NASCAR made the right call in Chastain case

Ross Chastain crossed the finish line first in Iowa(Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

After making the decision to switch his points status from the NASCAR Xfinity Series to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series just a week before, Ross Chastain looked as if his gamble had paid off in a major way on Sunday at the Iowa Speedway. The Florida driver wheeled his Niece Motorsports Chevrolet truck into victory lane after taking the checkered flag as the apparent winner of the M&M’s 200 presented by Casey’s General Stores.

As a result of that win, Chastain was all but assured of making the NGOTS Playoffs. It proved to be a very well received situation as fans as well as industry insiders took to social media to praise the efforts of the popular driver.

It looked to be one of the top feel-good stories of the season in all of NASCAR as the driver who had gambled with a team that is not considered to be among the power organizations in the sport had just pulled off a miraculous victory and put themselves in contention for a championship run.

But the fairy tale came crashing down shortly after the victory lane celebration ended. Chastain’s No. 44 truck proved to be outside of NASCAR regulations in regard to the vehicle’s ride height. Specifically, the truck was found to be too low in the front end. As a result, the first place finish was negated and an automatic invitation (provided he could get into the top-20 in the series points standings by the time of the cutoff) was taken away.

Leading into the 2019 season NASCAR announced a major policy change for race cars found to be out of line with the rules. Instead of issuing fines and point deductions, as had been the case for numerous years, the sanctioning body stated that drivers whose cars were found to be illegal would be completely disqualified. There had been no such penalty enacted this season in the sport’s top-three divisions until Sunday afternoon.

The change in policy came about after fans and media alike had clamored for harsher punishments after a number of instances in which drivers and teams had been allowed to keep wins despite having cars that were found to be at odds with the rule book.

In the hours following NASCAR’s ruling, some have asked for leniency for the Niece Motorsports team and driver. Many of these pleas have used ‘wear and tear’ or ‘settling of the shocks and springs’ as reasons for officials to remove the harsh penalty and allow the likable Chastain to keep his win and his possibility of playoff eligibility.

Certainly, the team has the ability to appeal the ruling and is in fact doing so. That appeal will be heard on Wednesday.

But aside from compelling and legitimate evidence being provided for the truck being too low, the ruling must stand. The fact that Chastain’s win was a popular one and provided a feel-good story are not reason enough to overturn policy.

A good question to ask in this case would be something to the effect of – If this were Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick, would the ruling then be okay? It can’t work like that. If Busch or Harvick or Truex or any other driver be found guilty of an infraction and have a win taken away, it must apply to all.

If Chastain’s truck was too low, then it was too low. That’s all that matters. This is not a matter of opinion. Making exceptions for this reason or that reason opens the door for further arguments and accusations of favoritism.

This website has advocated in the past for wins to be taken away from violators and that mindset has not changed. Teams are well aware of the rules and well aware of the penalties. They also know that there will be a stringent post-race inspection and that their machines must meet certain standards. ‘Parts failures’, ‘wear and tear’, ‘settling’, ‘it was only a small amount’, or ‘NASCAR has too many rules’ can not be used as reasons to avoid punishment.

Further, the truck had not suffered significant damage from an accident that would have resulted in a lowering of the front end so that explanation cannot be used either.

NASCAR has clearly stated its ride height rules for the NGOTS and the teams are aware that those regulations must be met following the race just as they must be met before the race. It is the responsibility of the teams to make sure their cars and/or trucks are legal.

It may not have been the popular call, but it was the right call. NASCAR got this one right.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

Did NASCAR just set a precedent for red flags before stage breaks?

Greg Biffle won the 400 driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports but that might not have been the biggest part of the story

On the surface, the 400 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race held on Friday night at the Texas Motor Speedway might seem like a somewhat historic event in the history of NASCAR because of the fact that driver Greg Biffle came out of retirement to score his first win in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions since 2013 and his first NGOTS victory since 2001. However, this race could actually go down in the history books for another reason as there may very well have been a new precedent set by the sanctioning body regarding the officiating of stage breaks.

