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.
Five practice sessions, two qualifying sessions, and one 300-mile event was not enough for officials at Texas Motor Speedway when it comes to a second racing groove on the newly repaved and reconfigured track.
Officials at Texas will run the Texas Tire Monster and the Kentucky Tire Dragon, which came overnight from Sparta, Kentucky to Fort Worth Texas, to help facilitate the movement of a second groove.
The Texas Tire Monster lays down rubber using heigh weight with highly cambered tires to put rubber on the track, but relies on the sun and heat for it to work. However, the Kentucky Tire Dragon creates heat through friction to grind the rubber into the track.
From now til race time, more rubber. pic.twitter.com/uW2hV0gg5F— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) April 8, 2017
Officials will run both machines from 10 p.m. CST to 1:00 a.m. CST and then resume at 6:00 a.m. CST until the start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Officials will also use the Team Texas Driving School, which is slated to run laps around the track from 6:30 p.m. CST to 10:00 p.m. CST, to help facilitate rubber lay down in the higher grooves.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway will be live on FOX and Performance Racing Network at 1:30 p.m. EST. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will consist of 334 laps broken down into two stages of 85 laps and the final stage consisting of 164 laps.
Darrell Wallace Jr. scored his sixth six place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the My Bariatric Solutions 300. He now holds second for the longest streak with the same top-10 finish. Jack Ingram currently holds that record at six straight races with a second place finish set back in 1983.
That streak almost came to an end at Lap 66. Wallace Jr. and Tyler Reddick made contact going into turn three sending Wallace Jr. into a spin. The spin also collected Justin Allgaier, Brennan Poole, and Daniel Suarez.
Wallace Jr. suffered damage to the splitter and the car’s body, the least amount of damage from anybody involved in the accident.
“We were on the free side pretty much every race and I haven’t had enough to lean on to run with those fast guys up there for most of the year. We had some good calls and good strategy today,” said Wallace Jr. post race. “The 42 got into us there in entry. Just a racing deal. I was a little pissed off at first but you have to remember there are rookies out here and I am still learning myself.”
At the conclusion of the stage, Wallace Jr and his crew chief Seth Barbour elected not to pit in an effort to gain valuable track position at Texas.
Wallace started the third and final stage in the second position, but fell back to around 10th as drivers who had fresher tires went by.
Despite the early spin, Wallace Jr. enjoyed his time in the car.
“What a blast out here today. Texas is tough now. Giving up that bottom groove is like pulling teeth. I really fought hard there and did look with about nine laps to go where I was and got it mixed up between us and the 9 and we were sixth.”
Although the effort was made by Wallace Jr. on the track, he was quick to credit his pit crew for their performance.
“Shout out to my guys. My pit crew was on it all day and all year. They put us in the game there on the green-flag stop. I saw we came out a couple spots ahead of the guys we were behind and I knew it would be a good day,” said Wallace Jr.
Wallace Jr. currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series points standings 49 points behind points leader Elliott Sadler. Wallace Jr. currently holds zero playoff points.
Texas Motor Speedway looks different for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and the My Bariatric Solutions 300.
Over the offseason, Texas repaved and redesigned the first and second turns. The first two turns have decreased from 24 degrees of banking to 21 degrees, while also expanding the width to 80 feet.
There were no Goodyear tire tests ran at Texas due to the repaving project finishing a few weeks ago. However, the plans are for Goodyear to use the same tire compound used at Kentucky Speedway, last year.
Cup teams will have nearly two and a half hours of practice time on Friday an a hour and 45 minute session on Saturday. Xfinity teams will have two hours and 20 minutes of practice on Friday before their race on Saturday.
Chris Buescher was the only driver to make laps on the new surface at Texas. While making those laps, Buescher’s cinematography held numerous drivers see the changes at the track. However, the video was only meant for Buescher and his JTG Daugherty Racing team.
“I’m not sure who posted it or how it got there, but I wish I had thought of that. I was trying to help our team, not everybody. But, it kind of worked out that way. We were here right after the Vegas race before they had lines on the track and just taking a look. I think the speedway did a pretty good job of paving it. It was extremely smooth,” said Buescher on Friday before practice.
When the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, the caution quickly fell as Denny Hamlin spun into turns one and two. Kyle Busch tagged the outside wall in turns one and two, but was able to fix the primary car. Things did not go so well for Erik Jones and Chase Elliott. Jones was coming off the fourth turn before his car went towards the wall resulting in a backup car. Elliott was coming off of the second turn before he spun and crashed into the outside wall before working his way to the inside wall for more damage, also going to a backup car.
