Since 2015, NASCAR has looked at making the racing product better in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR tested a lower downforce package at Kentucky and Darlington due to pleas from drivers, while NASCAR chose to use a higher drag package at Michigan and Indianapolis to try things their way.
After much consideration, NASCAR chose to go the way the drivers wanted, a lower downforce package. From 2015 to 2016, NASCAR reduced downforce from 2,700 pounds to 2,000 pounds.
In 2016, NASCAR tested an even lower downforce package at Kentucky and Michigan. After a few minor tweaks, downforce was reduced by 500 pounds.
Has this reduction of downforce made the racing in 2017 better? Let’s take a look at the first seven races of the season! The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has went to every style of racetrack from a superspeedway to a short track and from an old abrasive surface and a newly repaved surface.
The numbers are rather shocking.
The number of green flag passes at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2016 was 3,717. In 2017, that number was 2,811. That is a difference of 27.7574%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was 2210. In 2017, the number was 1,927. A difference of 3.6814%
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Phoenix Raceway was 686. In 2017, the number was 1,026. The number of green flag passes was up by 39.7196%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Auto Club Speedway was 3,346. In 2017, that number was 2,707. A difference of 21.1135%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Martinsville Speedway was 1,207. In 2017, that number was 1,725. The number of passes was up 35.3342%.
In 2016, the number of green flag passes at Texas Motor Speedway, under the old pavement and configuration, was 2,733. In 2017, under the new pavement and configuration, the number of passes was 1,894. The difference is 36.2654%.
Early on in the season the eyeball test showed some issues within this package. Speedway Digest asked Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger what they would change based on the eyeball test and numbers.
“I would just like them to stop changing stuff. It’s tough on us. I thought way at the end of last year I think we had six top 10’s in eight races and we had finally kind of gotten a feel of the aero package of what we needed and had some good race cars when it came to set-up and knowing how we wanted to set them up and they keep changing. I think that is what’s tough here,” said Allmendinger. “Right away we all jump to conclusions that ‘oh it’s not good enough we’ve got to change again.’ You’ve just got to give teams time. The bigger teams, every time you change an aero package the bigger teams are going to succeed in that because they have the wind tunnel time. You would think it would bring the field closer everybody starting over again, well it just separates the field even more because the bigger teams have the more resources to go wind tunnel test and figure out the aero package a lot quicker than other teams do. It’s five races, we all just need to calm down a little bit and give it a whole year and see if it’s working or not and then make a decision after that, but we don’t need to jump to that conclusion after five races.”
Hamlin, who is a member of the Driver’s Council, had this to say about the aero package in 2017 and what changes he would advocate for.
"Well, I think we've had a relatively small sample size. I think that we've had probably fewer cautions than what we've had in the past, and that doesn't help the passes, the green flag passes, because you have jumbling up on pit road, faster cars have a bad pit stop, they've got to come back through the field, so that part of it hampers passing a little bit. It would be interesting to revisit that probably mid to later in the season,” said Hamlin. “But I think overall, the racing itself has been very, very good. We've seen battles for the lead every single week. So overall, we've been pretty happy with it. Corner speeds are down, which is good. That's something that we wanted. There's been more tire falloff this year, which has been good. That's what we wanted. So I think we're heading in a good direction. But early in seasons, there's some teams that are on top right now that are very hot and their cars are fast, and it's going to take a while for the competition to catch up. When they catch up, fields get tighter, more passing happens."
At this point in 2016, there were talks about a lower downforce aero package being used at the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, in 2017, the rumor mill has been silent about potential changes in the aero package.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch had at it during Sunday’s running of the STP 500.
In the second stage of the race, that ran from laps 130 to 260, Busch was setting a blistering pace lapping the field up to 17th position.
Early in the stage as Busch was about to lap Stenhouse Jr., but Stenhouse did not help but put on a fight with Busch. Stenhouse was not happy with Busch and was going to let him know it the next chance he got.
The opportunity for Stenhouse came on the final lap of stage two. Stenhouse was able to get to the bumper of Busch. Busch went higher than normal in the fourth turn because he was running a lane above where the rubber was being laid down. Stenhouse went low on Busch sending him up the racetrack. Stenhouse was able to get his lap back, and give Chase Elliott the stage win and playoff point.
After the race, Stenhouse mentioned that he had to do it for his team and sponsors to stay on the lead lap.
However, Busch had a different story to tell after the conclusion of the race.
“I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let the 17 back by and give him the lap. That was my intent, and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to the 24, so I was hoping the I could rn off the corner side by side with the 17 and keep the 24 at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment, and I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don’t finish first,” said Busch.
Busch mentioned that he felt disrespected by Stenhouse as he was banging him (Busch) into the corners. Busch also mentions that this incident will come back and bite Stenhouse at a later date.