As the truck race in Texas neared the conclusion of stage 1, which was to occur at lap 40, a caution flag waved for an incident involving Angela Ruch on lap 35. The cleanup for that wreck looked as if it might take longer than five laps which would cause the stage to end under yellow flag conditions. However, NASCAR officials chose to display the red flag, thus halting the race briefly, to allow for the track to be cleared. Ultimately this move brought about a mad dash to the green and white checkered flag used to symbolize the end of a stage.

The significance of this is that this appears to be the first time NASCAR has chosen to red flag a race solely for the purpose of ending a stage under green. There have been instances of red flags prior to the end of stages but those cases involved more extensive cleanups than this particular incident required. To show that this was not done to complete and extensive cleanup, the red flag period only lasted for just over one minute.

NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck of made mention of this possibly precedent-setting moment on Twitter.

“Whoa, they red-flagged the race to try and get a green-flag finish to the stage? That may be the first time they’ve done that in any series since stages came around. Someone with a better memory correct me if I’m wrong.” – @Jeff_Gluck of The Athletic

Similarly, the 1998 Pontiac Excitement 400 held at the Richmond Raceway might well be most remembered for an incident that took place during the long-running feud between drivers Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace in which their two cars came together resulting in Gordon spinning and slamming into the turn two wall. But in reality, that race was historic for a more far reaching reason.

As that race neared its conclusion it was obvious that an intense four-way battle between Dale Jarrett, Ken Schrader, Terry Labonte and Rusty Wallace could potentially go right to the checkered flag. Even NASCAR officials seemed cognizant of the likelihood of a memorable finish and appeared not to want to interfere with the excitement. This became evident when Ward Burton spun on the backstretch with 10 laps remaining but the yellow flag was not displayed.

However, the car being driven by Kevin Lepage began dropping fluid on the track and officials were forced to call for a caution with just seven laps remaining. At that time, the pace car hurriedly got in front of Jarrett’s leading machine and slowed the field. Just before reaching the start/finish line for what would have been the signal for six laps to go, the pace car stopped and the field was shown the red flag so that clean up crews could clear the fluid from the track allowing for a race to the finish.

The race was being broadcast on ESPN and commentator Benny Parsons stated, “This is unprecedented. I don’t remember them ever doing this before.”

Ultimately, drivers were shown the green flag with four laps to go. Labonte, who was on fresher tires than the two front runners, passed by both Schrader and Jarrett to take the lead as the cars came to the white flag. The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won the race while Jarrett and his crew fumed at being the subject of the first instance of a race being red flagged for the purpose of staging a green flag finish.

Jarrett’s crew chief, Todd Parrott, commented after the race that, “They’ve got a tougher job up in that tower than what I’ve got. Making that decision wasn’t easy and, my guess, in the long run it was the right decision because it was a heck of a show and that’s what these people pay for.”

Parrott admitted that he was fighting back tears of frustration following the television interview.

Eventually all three of NASCAR’s top divisions would incorporate a standardized Green/White/Checkered rule that allows for “overtime” in events that have late race cautions. While the NGOTS had used a version of the G/W/C since 1995, the rule was broadened to include what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Infinity Series in 2004 and has been tweaked multiple times since.

So, did we witness an entirely new precedent on Friday night in the 400 at the Texas Motor Speedway?

Since points are awarded for stage placements, NASCAR may deem it necessary to halt future races just before stage breaks for the purpose of allowing drivers to race to the end of stages just as they opted to do for finishes back in 1998 during the Pontiac Excitement 400. And eventually, might we see G/W/C endings of stages just as we see at the end of the final run to the finish?

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

It’s not just that Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won in two years …

Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are no longer together

The significance of the date June 4, 2017 should not be lost on fans of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It was on that date that seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson wheeled his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into victory lane at Dover International Speedway marking his last win. To put it in perspective, it has been almost two full years since the winner of 83 races in NASCAR’s top division last took a checkered flag.

Considering just how good Johnson and longtime crew chief Chad Knaus were for a run that lasted a decade and a half, the fact that this driver could go without a win over more than 70 starts is almost mind blowing. As a matter of fact, Hendrick Motorsports did, over the most recent off-season, what many would have considered unthinkable ten years ago by splitting up one of the most successful driver/crew chief combinations in the history of the sport.