Drivers were on edge during the practice session and many called the track “sketchy” throughout.
As the session progressed, speeds continued to increase as more rubber was being laid onto the racing surfacee. Before his spin, Hamlin laid down a lap at 174.053 MPH. After two hours and 27 minutes of practice, Ryan Blaney was fastest at 194.182 mph, Michael McDowell was second fastest at 194.056 mph, Buescher was third fastestest at 193.361 mph, Jones was fourth fastest at 193.154 mph, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-five at 192.836 mph. Over 1,000 laps were run by drivers in the session.
In 2016, the first practice session of the weekend at Texas saw Martin Truex Jr. fastest at 192.892 mph. In qualifying last year, Brian Vickers laid down the fastest speed in the first round at 196.014 mph.
The notes from previous years are no longer valid at Texas as the playing field becomes equal with the repave.
Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) announced today that the repave that was scheduled to take place after this year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 would be put on hold and reevaluated after the race in 2018.
This move was made after pressure from drivers came when the series was at AMS just a few weeks ago.
“We appreciate all of the input we have received from key individuals in the NASCAR industry, as well as our customers,” said Ed Clark, Atlanta Motor Speedway president. “The overwhelming majority have urged us to hold off on paving so that we can enjoy at least one more weekend of high-speed slipping and sliding in 2018 before the new surface is installed.
Before the reevaluation occurs, AMS will provide a meticulous maintenance program to preserve the surface from further deterioration.
This move is a mistake! AMS must be repaved!
What will happen when it rains? Everyone involved would have to sit for hours on ends waiting for the track to dry. Why? Weepers!
Remember back in 2015 when it rained a few hours before the start of the race? I sure do! The rain stopped nearly three to four hours before the initial time the green flag was supposed to wave. The track was dry, but weepers caused the start of the race to be delayed. The conditions may not have been ideal for track drying, but the race was delayed.
Let’s look at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). The IndyCar and NASCAR race weekends were encompassed with rain. IndyCar had to complete the Firestone 600 in August due to the fact that the track could not dry because of weepers, nearly two months after the race was scheduled for completion. The NASCAR Fall race at TMS started late into the evening due to rain that arose the problem of weepers.
TMS scheduled a repave and reconfiguration to help solve the weeper problem.
The racing surfaces of AMS and TMS are at the same length of time as far as the age of the pavement.
It is tiring to many to hear driver’s complain that it would take a few years for the track to get back to being multiple-grooved. With the technology we have today, track operators have the opportunity to help “age” the asphalt making it multiple-grooved. TMS used that technology to help age their new asphalt. Let’s see how that works before we decide to scratch a repave in the near future because of complaints from the drivers.
Who is to blame IF it rains in 2018 and fans have to wait for hours because the track is dry, but weepers are the main culprit that cars aren’t racing? It is on the drivers who pushed for the postponement of the repave at Atlanta.
Johnny Sauter was able to make a pass with two laps to go to sail into victory lane in the Striping Technology 350 at Texas Motor Speedway. This is Sauter’s second win in a row, and GMS Racing’s third win in a row.
“I knew we had a good truck today. In qualifying, everyone was just so discouraged and hanging their heads a little bit. It felt really good. we just kept working on it all night. I tried to give it away there on that last restart. I couldn’t get going. I had to wait for the pressures to get up, and it went,” said Sauter in post-race victory lane.
The first half of the race saw Spencer Gallagher get an early lead on the opening lap. Despite the early lead, Daniel Hemric and Gallagher set sail from the field as they battled for third on back. As the opening laps began to unravel, the field began to settle down early on. As the opening green flag run continued. Hemric was able to slowly move toward the front, but Gallagher changed his line to pull ahead. Tommy Joe Martins hit the wall, but the field remained green. Before the expiration of time on the caution clock, Gallagher had over a one second lead over Hemric. As the field hit pit road, Hemric was able to gain the lead. As the race restarted, Hemric was able to get an advantage, but was able to pull away as Gallagher and Christopher Bell battled for second. Bell was the victor of the battle. However, Gallagher was able to gain the momentum to pass Bell. As the race reached the halfway point, Hemric was the race leader, Gallagher was second, Bell was third, Crafton was fourth, and Sauter rounded out the top-five.