“You’ve just got to remember race car drivers are like elephants; they remember everything.”
Busch finished second in the STP 500, while Stenhouse Jr finished 10th.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Brad Keselowski was able to hold off and set sail to give Roger Penske and Ford Performance the victory in Sunday’s STP 500.
“This is awesome. We’ve ran so good here with the Miller Lite Ford, but something always happens and we haven’t been able to bring it home. Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks. The guys that run well everywhere run well here, and it’s really just an honor to win here and get to compete here. This track is 70 years old and a lot of legends have won here. It feels great to be able to join them and bring home a clock,” said Keselowski in victory lane.
This is Ford’s first win at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch, and Team Penske’s first win at Martinsville since 2004 with Rusty Wallace. This is Keselowski’s second victory in 2017.
The first stage started with an early surge from pole sitter Kyle Larson. Larson was able to lead the first 22 circuits, but as he was battling lapped traffic, Keselowski was able to pass him. That sent Larson dropping through the field. Keselowski was on point until the caution flew on lap 70. During the pit stops, Keselowski was busted for speeding resulting in him starting from the back of the field. Martin Truex Jr. assumed the race lead to go on to dominate and win the stage. Denny Hamlin finished second in the first stage, Kyle Busch finished third, Keselowski finished fourth, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Many drivers stayed out at the conclusion of the stage because they pitted 13 laps before hand. To start the second stage, Ky. Busch was the race leader, Elliott restarted second, Ryan Blaney restarted third, Logano restarted fourth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.
The second stage belonged to Ky. Busch. Busch dominated the second stage, but came up short on the playoff point. As Ky. Busch was putting cars a lapped down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was trying to stay on the lead lap, but failed to do so. As the stage closed, Stenhouse was able to get on the bumper of Busch coming off the fourth turn on the final lap of the stage. That bump was able to give Elliott the advantage and the stage win. Ky. Busch finished second, Keselowski finished third, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Blaney rounded out the top-five in the second stage.
Elliott won the stage off pit road, Ky. Busch was second, Johnson was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five to start the final stage.
The final stage was prominently dominated once again by Ky. Busch. The first laps of the stage were unable to get in a rhythm as the caution flew five times for 25 laps. Once the race was able to get into a rhythm, Ky. Busch was able to lead 65 laps before Keselowski began to close in. The lead swapped between Keselowski and Busch numerous times. The final pass on Busch for Keselowski was the money move. Keseloski was able to move Kyle Busch up the race track and set sail for victory.
Ky. Busch finished second, Elliott finished third, Logano finished fourth, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in the STP 500.
The caution flew 14 times for 95 laps. The lead changed 18 times among 17 drivers. The average speed was 70.139 mph. The time of race was three hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Kyle Larson still holds the points lead by four points over Chase Elliott, Truex Jr. is third in points only 32 points behind Larson, Keselowski is 34 points behind in fourth, and Logano rounds out the top-five in points 61 back.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the O’Rielly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on April 9th at 1:30 p.m. EST on FOX and Performance Racing Network.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Tire wear and tire management will be crucial in today’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Goodyear has brought a new right-side tire to Martinsville. This new tire was developed to help rubber-in the concrete-asphalt combination at Martinsville. The concrete corners at Martinsville provided a challange for Goodyear because they behave differently and the density of the surface.
Goodyear hopes this tire combination will optimize acceleration, deceleration, and cornering that is required at the track.
Teams have eight sets of tires to use for the STP 500. That is two sets less than what teams had last year.
With Friday’s rains washing away the rubber laid down on the track from one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) practice.
Two MENCS practices, NCWTS qualifying, and the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 helped rubber in the track on Saturday,
Chase Elliott, the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 race winner, talked about how the complexion of that race changed and expectations for today’s race.
“The temperatures are definitely up from what we typically see in this race. To me, the race track is taking on lots of rubber way quicker than it typically does. Typically, you don’t see rubber laid down in the truck race and don’t see it laid down until halfway through the Cup race. The fact that it is blackening up today, I think will probably lend itself to see some Martinsville of old with guys moving around. It’s going to be darkened up really fast,” said Elliott post-race.
When asked about tire wear on the left side, Elliott showed no concern.
The STP 500 is slated to drop the green flag at 2:13 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— After beating and banging for 250 laps and a late race charge from Johnny Sauter, Chase Elliott was victorious in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 from Martinsville Speedway.
“Obviously, we had a little help with (Bell’s) misfortune, but once we got by him, I thought our truck was a little better than his,” said Elliott to FOX in Victory Lane. “It was just a matter of getting by (Sauter) quickly and doing it decently, in a quick manner. Luckily, we only had to do it once with it staying green until the end.”