Johnson’s team is now led by Kevin Meendering while Knaus heads up the effort of young William Byron.

And while it is remarkable that Johnson has not won in essentially two years, a deeper look into the statistics reveals that his skid is even worse than appears on the surface. Not only is the famed HMS team not pulling into victory lane at the end of race weekends, they are suffering through an extended run of very poor finishes that have turned this once feared team into a mid-pack runner more often than not.

Since that 2017 win in Dover, Johnson has only managed four top-5 finishes. And further, the No. 48 has finished within the top-10 only 23 times in its past 71 points-paying MENCS events. Keep in mind that this is a driver who has scored a total of 225 top-5 and 358 top-10 results over the course of his stellar career.

To put Johnson’s efforts over the past two calendar years into perspective, The Roush Fenway Racing team for driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has scored more top-5 finishes than Johnson during that same period of time.

But here is the most telling statistic of Johnson’s downturn in performance. The El Cajon, California driver has registered almost as many finishes outside the top-20 as he has inside the top-10. Since the 2017 race in Dover, Johnson has ended his day in the 21st position or worse a total of 22 times. That’s only one more top-10 finish over that time period than those results outside the top-20.

Jimmie Johnson has not driven the No. 48 into victory lane since 2017

So what’s the problem?

Some might point to Johnson’s age being that he is now 43. But consider that Kevin Harvick is the same age as Johnson and he won eight times last season. And the drop off in performance cannot be attributed to Johnson’s physical condition. After all, the man just completed the Boston Marathon.

As has been well documented, all of Hendrick Motorsports has endured a prolonged time of underachievement. The entire organization has only scored four wins since the beginning of the 2018 campaign and those were all achieved by Chase Elliott. The second half of the 2017 season only saw one HMS pilot, Kasey Kahne, win when he took first in the Brickyard 400.

As a matter of fact, this problem seems to be somewhat across the board for teams that employ the Chevrolet Camaro. Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing have fared no better than HMS over the same time period.

But the real bottom line of all of these statistics  for this writer is the fact that one of NASCAR’s all-time greats is in the midst of such a deep slump that had it been predicted two years ago would have drawn laughter from the vast majority of NASCAR enthusiasts.

The question is- will this slump end anytime soon?

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

Will the Coca-Cola 600 provide William Byron with his Jeff Gordon moment?

The similarities are remarkable.

William Byron

William Byron will start the 2019 Coca-Cola 600 from the pole position on Sunday as he seeks his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Despite having noteworthy credentials coming into his current opportunity, there have been some who have questioned whether the 21-year-old driver should even be where he is during his first year-and-a-half in the No. 24 Chevrolet.

Poor finishes were somewhat the norm for Byron during his rookie campaign as he would prove to be the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to miss the NASCAR Playoffs ultimately finishing in the 23rd position of the final series standings of 2018. The No. 24 team only managed four top-10 results in the 36 points-paying events on last year’s MENCS schedule.

At about this time of the season in 1994, the same type of statements regarding whether or not 22-year-old Jeff Gordon deserved to be in the ride he had been handed were being made. During his rookie effort in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 the young hot shoe with impressive credentials in his rear view mirror had only managed a 14th place finish in the 1993 NASCAR Winston Cup Series standings. During that campaign numerous crashes and other failures to finish had befallen the team and their young driver.

However, Gordon placed his HMS Chevrolet on the pole for the 1994 Coca-Cola 600 during the Memorial Day weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The ‘Rainbow Warrior’ went on to quiet many of the naysayers by winning that prestigious race and showing that he could indeed live up to expectations with a championship caliber organization.

William Byron driving the HMS No. 24

Compared against its own standards, HMS has not performed at a high level over the past couple of seasons with the exception of Chase Elliott’s four wins. Many of those high standards were established by Jeff Gordon after he began what would eventually become a run of dominance throughout the latter half of the 1990’s and beyond.

Jeff Gordon

Can William Byron now begin the task of establishing a new set of high standards by mimicking the accomplishments of the previous driver in the No. 24?

As stated above, Byron has put himself in a position to repeat history by earning a front row starting spot for Sunday’s 600-mile endurance test. A win in that crown jewel event would go a long way toward showing his naysayers that he does indeed belong in the ride he has been given.