The second half of the race started with Gallagher making a move on Hemric to regain the lead. However, the caution flew on lap 82 for the expiration of the caution clock. As the leaders hit pit road for their second stops, Hemric regained the lead again from Gallagher. On the restart, Gallagher spun his tires, but was able to gain the lead as the field went into turn three. Gallagher was unable to pull away from the field as Bell remained on his bumper. Bell was racing Gallagher for the lead, but got loose as they hit lapped traffic. Bell lost one spot, but was able to gain it back quickly. As Gallagher and Sauter settled into their respoective positions, Hemric and Bell battled for the third position. As the laps winded down, the caution clock expired for the third time with 22 laps remaining. As Gallagher had an elongated stop, Sauter was able to gain the lead off pit road. On the restart, Sauter and Crafton were side by side going into one, but Crafton gained the advantage. Hemric and Sauter continued to battle for position, but Sauter was able to pass Hemric to catch Crafton’s bumper with less than five laps to go. With two laps to go, Sauter regained the lead from Crafton after passing him on the high side. Sauter gained the victory, Crafton finished second, Hemric finished third, Tyler Reddick finished fourth, and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-five.
The race experienced three cautions due to the caution clock for a total of 12 laps.. There were seven lead changes among four drivers. Sauter led six laps, Crafton led 15 laps, Hemric led 38 laps, and Gallagher led the most laps at 88.
With his win tonight, Sauter made two positions at Homestead-Miami Speedway to be filled through points. With his second place finish despite hitting the wall, Crafton holds a one point advantage going to Phoenix over Timothy Peters in the Chase Grid. Ben Kennedy, who had an ill handling truck all night, is 13 points way from the cutoff line. Sauter holds the top seed going into Homestead with two wins, William Byron has a five point cushion over the cut line, and Bell has a four point cushion on the cut line.
The Camping World Truck Series returns to competition at Phoenix International Raceway next Friday for the Lucas Oil 150. The race will begin at 10 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series saddles up and head to Texas Motor Speedway for the second time of 2016 for the Striping Technology 350. The race will be 220.5 miles or 147 laps.
35 drivers have arrived in Texas to compete for 32 spots. John Wes Townley was scheduled to compete in Friday’s event in Texas, but due to a non-racing related injury to his left ankle, Cody Coughlin will pilot the truck on Friday.
There have been 37 races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Texas. 23 different drivers have won from the pole. 21 different drivers have found their way into victory lane. Only five races have been won from the pole with Todd Bodine being the last driver to do so in 2007. In 2015, the race record was set by Erik Jones at 158.002 mph. In 2006, Clint Bowyer set the qualifying record at 184.464 mph.
William Byron is going for the Texas sweep on Friday night. Byron was able to outlast Matt Crafton to win in June. “I have the track time and the experience of knowing what it takes to win there. The only difference will be the track conditions since it was much hotter when we raced there in June. It was really hard to judge what the truck would be like when the lights came on and everything cooled off. It will be interesting to go back there this weekend and see what the track is like. I think we're going to have a lot of speed and hopefully get that ticket to the next round of the Chase,” said Byron, who is going for the win to lock himself in the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron has the chance to join Johnny Sauter in the final four. Sauter was able to win last weekend at Martinsville. Sauter finished third in June. “We aren't backing down just because we know we're locked in to compete for the championship. We ran really well at Texas earlier this year and started from the pole so I know we're capable of making this three wins in a row for GMS,” said Sauter.
Ben Kennedy and Matt Crafton are looking for the win or a strong finish at Texas in an effort to keep their hopes for a championship alive.
"I feel pretty good about Texas and the way our team has prepared. I've run pretty well there over the last few years and I've been able to improve a little each time. We finished fourth there in the spring and that was my first top five with GMS. We've come a long way since then and I know these guys are going to do whatever it takes to get us locked into the next round,” said Kennedy.
"I keep saying it, but I firmly believe it - if it's meant to be, it will happen. We've won a couple times there, and have always run well there, so it's a track we definitely have the potential to make-up some ground. I think it will take winning, especially given what happened at Martinsville,” said Crafton. “I entered Martinsville saying, I didn't think you were going to be able to advance with a mulligan, we had ours last weekend. That's the glory of this chase though, all you have to do is win, and your in. We've been able to do that in the past at Texas, so I firmly believe if we do our jobs, and have a little bit of luck on our side, we can get it done.”
There were two practice sessions scheduled for the Trucks at Texas on Thursday, but due to weather, the Trucks will have one practice session on Friday morning. That session is scheduled to run from 9:30 a.m. EST to 10:30 a.m. There will be no TV coverage of the session.
Qualifying for the Striping Technology 350 will be at 3:45 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network beginning at 8:30 p.m. EST.