This is Elliott’s second victory in 12 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events, his first of 2017.
The first stage was dominated by Chase Elliott. Elliott chose the inside lane to start the race. The caution flew shortly after the green flag fell for oil on the track by the No. 1 car of Bryce Napier. NASCAR did warn Elliott after the initial start about pulling down too soon on restarts. Towards the end of the stage, Johnny Sauter was catching Elliott while they were in lapped traffic. Elliott went on to win the stage, Sauter finished second, Matt Crafton finished third, Christopher Bell finished fourth, and Grant Enfinger rounded out the top-five in the first stage. The caution flew twice in this stage for eight laps.
Elliott lost that lead as the field went down pit road between the start of the second stage. Bell took two tires on pit-road to gain the lead.
When the second stage began, Sauter was able to pass Bell to dominate the stage. On the first restart in this stage, Sauter chose the inside lane, but Bell tried to push him down. However, Sauter was able to hash the lead. The complexion of the stage changed as drivers like Elliott and Bell hit pit toad with 12 laps remaining in the stage. The stage ended under the caution due to Elliott dumping Ross Chastain on lap 137. Sauter went on to win the stage, Crafton finished second, Chase Briscoe was third, Timothy Peters was fourth, and Grant Enfinger rounded out the top-five at the conclusion of the stage. The caution flew five times in the stage for 38 laps.
As the leaders pitted between the stages, Bell moved up to the first position, Elliott was second, Brett Moffit was third, Enfinger,and Joe Nemechek were the top-five on the restart to begin the final stage.
Bell was the dominate car in the final stage, but late-race aggression and lapped traffic cost him the victory. As the stage was in the final 50 laps, Bell, Elliott, Sauter, and Noah Gragson were within a second of each other battling for the lead. As they progressed through the field, lapped traffic began to separate the drivers. As Bell reached Austin Cindric, Cindric attempted to stay on the lead lap. Bell was frustrated with Cindric and dumped him in the first turn. However, with the move to dump Cindric, Bell lost the lead to Elliott. As the race restarted with 12 laps remain, Elliott throw a successful block on Sauter to go on and score the victory at Martinsville.
Sauter finished second, Bell finished third, Gragson finished fourth, and Ty Dillon rounded out the top-five in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250.
The race ran for two hours, one minute, and 38 seconds. The average speed of the race was 64.867 mph.
The next race for the drivers will be at Kansas Speedway for the Toyota Tundra 250 on May 12th at 8:30 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Chase Elliott will start from the pole in today’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 from Martinsville Speedway.
In the first round of qualifying, Chase Briscoe was fastest at 94.789 mph,Elliott was second fastest at 94.463 mph, Grant Enfinger was third fastest at 94.279 mph, Johnny Sauter was fourth fastest at 94.256 mph, and Timothy Peters rounded out the top-five at 94.106 mph. Austin Wayne Self, Norm Benning, and Charles Buchanan Jr. are the three drivers who will be heading home and not racing today.
In the second round of qualifying , Sauter was fastest at 94.855 mph, Elliott was second fastest at 95.543 mph, Christopher Bell was third fastest at 94.265 mph, Peters was fourth fastest at 94.200 mph, and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top-five at 94.143 mph.
In the final round, Elliott was fastest at 94.951 mph, Sauter will start second with a speed of 94.803 mph, Peters will start third with a speed of 94.331 mph, Matt Crafton will start fourth at a speed of 94.214mph, and Ross Chastain will round out the top-five at a speed of 93.891 mph.
Truck drivers will hit the track at 3:00 p.m. EST for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250. FOX and Motor Racing Network will have the TV and radio broadcasts.
RIDGEWAY, Va— In his first time at Martinsville Speedway, Daniel Suarez kicked off the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice by getting a backup car prepared.
Suarez hit the wall going into the third turn resulting in the back end of the car being damaged.
“It just wheel hopped. I don’t know what was going on with my brakes. It was something weird. On the first run I felt something similar. Something was weird with my brakes and I just wheel hopped and here we are,” said Suarez after the accident.
However, things have changed drastically this week for Suarez.
Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Dave Rogers would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Scott Graves was announced as the crew chief until Rogers comes back.
Suarez found out about Rogers at the same time as everyone else early Wednesday evening.
“I pretty much got to know this almost at the same time as you guys. It was something that took me as a surprise and actually it took him as a surprise as well.”
Suarez understands and respects Rogers and the decision he has made. However, he does not know when the return of Rogers will be.
Luckily for Suarez, he will be working with Graves, his crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Suarez and Graves were able to win the championship in 2016.
It was important for Suarez and Joe Gibbs Racing to put somebody in that knows the style of Suarez.