Granted, there would still be a very, very long way to go before the Charlotte native could fully be compared with one of the greatest drivers in the sport’s history. However, the road to greatness has to begin somewhere, just as it began in almost these very same circumstances for Jeff Gordon back in 1994.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

600 Miles is the Right Distance for this Race … but how about others?

Denny Hamlin

In an article posted recently by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin stated his belief that the Coca-Cola 600 race held annually on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway has outlived its purpose in terms of distance. The winner of this year’s Daytona 500 suggested that the traditional event would hold as much prestige at a distance of 300 miles as it does at its current distance of 600 miles.

“The sport doesn’t ‘need’ any particular thing. I don’t think that anything is totally necessary,” Hamlin said in the article. “If the race was 300 miles, you’re going to have the same, I believe, core group watch the race and possibly even more that are interested because it’s not five hours long.”

Other drivers mentioned the piece – namely Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch – indicated their belief that the race should remain at its current distance.

The subject of race distances has been a topic of conversation among fans, competitors and media for several years. Those who favor maintaining the longer distances of NASCAR races as they are currently run point to the traditional aspect of events playing out over 400, 500, and even 600 miles. The idea that the longer distances not only brings in the aspect of the car’s durability but also the endurance of the driver.

On the other hand, many of those who agree with Hamlin in that the races ought to be of shorter length would argue that modern-day attention spans are shorter than those of the past and races of shorter duration may be necessary for attracting and capturing the younger audience that will someday be required to keep the sport alive. There are fewer and fewer people today who are willing to dedicate four to five hours of their day watching anything, motorsports or otherwise, according to those who hold this belief.

Other sports leagues have already taken steps in this direction. Major League Baseball has made a concerted effort to shorten the dead times between pitches and between innings in their games. The NBA has reduced the number of timeouts allowed so that the ending of games won’t be prolonged. Even the NFL has sped up game times by restarting the clock after a play goes out of bounds except during the waning minutes of the contest.

If other major sports and their television networks are working toward shortening the duration of their games, is it time for NASCAR to seriously consider doing the same thing?

In the opinion of this writer, there are some races in which the length of the event cannot be touched. Those races whose distances are very much a part of the tradition must remain the same, no matter the sentiment of newcomers. The Coca-Cola 600 is one of those races. Also, the Daytona 500 is sacred and must remain at its traditional length. And more, the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway has to remain a 500-mile test.

But what about other races?

In years past races were contested over lengths of 500 miles or laps to test the limits of man and machine. In modern times the race cars are far more durable than they once were. In the ten races held so far in 2019 on tracks aside from Daytona and Talladega – tracks noted for large crashes that can take out numerous cars at once – fully 95% of cars have been listed as “running” at the finish which serves as testimony regarding the fact that attrition due to mechanical issues is not as prevalent as in times past.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch, who favors maintaining the current 600-mile distance for the Charlotte race, does point out in the article that mechanical failure is not nearly as common as it once was in NASCAR.

“Is it a tough race for the drivers? It is a tough race for the drivers. Is it as tough as it once was? Maybe not. Is it (tough) on the cars? No. The cars are way too sophisticated now,” Busch said. “I bet you we could probably go 800 maybe even 1000 miles on a race car before you’d start to see problems.”

So where is the balance? At what point should the tradition of the 500-mile race give way to the need to attract and hold the attention of the prospective new fan?

By changing race dates and locations, creating new championship formats, and instituting other changes such as stage breaks, many believe NASCAR alienated much of its core fans and caused them to leave the sport. The decline in television ratings and absence of spectators in the grandstands of many tracks cannot be denied. Many would attribute these declines to those changes instituted largely during the time in which Brian France sat at the head of the sport.

So NASCAR must tread carefully here.

Kevin Harvick agrees, as he states in the article, that the so-called ‘crown jewel’ races cannot be touched. Beyond that he says consideration may be given to cutting race distances.

Kevin Harvick

“I think as you look at the Coke 600 and you look at the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500, anything past that I would probably say you need to shorten your race,” Harvick said. “Honestly, it’s a crown jewel race. It’s close to home.  Everybody puts a lot of effort into it.”

