“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Kyle Larson said on Saturday afternoon in Texas. A day later, I think he’ll have some fighting between who’s going to drive the bulldozer. It’s time for an end to Texas. This is just embarrassing. A playoff race, one that holds a lot more weight than most others on the schedule, just produced the worst race of the season and arguably one of the worst in the entire history of this sport. I know the 2008 Brickyard 400 would like a chat but you have to put this sad excuse for a race in that category with that event.
While I get there’s a lot of blame to go around here, you can’t dismiss that Texas once again didn’t produce. While I get that there was a 56-minute red flag for lightning, this race began at 3:49 p.m. ET and didn’t end until 4-hours, 21-minutes and 53-seconds later not counting that red flag period.
16 cautions for 91 laps occurred. Multiple crashes for race leaders via blown tires. Some hard hits too. Which is why this isn’t solely on Texas. This is a Next Gen problem. This is a Goodyear problem too. How much longer as we going to keep doing this? When is enough, enough? Is it when we critically injure someone?
These crashes are far from what they were with this old car. I don’t care what the data says. The drivers are saying they feel more violent than they did before, and I would tend to side with the ones feeling the effects from them.
Cody Ware slammed the Turn 4 wall due to an issue and slammed into the pit wall as a result. He nearly went through the opening. What happens if he hits a person behind pit wall? Is that when we’re going to react?
What happens if that driver is knocked unconscious and slams into someone behind the pit wall? Both can happen. Do we react then?
“My whole body, literally my jaw hurts,” Denny Hamlin said after his Daytona crash. “I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers who gets his whole face demolished. That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us (about the impacts), all the other drivers, it’s true.”
As much as we’ve gained and improved in a lot of areas, we’ve taken a step back in others. Safety is one you should never fall back on and so far this season it’s proven that we have. Between the fires and the hard hits, you can’t ignore the fact that this car is more violent so far than the past one.
Kurt Busch wrecked on July 23 and he’s still dealing with effects of that routine crash 2 months later.
“The safety cannot be slow,” Harvick stated. “This car is screwed up as far as the way that it crashes. And whether the data says it or not, every driver in this garage will tell you that’s not right, and it hurts — feet hurt, hands hurt, head hurt.”
Then you have the unacceptable parts failure. Power steering units, steering racks, fires, etc, this just can’t keep happening.
“It blew the seal out and pushed all the (power steering) fluid out on the right-front tire. Just unbelievable,” Martin Truex Jr. said at Bristol after his mechanical failure. “What did (Kevin) Harvick say? Crappy parts. … You literally can’t drive the car here without power steering. You lose it, you’re done. It’s been a horrible string of luck for us, and we had another strong car tonight. We were working our way forward, every run going forward. Ready for this year to be over and start over.”
That’s exactly what Harvick said after his car spontaneously erupted in flames at the Southern 500.
“I’m sure it’s just the crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” Kevin Harvick said in an NBC TV interview after exiting the race. “We haven’t fixed anything. It’s kinda like the safety stuff, we just let it keep going.”
“The car started burning, and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and as the flames got bigger it started burning stuff up. I think you see all the brake fluid. It burned the brake line. The fire was coming through the dash.
“What a disaster. For no reason. We didn’t touch the wall, we didn’t touch a car and here we are in the pits with a burned up car and can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.
“I just stopped. The rocker was on fire for a couple laps. I just stopped because I couldn’t see any more as the flames were coming through the dash. I couldn’t make myself sit in there and burn up.”
Now we have tires as an issue again. 2 straight weeks. Bristol and now Texas.
“Bristol is definitely a unique load case,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition last week. “Some things cropped up with the steering that weren’t expected. Honestly no excuse, but with the newness of this car and the newness of everything, I think that it’s not acceptable to have problems, but it’s probably part of the learning process for us.
“All the teams and (manufacturers) were involved in the RFP process when we chose the parts. Everybody’s got a stake in this, and it’s not just NASCAR choosing quote-unquote, crappy parts.
“With every part of this car actually being a new part and a new design, I think historically in racing, and in any walk of life, when you do something completely new … there’s a learning curve.
“We’re in that learning curve and working really hard to make sure that everything works. I think for the most part it has.
“We did have some steering issues at Bristol. That is, again, a part that was chosen through the RFP process, and it is team-serviceable. That’s where we are right now.
“Are we looking to improve on when we have problems? We absolutely 100% are every single day. What happened at Bristol was not acceptable. We will diligently work to come up with a solution to where that doesn’t happen again.”
Well, it happened again. 6 days later. This was just as bad if not worse. It would be one thing to blame this car, blame this track, but at what point do we blame Goodyear too.
Both Goodyear and NASCAR knew this tire was a problem in May and here we are 4 months later, and it was worse.
