Last Thursday’s (July 23) NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway was generally well-received. It wasn’t an all-time great race, but it was one that many fans felt had some compelling storylines along with more passing and on-track action.
It was the first race in a while without the assistance of PJ1. The traction compound, an unknown combination of substances, is designed to help create better racing and help create multiple grooves at a racetrack. Sometimes though, the compound works so well that it creates a one-grooved racetrack or doesn’t come in at all because it works better when the track temperature is higher.
Fans have long been debating whether or not PJ1 should be used in NASCAR, and in this week’s 2-Headed Monster answers our writers Mark Kristl and Clayton Caldwell debate the use of PJ1 and if it should continue for the future.
No PJ1 Needed!
I have never liked PJ1. It is a pathetic substance meant to enhance the racing when it should not be needed. Given the right changes, NASCAR should never apply PJ1 to race tracks again.
At Kentucky Speedway, PJ1 made the racing worse as it became a one-lane 1.5-mile track. Kentucky Speedway is 72 feet wide on the straightaways and 56 feet wide in turns one and two. Despite its size, drivers stayed in one lane, not displaying their talents or searching for grip on other points of the track. Fans already dislike how many cookie-cutter tracks are on the Cup Series schedule. The addition of PJ1 made the race even more boring.
Two prime examples of what transpires if a driver leaves that lane occurred at Texas Motor Speedway. When both seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and rising talent Christopher Bell veered off the PJ1 groove, their cars made contact with the wall. If neither driver can control their car once it left the PJ1, then that is a problem. PJ1 did not better the racing; it ruined their chances for a good finish.
PJ1 would not be necessary with an upgraded rules package. NASCAR desperately needs to work on that package, and it has delayed the debut of the Gen 7 car until 2022. This is a great opportunity for NASCAR to make changes to enable drivers to wheel their cars in different lanes of the track, not rely on PJ1 for grip. If the package was better, the on-track product would improve, thus negating the need for PJ1.
NASCAR should open the rule book a bit so the cars can be set up more uniquely. If a crew chief can tinker with more aspects of the car, then the driver could wheel it better on the track. Tyler Reddick, for example, loves racing up high. When PJ1 is put on a track, racing up high, not on that lane, becomes increasingly difficult.
Likewise, if a driver likes entering the corners low, it would be advantageous to set up the race car so that driver can dime the car better off the corners. However, if diamonding a car into the corners requires leaving the PJ1 lane, then no crew chief will dare to set the car up to do anything than stay in that lane. Where then is the creativity?
PJ1 is a lazy way of trying to manufacture better racing but it has backfired. Even when it is applied at Bristol Motor Speedway, it is not the same style of racing as made famous during the Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte bouts.
These drivers, from the Cup Series to the ARCA Menards Series, are supposed to be professionals. It is their job, in consultation with their team, to determine how to gain positions to earn a good finish and ideally contend for the victory.
NASCAR attempted to band-aid the problem of boring racing. PJ1 is not masking the problem; in the case of both Johnson and Bell at Texas, it added salt to the wound.
To better the racing, NASCAR should immediately cease using PJ1. If teams complain, then series officials should respond with tough love by not caving. It may lead to some creativity by teams and drivers alike, which could make racing at those tracks must-see events.
– Mark Kristl
When Done Right, PJ1 Works
There’s no question that PJ1, traction compound, ‘the sticky stuff’ or whatever you want to call it is a new fad in NASCAR, particularly on the tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) who have not only used it on all of their racetracks recently but have used it liberally. If done correctly, there’s no doubt that the PJ1 application can be a very good thing, something we should see more of in the future.
When it’s used properly, PJ1 has helped create additional grooves at racetracks in the past. NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin feels the same way. If you recall his comments after his 2019 victory at Pocono Raceway, Hamlin praised the PJ1 application and said that the compound gave drivers a second lane to race at what is usually a one lane track.
It was proof that if applied right, PJ1 can work. There’s no doubt some of the races this season have included counterproductive PJ1 application. In an article recently published by Dustin Long of NBC Sports, both Hamlin and Kevin Harvick were critical about where the PJ1 application is applied. Both drivers claimed that SMI went rogue with the PJ1 in recent weeks, with Hamlin suggesting that the Smith family (owners and operators of SMI) doesn’t always listen to driver feedback when applying PJ1 to their racetracks.
Marcus Smith, President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of SMI fired back at the drivers and stated that there is a seat on the tire dragon for any driver who is willing to help out with track preparation. Any way you slice it, neither Harvick nor Hamlin complained solely about the use of PJ1 at the racetracks, but focused on how it was used. That’s just more evidence that if done properly, PJ1 can be a benefit to racing.
Or they could just be held accountable 🤷🏻♂️
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) July 17, 2020
Another thing to keep in mind is what the future of NASCAR will look like. Take the 2020 season for example. NASCAR has eliminated practice and qualifying entirely. In the past, practice has been used both to help teams set up their racecars but also to rubber in the track. If practice is eliminated or reduced in the future, it might be necessary to create an artificial lane. Applying PJ1 correctly would help create a second groove and improve the product.
There’s no question that the PJ1 application we’ve seen in recent weeks is not what fans want to see in the future. However, if done properly and placed in the right areas to help create a second groove, PJ1 can be very useful. I think there’s a possibility that the substance can evolve to create a more productive combination of chemicals that can improve the quality of the racing even more so than it does now. Trying to artificially create a second groove isn’t ideal, but with how hard the tires are, the way the package is and the lack of practice in the future, I believe PJ1 is here to stay.
– Clayton Caldwell