’t have cars making a few horsepower more than the one I drive to work every day. Give these guys another 200-250 hp to play with and tires that wear out. Doubtful much if anything will change with new platform coming in 2021, so I guess we just have to suck it up and endure the current product for another year.
Christian Koelle: The package has ruined short tracks and road course races. Both Martinsville races, the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Watkins Glen International have absolutely been terribly dismal and boring, and the package is the only thing we can really go back to blame it on. One will HAVE to change the package in order for it to change, no ifs, ands or buts. I’m afraid of how this will affect the first night race ever at Martinsville, as drivers will have more grip, and it’ll be a lot less sliding around. This combination of everything will not stand.
Amy Henderson: Easy. Stop restricting the engines. There’s no need for that at Martinsville because handling will take care of the speed; they can’t make those corners much faster than they already do, so it’ll take care of itself. That said, the fall race was not a bad race by any stretch — if you were there. Martin Truex Jr. ran a masterful race and deserved to win, but there was plenty of racing, such as Chase Elliott coming through the pack, many battles for position, Jimmie Johnson picking off cars so smoothly and methodically with the fastest car on track before getting crunched, Bubba Wallace making passing look really easy — I mean, take your pick. Too bad fans watching on TV didn’t get to see it all.
Todd Gilliland made it apparent how he felt about Kyle Busch’s criticism of his performance following his Gander Outdoors Truck Series win last week. Do you have a problem with his comments?
Koelle: Kyle Busch is very critical of his drivers and how successful they are in his trucks especially since he can go out, dominate and win. Todd Gilliland has been very underwhelming,, and Saturday wasn’t him going out and dominating a race. It was more of him taking advantage of others’ misfortune. We haven’t seen Gilliland go out and dominate the way he has in the K&N Pro Series and the ARCA Menards Series, so something isn’t adding up. I doubt he stays with Kyle Busch Motorsports after this year and instead moves to his father’s team, DGR-Crosley. It will be a real test to see how Christian Eckes does if he’s the next driver for KBM.
Henderson: Nope. Gilliland is 19 years old and still learning. Busch took the chance to snipe at him in the media every chance he had. If he had backed off and let Gilliland and the team work things out without undue pressure and undeserved criticism, they would have won sooner. Yes, he had great trucks, but Busch kept his best crew chief, Rudy Fugle, for himself instead of with one of his full-time drivers, and at the end of the day, he’s 19. Gilliland has as much experience as a 19-year-old can have, which really isn’t much compared to some of the series’ veterans. It’s easy to understand his frustration with the unnecessary public callouts, and the remark, said in the heat of the moment, makes me respect him for standing up for himself.
Roller: I don’t have a problem with the comments because it wasn’t directed at me. If I was Busch I might, depending on the circumstances and my relationship with the driver. It hasn’t been a secret that Gilliland has taken a long time compared to other KBM drivers to win, and I’m sure that has caused tension. Gilliland let his emotions get ahead of him when he blew off steam and had his mic open at the same time. It happens, but it is not my place to have a problem with them.
Keith: Gilliland can say whatever he wants, but he’s also got to be ready to accept the consequences of being an underachieving driver that flipped the boss off on his way out the door. Any sponsors, owners, etc., that question his maturity in debating whether to offer him a ride would be fully justified for doing so. This exchange was awfully short-sighted.
Are crew members going too far getting involved in driver altercations?
Kristl: Yes, but only because NASCAR allowed them to. While crew members rightfully stand up for their driver as linemen protect their quarterback, there is a line. A Team Penske crew member crossed a line by throwing Denny Hamlin to the ground and was deservedly punished. There is a difference between defending your driver, as in separating your driver from a fracas, and making physical contact with another driver. Credit NASCAR for establishing a precedent. As the season nears its end, though, more tempers may flare, and this may not be the only time this season NASCAR has to step in.
Keith: Either racing is a team sport or it isn’t. The crew guys have money, trips to victory lane and the racecars they slave to build at stake when scuffles like this happen. In this case, none of Joey Logano’s crew were throwing punches or instigating, they were trying to get their driver out of harm’s way (listen to Todd Gordon saying nothing but “stop” the whole time). As for Hamlin getting tackled, well, he went after Logano. Justified or not, he went after the man. He got tackled for it. Big deal.
Pugliese: The whole fighting on pit road thing is so played out. It’s not old school, it’s backyard, bush league, Bowman-Gray Stadium bullshit. The crews only need to get involved if things get out of hand. It doesn’t take a whole team of former Division II football players to separate two exhausted and dehydrated skinny dudes. The only time I can really recall crews getting into it back in the day was in the Winston in 1989 after Rusty Wallace sent Darrell Waltrip around. Did Dale Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd’s teams start throwing haymakers when the Rooster and the Intimidator got into at North Wilkesboro Speedway? Did Chocolate Myers bulldog Robin Pemberton when Wallace got dumped at Bristol and chucked a water bottle at him? No. So we don’t need guys throwing drivers down on concrete after his driver gets aggressive/passive with a guy who he’s had a bit of an issue with over the years.
Koelle: It should be like hockey. Let them fight until someone’s on the ground, then break it up. I would rather a driver beat the hell out of someone after the incident than I would see a driver retaliate with their racecar and risk hurting someone. Also, a crew member should have their driver’s back, and if they didn’t, I wouldn’t want them on my team.
Given the recent altercations and disagreements in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series (Chase Briscoe/Christopher Bell, Reddick/Cole Custer, Logano/Hamlin, etc.), will any of these feuds have an impact on the remaining races in both series this season?
Pugliese: It’s so not interesting and overplayed. Good lord. Next time let them go at it until someone ends up with cauliflower ear, and then I’ll think it’s worth getting into. Until then it’s guys making $50,000 for three hours of work hugging each other.
Henderson: None of those will, simply because they’re all fighting for a title and should know better than to take chances with their own title hopes. They might race each other a little harder, but don’t expect fireworks. The one that could blow up in the next few weeks is Aric Almirola and Busch. After Busch intentionally wrecked him at Martinsville, Almirola vowed to make the next three races “hell” for Busch. And with his playoffs already over, Almirola has nothing to lose. You probably won’t see him go out and put Busch in the wall, especially this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, but he can still make Busch’s day difficult, and three weeks of having to deal with one person could be all it takes to take away Busch’s title chances. That’s the one to watch, because one party has nothing to lose.
Roller: The Christopher Bell/Chase Briscoe feud won’t go anywhere. The Reddick/Cole Custer feud, maybe. The Logano/Hamlin one will be one to watch. Those two drivers and organizations have history, and each one has a short fuse. Almirola’s comments on making the playoffs difficult for Busch will be fun to watch. Busch hasn’t run well in the playoffs, and he doesn’t need any more issues. Not sure if it carries beyond Martinsville, but Stewart Friesen wasn’t happy with Johnny Sauter for the Martinsville spin. Friesen is still in the Truck Series playoffs and Sauter isn’t. It is something I’ll pay attention to in two weeks at ISM Raceway.
Kristl: Reddick vs. Custer may continue. The two drivers are members of the Xfinity Series Big 3, and the pressure will only intensify. Custer lacks a Cup Series ride for next season; will that motivate him to race hard and win the championship? For Reddick, this likely will be his last full-time season in the Xfinity Series. Winning the championship would cement Richard Childress’ choice to promote Reddick to the No. 8 Chevrolet. Because of those factors, this feud isn’t over.