Analysis: Caution Clock
The caution clock was announced at last year’s Media Tour in Charlotte. This news was not truly accepted by NASCAR fans until it was run during the Camping World Truck Series in 2016.
According to Brian France, the move to institute the 20-minute clock was to “add strategy to the race”. This clock was also used to help Truck teams with young drivers be able to adjust on the vehicle under a caution just like a competition caution in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. When asked if this would be a beta test for the other series, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said “it fits perfectly” with the Truck series and will be looked at for the other series in the future
The clock was not used in the season opener at Daytona, but teams used the clock as a chance to play strategy by hitting the pit road with less than 60 seconds remaining on the clock. However, that strategy did not play well as teams would wreck trying to enter pit road bringing out the caution.
The expiration of the clock brought the caution out an overall 19 times over the course of the season. The clock expired twice at Atlanta, Kansas, Gateway, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and Las Vegas. The clock only expired once at Charlotte, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Chicago, and New Hampshire.
However, the inevitable happened at Texas Motor Speedway in the Striping Technology 350. The caution clock expired three times, the highest of any race in 2016. While the clock flew three times, it was the cause of all three cautions during the race.
When the clock expired in each of the events, it took roughly three to six laps for the field to return back under the green flag.
As the season progressed, fans began to like the idea of the caution clock. However, many fans agreed that the idea of the caution clock could use some work. The clock did help entice strategy into the races in 2016.
Crew Chatter: Homestead-Miami
Fire up the scanners, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Homestead-Miami with the question, “Now that the Championship 4 is set for all series, who has the best shot to become a champion in 2016?”
This weekend will certainly be awesome. Why? Because we not only see a Chase format on Sunday, but also on Friday and Saturday. The Chase this year has certainly been one of the most competitive and Sunday will really show that.
With Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch in the Sprint Cup Series, I'm sticking with my pick at the beginning of the Chase and going with Joey Logano. Logano came into the season as one of the drivers to watch.
In the XFINITY Series, where you have Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones, I'm going with veteran racer Elliott Sadler. That team has certainly been running better lately even though they will not have Kevin Meendering on the pit box this weekend
In the Camping World Truck Series, where you have Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters, this one is a little more difficult to choose from. I feel that it will be a battle all night long between Sauter and Crafton. So with that said, I think I'll go with Johnny Sauter.
This one is going to come right down to the last lap and we may or may not even see one of the top four Chase contenders cross the checkered flag first.
I think Carl Edwards has the best shot. He won at Texas with the same tire they'll be racing with at Homestead. He's also a previous two-time winner on the south Florida Speedway. After losing out to Tony Stewart in 2011, he may be primed to be the champion this year.
Kyle Busch almost didn't get the chance to defend but when Matt Kenseth ran into trouble in Phoenix, it opened the door. Watching the points-as-they-run, it looked like Busch was too far down to have a shot, but when Kenseth suffered that disaster, it changed things didn't it. Kyle Busch had never won Homestead before a year ago when he had to do so in order to secure his title. To repeat, he may have to do the same or finish high.
Joey Logano got in by the skin of his teeth. If Kenseth would have won Phoenix, it would have been a different story for the No. 22 team. I think all they need to do is not make any pit-road mistakes. Logano is good on 1.5-milers, which is what Homestead is so he has a shot. I'm just thinking he needs a little luck on his side.
Jimmie Johnson is a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Here's the kicker. He won all those titles under the old Chase format where you only had to finish a certain way and you're the winner. He has never won Homestead although he too is good on mile-and-a-half tracks. This is his first time in contention under this fairly new format. It will be interesting to witness how this team handles it.
I think they all have a shot but it is not going to be a cake walk.
I think you have to rely on past history as well as "what have you done for me lately" when going about answering this question. History says Jimmie Johnson will win. His six championships (five consecutive) have been unparalleled in this generation of stock car racing, and seeing him win a seventh would be so cool to see.
"What have you done for me lately" would go to Kyle Busch. He won this race and the championship (his first) last season and obviously knows what it takes to win a title in this type of scenario.
The hot hand is Joey Logano. Coming off his win at Phoenix, he proclaimed that his No. 22 team would win the championship. It's a very real possibility, especially considering he was perhaps a fully jack away from winning it all in 2014.
And then there's Carl Edwards. He has the best stats out of the four drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and is hungrier than anybody. After having the title ripped way from him in 2011 after tying Tony Stewart, he's back for more.
Who am I picking? I think it'd be hard to go against JJ. But I know one thing is for sure: the fans win this weekend. They're going to see a great show in the NSCS as well as NXS and NCWTS.
In the NCWTS, I believe Johnny Sauter will become the 2016 champion. Suater has peaked at the right time when it comes to the season.
The Xfinity Series will be a little harder. I believe the race for the championship will come down between Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez. Sadler will have a challenge because his crew chief was suspended after Phoenix for not having two lug nuts properly secured. Suarez will be interesting to watch to see if he becomes the first international driver to win a championship in the top-three series.
For the Sprint Cup Series, all four have a great shot at winning the championship. Logano and Edwards are coming into Homestead “hot as rocks” due to their recent victories. Johnson and Edwards have experience to back up their drive for a championship. I believe the Ford EcoBoost 400 will come down to the last lap between these drivers. Who knows, we may even see a bump and run determine the championship.
Sauter Goes Back-to-Back in Texas
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.
Gallagher Claims Texas Pole
Spencer Gallagher will start from the pole in tonight’s Striping Technology 350 from Texas Motor Speedway. This is his second pole in 2016. This is the sixth pole for GMS Racing. Daniel Hemric will start on the outside pole.
The first round of qualifying was slowed once for reports of fluid on the track. Gallagher was fastest in the first round at 180.024 mph, Tyler Reddick was second fastest at 179.677 mph, Timothy Peters was third at 179.444 mph, Cody Coughlin was fourth at 179.396 mph, and Matt Crafton rounded out the top-five at 179.313 mph. Chase drivers who did not advance to the second round included Ben Kennedy, who will start 14th, and Johnny Sauter, who will start 16th. Drivers who did not qualify for tonight’s events include Mark Harmon, Ryan Ellis, and Tommy Regan.
The second round of qualifying went without accident. Gallagher won the pole with a speed of 180.307 mph, Hemric will start second at 180.090 mph, William Byron will start third at 179.934 mph, Matt Tifft will start fourth at 179.928 mph, and Reddick will round out the top-five at 179.880 mph. Chase drivers outisde the top-five include Peters who will start sixth, Crafton who will start seventh, and Christopher Bell who will start from the ninth position.
The Striping Technology 350 will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1 beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST.
Striping Technology 350 Preview
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.