Ultimately, in the opinion of this writer, the real factor to be considered is the amount of action taking place on the track as the biggest factor in keeping the attention of any fan, young or old. I have seen 500-mile races that were so action packed that I hated to see them end. On the other hand, I have seen some races that seemed as if they had gone on forever as one driver dominated and held the lead for much of the way with little in the way of stirring drama during the course of the event.

But the reality is that some races probably do need to be shortened. Not only the current but the future health of NASCAR may very well depend on it as networks, advertisers, and even fans may decide their time is too valuable on a given Sunday afternoon or Saturday evening to spend watching a race that could have provided the same result in a shorter amount of time. Leave the crown jewels alone but others may need to be given the same consideration as other sports.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

Looking at the 2019 Cup season at the All-Star break

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series has reach its traditional All-Star break in the schedule. The break is a time for the teams evaluate where they are at this point of the season. There have been some interesting story lines and surprises as the Coca-Cola 600 approaches this weekend.

The main story of the 2018 season was the “Big 3”, how Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. were winning nearly all of the races. As the playoffs approached, the “Big 3” weren’t winning as much and it was Joey Logano that knocked off all three in the finale at Homestead.

Fast forward to this season, Kyle Busch has 3 wins and Truex has 2 wins at the All-Star break. But Harvick has no wins. Harvick has come close to winning the last few races. But ill-timed pit stops or self-inflicted situations have kept the #4 car out of victory lane. It is the biggest surprise of this season.

Kevin Harvick is still looking for his first win of 2019.

As the 2019 season started, Harvick and Busch were the two favorites to win lots of races and win the championship. Harvick got off to a slow start, by his standards, never leading a single lap and some of his strongest tracks like Atlanta and IMS. Whatever the reasons for the slow start, Harvick and his Stewart-Haas team has looked more like their early 2018 form in recent weeks.

Hendrick Motorsports and all the Chevrolet teams appear to have turned a corner in performance. Early on, Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott were the only consistant performers out of the Chevrolet camp. In recent weeks, all of the Hendrick cars have been contenders and the Richard Childress Racing cars have entered the mix of contenders. Alex Bowman has been the real standout in the month of May with three straight second place finishes. Kyle Larson has looked the best he has all season in his All-Star race win. Things are starting to look up for Chevy.

The Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing have been the strongest team in the Cup series. Not only do Busch and Truex have their 5 wins between them, Denny Hamlin has won twice including the Daytona 500. Hamlin’s performance has quieted many of the rumors that JGR Xfinity driver Christopher Bell could be in play for the #11 ride. Erik Jones has shown flashes of his potential. But he and his team have also suffered from some of the same issue as Harvick with bad pit stops and self-inflicted problems.

Denny Hamlin has 2 wins so far in 2019.

The Ford teams have been offering a mixed bag of results. The Penske Racing team of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski have looked dominant in some races, but have not been in the mix in other races. Logano has 2 wins and Keselowski has 3 wins. Those wins will allow them to work out any issues over the summer months knowing both teams are already locked into NASCAR’s playoffs.

Ryan Blaney has looked strong nearly every week, but has no wins to show for it. Many feel the #12 will be in victory lane very soon.

Left for dead by some, the Roush-Fenway teams has shown flashes in 2019. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been the one driver to show the most this season out of the RFR stable. But Ryan Newman continues to be steady and is slowing improving each week. Last year’s move of bringing in Matt Kenseth to drive the #6 car looks to be paying off in the long-run. Newman’s experience and engineering background has also been a big help to an organization that many felt had seen its better days.

Ryan Newman has brought a steady influence to Roush-Fenway.

Even though no Stewart-Haas driver has a win this season, all four SHR drivers have been knocking on the door for a win. Daniel Suarez has been a pleasant surprise in the #41 car.

The most overlooked team in 2019 has been the JTG Daughtery Racing teams. Rookie Ryan Preece has not looked like the typical rookie in the #47. The former modified ace has been afraid to mix it up with even the best at any given race. Chris Buescher has had several nice performances this season. The Texan has 2 top 10 finishes, but was in line for at least two more before unexpected problems dropped him from contention. Buescher was in the top 5 late in the Food City 500 at Bristol before a cut tire sent him to the pits for a green flag stop.