“It has been widely documented that the balance of the Next Gen car has shifted towards the rear,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “On a weekly basis, optimizing tire performance is a key element in having a successful weekend. Air pressure, suspension geometry and shock settings work in unison to get the most out of the tire package. Being aggressive in any one of those areas is certainly a recipe for short-term speed, but the risk vs. reward of those choices can often come back and bite you.
“We work very closely with teams throughout the week and at the track, providing as much data as we can to help them make the right tire choices. We understand that teams are in a constant search for speed, but finding the edge of that envelope is key to finishing races.”
The thing is, Goodyear and even NASCAR are saying that it’s not necessarily a tire problem. It could be a team problem too and how they’re using their air pressures.
We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.
“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”
“Well, I mean, obviously we saw a lot of tire problems, and we saw a lot of teams that didn’t have tire problems,” Miller said on Sunday night from Texas.
“We’re working through that. Goodyear is working through that with the teams, working through what the setups were, what the air pressures were, to try to get to the bottom of it.
“There was a lot of teams that reported no problems to us post-race, and they did admit to being a little bit on the conservative side air pressure and being closer to the suggested minimums that Goodyear recommended.
“I don’t really know how to comment on how long a tire should last.
“The top four at least ran 64 laps home. If they can go 64 laps, they have plenty of tires to get the job done.
“We’re all learning about the setups, the tires. Goodyear is learning about the construction, the new wheel. It’s part of a learning — it’s an unfortunate part of a learning process.”
Tyler Reddick’s crew chief, Randall Burnett, agreed that they went conservative with their tire setups and it paid off.
“We came into this race a little conservative,” he said. “We got bit at Kansas the other week with one. I think we’ve had four tires go down this year while leading the race.
“R.C. talked to me about it and said, Make sure you keep some air in the tires today. I tried to do that. A little bit more conservative approach this week. It’s a fine line. Everybody knows the speed, pushing the limits of the tires.
“With the low sidewalls, they’re not as forgiving as the 15-inch wheel stuff we had before. It’s a lot finer line, I think.
“I mean, there’s so many things that go into it, right? It’s tire pressure, it’s camber in the tires, it’s where you’re running on the racetrack. More often than not you see a guy that’s leading blow a tire, it’s because he has the cleanest air, the most air, most downforce on his car because he’s out front. Sometimes it overloads the tire.
“That’s kind of where we’re at with them.”
Even Chase Elliott who had a tire end his day on lap 183 agreed.
“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”
So maybe there is some merit to this after all. However, it’s got to get addressed and fixed because we’re 30 races into the season and it’s not gotten any better.
These are some serious issues and while you can applaud the parity, how much of that is a direct result of the top teams being taken out unexpected chaos not of their doing.
From faulty parts, to blown tires, to cars spontaneously combusting, that’s had a direct involvement in these final finishing orders.
I get this car has a wider tire and the loads in the corners are higher as a result. So, if we know that, why aren’t we making the necessary changes?
Texas’ Part In This
As far as Texas though, this track greatly helped this because you just can’t race here. Get out of the racing line and you have to get off the gas and slide up the track. You can’t catch it like you can elsewhere. That’s a track problem, not a car or driver.
“Well, I think the general consensus, this is just is my opinion, this has been a difficult track to race on for a while now,” Miller said.
“What the plans are for it, anything like that, I don’t have any details on any of that. But if you ask the drivers, if you ask the crew chiefs, it’s been a difficult place over the years, for sure.”
That track has become a disaster ever since that repave/reconfiguration. There’s talks now of a complete do over.
“I think they should just put it back to the way it was from my standpoint,” Jimmie Johnson lobbied. “In all my years in Cup, it was the best mile-and-a-half, especially once it aged, from my perspective.
“Based on my previous experience in NASCAR, I think just put it back.”
“For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration,” Larson said.
“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever.
“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”
But will they? Atlanta got a revamp and it’s 2 races were a slam dunk. Does Texas go in the direction that Atlanta did or does it go in a different route?
“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back.
“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”
Denny Hamlin says anything, even another superspeedway is better than what is here now.
“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”
It’s hard to just resurface the turns because that costs money and you’re basically doing what you’re already done without any capital coming back in. While you absolutely can’t put any traction compounds back on those areas, is the configuration really going to be that much better?
That’s part of the issue to why traction compound even had to be put down to begin with. So then you open the door to repaving the entire track and reconfiguring again. While you’re at it, why not do something to stand out because if you haven’t noticed, 1.5-mile tracks are a dying form.
No matter what they do, they have to do something because they’ve already lost 1 points paying race for the All-Star race and that event flopped so badly there, it got taken away after just 2 years.
They’re in jeopardy of becoming the next Chicagoland and Kentucky…
“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” Logano said.