"Well, it was a really good effort. You know, Adam Stevens and all these guys, they come here well-prepared to start with, and had a good practice plan and everything, and we were able to set up our race car to my liking. Wasn't necessarily the fastest qualifier, but we knew we had a good race car, and the things that we did kind of worried me actually for about the first two-thirds of the race, just not -- the track wasn't necessarily coming to us, but then all of a sudden it took a shift and things did come to us, and we had a really good car there at the end. Adam made awesome adjustments all night long, though, and kept us in the game and kept getting us better and took us from probably being a sixth-, eighth-place car, something like that, to then being able to run up front in the top three, and barring different tire circumstances or different restart circumstances at the end, giving us a shot to win," said Kyle Busch in post-race media availability.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who scored his sixth top-five finish at Texas Motor Speedway, talked about his night. “Well, we had a great car. We didn't really know we had that good a car, but when the race started, we were real tight. We made some good adjustments to get the car handling well, and then really controlled the balance of the car the rest of the night with the track bar. We had about a second- or third-place car. Kyle put it on them at the end. He ran as hard as he could, and his car was there for him. Sucks for Martin because he had such a great car, but Martin has just got to remember that he's going to get that opportunity again. They've got a great team. That's it.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teams, including their affiliation with Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr., led an overwhelming total of 247 out of 334 laps in the Duck Commander 500. Hendrick Motorsports had all four of its team’s finished in the top-10 at Texas Motor Speedway, its first since this race last year.
Chase Elliott, the highest finishing rookie, talked about his first race at Texas in the Cup Series. “It was a solid night. Obviously I hated to have to start in the back, but I think having a good qualifying effort allowed us to get a good pit selection. I think that helped us to try to gain spots throughout the night, but the biggest thing was just having a good car. I was really happy with it, especially on the long run, and we made some gains throughout the night to try to help our short run speed. I thought we did that. Definitely still have some work to do on my end, and we'll keep digging at it. We're definitely not content. We know we have some work to do, and we'd like to be contenders. So we're going to keep working at it.”
There were no issues in post-race inspection. NASCAR is taking the cars of Ky. Busch and Earnhardt Jr. back to the R&D Center in Charlotte.
Unofficially, Kyle Busch leads Jimmie Johnson by six points in the championship standings, followed by Kevin Harvick (-7), Carl Edwards (-18), and Joey Logano (-25).
The start of the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was delayed by 1 hour and 50 minutes, and started under a green/yellow situation. The race saw 17 lead changes among eight different drivers. The caution flag flew seven times for a total of 41 laps. 16 cars finished on the lead lap. The time of the race was 3 hours, 37 minutes, and 16 seconds.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will head to the “The Last Great Coliseum”, the .533 mile, Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. Action from Bristol Motor Speedway will begin on Friday, April 15th, at 11:00 am EST for the first practice on Fox Sports 1.
Carl Edwards lassos his first pole of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a pole at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway with a speed of 194.609 mph. Joey Logano will start second followed by Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This was Edwards second pole at Texas Motor Speedway in 23 starts at the track, and his 17th pole in his racing career.
“I don’t know if there was any benefit (going out first each session), but that was our plan, to go out first. Fortunately, my car is very fast. This is huge deal for us to get our first pole of the year. That car is great and we’re having a great time,” Edwards said, It feels like this downforce package lets me go in the corner and really get a feel of the tire. Hopefully, the race goes just as well.”
Joey Logano, who qualified in a tie with Martin Truex Jr., but won the tiebreaker, was pumped about the no. 22 Team Penske Ford’s qualifying effort. “Overall, proud of the effort. I felt like, going asleep last night, that we could quite possibly be on the pole today. We came close. Every round we were definitely pretty fast. We were really good in one and two the first two rounds, three and four, we lost quite a bit of speed to the 19.”
Texas Motor Speedway was sitting in the sun all day. When the first round of qualifying began, many drivers decided to take to the track at once in order to get a fast speed. According to team radio communications, Jimmie Johnson told his team that they are on a completely different racetrack compared to the first practice session the night before. Debris stopped the countdown clock with eight and a half minutes remaining for what appeared to be a scoring transponder. This allowed for teams to have more time to cool down their engines. Harvick barely made it into the second round by three one thousandths of a second. Brian Vickers was the fastest in this round with a speed of 196.015 mph. A few notables missing the cut for round two were Paul Menard (25), Danica Patrick (26), and Clint Bowyer (36).
According to the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, the track temperature cooled down nearly 15 degrees. Carl Edwards won the second round with a speed of 195.214 mph. Trevor Bayne was the driver on the bubble, but was able advance to third round. Many notable drivers missed the third round: Brian Vickers (13), Kyle Busch (15), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16), and Kevin Harvick (22). Notable drivers who advanced were Ryan Blaney (5), Chase Elliott (7), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10).