Chris Buescher was in position for a top 5 finish at Bristol.

Turn 2 Blog: New Aero Package Improving ‘Cookie Cutters’ but Hurting Short Tracks?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

Richard: There was much talk and speculation coming into the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season regarding the implementation of a new package teams would have to use on the race cars. Horsepower limitations and various aerodynamic adjustments were mandated by NASCAR with the hope that the on-track product would be improved. And while those at the top of the sanctioning body might not say it expressly, one of the specific aims of those changes was to create more excitement on the so-called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks measuring 1.5 miles to 2 miles in length.

Taking the last two 1.5-mile races into consideration, it might be safe to say that the new package is at least beginning to produce what it was hoped it would produce. The Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway was a highly entertaining race with Brad Keselowski making a late pass on Alex Bowman to secure the win. Differing pit strategies and the fact that Kevin Harvick, who appeared to have the race’s dominant car, found himself mired in the middle of the pack for much of the race’s second half certainly helped improve the overall show. But still, it was one of the better races on this type of track in some time.

And then there’s the case of Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star race. That event had just about everything a fan could want from a race. Exciting on-track action, a popular winner, and even a little post-race drama were all part of the action at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Granted, as has been the case in the past, NASCAR used the All-Star Race as somewhat of a testing ground for some new ideas as even more aerodynamic adjustments were implemented on the cars. Still, much of the same package used in the other races were also in place on Saturday night.

With all that said, can the conclusion be reached that NASCAR has taken the right steps toward solving its mile-and-a-half “problem”?

The new aero package used by NASCAR seems to have improved the racing on .5-mile tracks

Michael: I think it’s still a bit too early to claim success or failure for this new package. A number of media members are already proclaiming it as a success based on the last two races. While those were highly entertaining and competitive, we need to see how this package fairs on tracks not known for a lot of competitiveness such as Michigan or Loudon.

I think this package, for tracks like Dover and even Bristol, needs some adjusting. Both tracks saw tremendous corner speeds, especially at Dover. I was skeptical, overall, when this rules package was announced but it’s starting to grow on me.

Richard: Your mention of Dover and Bristol is an important point. While the racing at the last two 1.5-mile tracks has been entertaining, the tracks measuring 1-mile or less have not been as thrilling. While Bristol was a pretty good race overall, the recent races at Martinsville, Richmond and Dover saw little passing, particularly at the very front of the field.

Many drivers are reporting that the cars have so much down force that they are “too easy” to drive. And with the cars so firmly planted to the racing surface, there are few slips and even fewer opportunities to pass. As a result, long stretches of races on the shorter tracks are seeing drivers take the lead and keep it.

In years past, the 1.5-mile tracks saw little passing while short tracks and road courses grew in popularity because of the mixing of positions that typically took place in those races.

It’s almost as if the new aero package has reversed the roles of those two types of tracks, isn’t it?

Has short track racing been hampered by the new aero package?

Michael: Yes it seems that way, at least to a point. I recall the Atlanta race being somewhat competitive. But with the cars having so much down force, we didn’t see the cars get sideways that much once the tires had a lot of wear on them, unlike in previous years. I think that was one thing that took away from the enjoyment of that particular race.

Overall, we don’t see cars looking as much out of control as we used to see them. That has led to less cautions in many races. At some of these races, the restarts were the most exciting part of the race. The fans have certainly noticed the lack of cautions this year.

Richard: The whole thing is an ever-evolving process. The new Gen 7 car that to some degree was debuted in the All-Star Race is one example of that. Hopefully NASCAR can find a happy balance that will allow for competitive racing not only on the 1.5-mile tracks as well as the short-tracks, road courses and big super speedways.

Michael: I do like the fact that NASCAR has found a way to get rid of the restrictor plates for Daytona and Talladega. The Talladega race was exciting and appeared to have given the drivers some throttle response lacking with the plates. But yes, more tweaks are needed to make this package good for all tracks.

Respond to this post on Twitter by following @RichardAllenIDR and @MichaelRMoats or by liking the Facebook page. 

Also, dirt racing fans can check out for more racing content.