“I had some input for sure to put Scott in the seat because I know Scott. I know what he can do. I know what we’ve done together. It was important to put somebody there that I knew already.”
What does Graves know about Suarez?
“I was expecting to race with him more than 14, 15 times in XFINITY stuff this year so we know him very well. He knows what I need to be fast. He knows my weak points as well. I think having Scott jump into the Cup program I think is important. And I hope we don’t have to get back any. I hope we stay the same or even forward. And try to move from there.”
In his rookie season, Suarez sits 19th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings. He comes into Martinsville with back-to-back top-10 finishes.
RIDGEWAY, Va— Officials from NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway have announced that all on track activity for the remainder of the day has been cancelled.
Ever changing weather played into the decision by NASCAR and Martinsville on Friday. However, the weather for the remainder of the weekend looks perfect.
The field for the STP 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be set by the rule book. The field will be set by owner’s points giving Kyle Larson the pole, while Chase Elliott will start second.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will hit the track on Saturday beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST for the first of two practices of the day.
RIDGEWAY, V.a— The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action for the first time in a month at Martinsville Speedway for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250. The first two stages will be 70 lap shootouts while the final stage will be a 110 lap dash for the finish.
35 drivers are scheduled to present themselves at Martinsville to qualify for 32 positions. Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon will be the only two drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competing on Saturday afternoon.
This will be the 37th race from Martinsville. There have been 25 different pole winners. Only eight races have been won from the pole with Joey Logano being the last driver to do so in 2015. The race record was set back in 1999 by Jimmy Hensley at 74.282 mph. Logano also set the qualifying record in 2015 at 97.088 mph.
Drivers are excited about returning to the track this weekend at Martinsville.
"Having a win will make these races a lot less stressful for me. As far as my approach, I don't feel like it will be any different -- I'm out there to get a win if possible and if not, get the best finish that I can. I think it may change Rudy's (Fugle, crew chief) approach, because it will allow him to be more aggressive with his strategy. I feel like both Rudy and myself are well prepared for this race and we're going to go out and do everything we can to put the JBL Tundra in victory lane Saturday,” says Christopher Bell, who won the last race at Atlanta.
"The difference in speed from a 12th-place truck and a first-place truck is very small and makes for some crazy racing and I think the new points system will make it even crazier. Last year in the spring, I saw how important it is to qualify up front for that reason, but getting the balance right is very hard to do at Martinsville. The corners are so tight it makes it tough to make adjustments that help all the way around. Martinsville also seems to go through a pretty big 'mood swing' throughout the weekend and from the spring race, to the fall race. It's definitely a track for an experienced driver and team,” said Ben Rhodes.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is scheduled to have two practice sessions on Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST and 3:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. Teams will qualify on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 will air on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 3:00 p.m. EST.
RIDGEWAY, V.a— The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives at Martinsville Speedway for the first short track race of the 2017 season. The STP 500 will be broken up into two 130 laps stages and a 140 lap shootout to the finish.
There are currently 38 drivers scheduled to arrive at Martinsville for the STP 500. The field is considered full due to the 36 charter teams being present at the speedway.
There have been 60 different pole winners throughout the 70 year history of Martinsville. 49 drivers have made their way to victory lane. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Jeff Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. Joey Logano set the qualifying record back in 2014 at 100.201 mph.
Kevin Harvick will be without Rodney Childress this weekend due to the team rescinding their penalty from Phoenix with the trackbar mount. Childress will only miss this weekend while Daniel Knost will pilot the No. 4 team.
“Well, Rodney Childers is going to get a one-week vacation. Obviously with everything that has happened, basically we got in trouble for a part that was drawn a certain way and didn’t appear that way on the car. The way that NASCAR works now is you submit drawings for pretty much every part on your car,” said Harvick. “It has to meet certain specifications and that part didn’t meet it, so Rodney’s going to get to go on vacation this week. I know this is probably one of the most painful weeks for him to go on vacation because Martinsville really hasn’t been our best track. He and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, and especially everyone on our No. 4 team, put a lot of effort into trying to go in a different direction”
Brad Keselowski will see the return of the Paul Wolfe following their decision to repeal their penalty from Phoenix where they had failed weights and measurements in post-race inspection. The team decided this week to repeal following their analysis of the car. Wolfe has only served one of three weekend suspensions.
The defending race-winner of the STP 500 is Kyle Busch.
“We’ve run well the last couple of times at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last spring. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there a year ago at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch.
Cup drivers are scheduled to have one practice session on Friday at 11:30 a.m. EST. Qualifying will also be held on Friday at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, there will be two practice sessions at 10:00 a.m. EST and 1:30 p.n. EST. The STP 500 will begin at 2:00 p.m. EST. All coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1.