Sometimes drivers just need one more lap to change the outcome of a race. The fast speeds of NASCAR don’t always leave us with enough time to express ourselves in the moment. Here is one more lap of thoughts for us to digest after another exciting weekend of racing.
Turn 1: Cautions, when do they fly and why? Throughout the season it seems NASCAR has been inconsistent with calling flags and this last week was no different. Far from the phantom debris of days past we now get treated to a caution without anything close to a darlington strip. Other times we can see cars spin in front of an entire field, but it’s okay to let them run a lap with a flat.
I don’t believe that NASCAR is selecting cautions to benefit specific teams, which is always a popular conspiracy for passionate fans. In my observations, NASCAR has been quick to throw a caution when it benefits the excitement of a race, however they are slow to react when a caution would be less than desirable. An upset winner or a fuel milage race won’t get a caution unless absolutely necessary, but a perennial favorite can be sure to see any excuse for a caution being called to give the fans one last exciting restart.
It is obvious that NASCAR is catering to the entertainment value of the races. While this might increase ratings its discourteous even unethical to the team and fans. Cautions need to be better defined or at least consistent.
Turn 2: The dominance of the Xfinity series “Big 3” this year is remarkable considering how significantly they have outperformed the entire series. It is not hard to spot these three drivers when you look at the stats sheet, they are the only series regulars with multiple wins.
Christopher Bell who did all but win at Iowa has possible shown his potential having led the most amount of laps at 1252. The top three lap leaders have accounted for 2,361 laps out front, to give perspective the remaining series regulars have only led a combined 401 laps.
Tyler Reddik, last year's champion, has the best average finish with a 5.4. The next closest driver is Chase Briscoe with a solid 8.9. The big three are the only drivers with double digit top five finishes through the first 19 races.
Cole Custer has led the trio with speed, posting a series high five pole awards, all three together have qualified on point for 12 races this year.
One of these three drivers will win the championship, it’s theirs to lose, but they won't considering that they’re the only three drivers with double digit playoff points. Together they have accumulated 87 playoff points compared to the rest of the fields 21.
The most intriguing storyline is not who will be at homestead racing for a championship, it’s where these drivers will go next. Obviously they are destined for the cup series, but there are not enough quality rides for the excess of exceptional talent.
Turn 3: The Pocono doubleheader, its real and it is going to happen. Significant changes in the industry are always interesting, but this one may be groundbreaking and a long term game changer. NASCAR plans to run five races in four days including two 350 mile races for the MENCS. The teams in the MENCS races will practice and qualify on Friday, then they will be the second series to race on Saturday and Sunday.
Teams will be required to run the same car and most likely the same engine for both races, with the option to work on the cars between events. The other series will keep a fairly normal schedule besides having to work around the hectic experience of a full weekend in this first ever doubleheader.
The biggest headline for the racing weekend has to be the starting line up for the MENCS race on Sunday. Instead of qualifying again NASCAR will invert the running order of all the cars on the lead lap. For example after the race this weekend Michael McDowell would be starting up front for a second run. For me this brings into question what is fair, and or acceptable. I think it’s interesting, and am excited to see what happens, but what does it matter. I would be happier to see McDowell win a pole, than have cars scrambling to pass less competitive teams a few laps into a 140 lap race.
There seems to be mixed feelings amongst the fans, media, and even the drivers. It may all be over reactions, as I’m sure the weekend will go well, and this will become a normal process as we have multiple doubleheaders every year. My biggest concern is the weather, and how prepared you can actually be for inclimate weather. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t rain the weekend of July 27th, 2020.
Turn 4: This week Nascar sends its series in different directions again as the MENCS and NXS head to Watkins Glen International where they will be turning left and right for the fastest road course on the schedule while the NGOTS goes to the dirt for the 7th running of the Eldora Dirt Derby.
Rolling into Watkins Glen brings much anticipation as we return to the site of fan favorite Chase Elliot’s first MENCS win. Regardless The Glen is always a highly rated race and experience for fans with many camping options, and one of the best crowds in all of motorsports. A fast paced road coarse and a multitude of drivers that have honed their skills off of the oval will make for another exciting weekend.
As if leaving the usual oval wasn’t enough the NGOTS are leaving the pavement as the highly successful Eldora Dirt Derby continues on Thursday night. Matt Crafton returns to the site of his last win as him and Stewart Freisen try to hold onto their playoff hopes. With only two races left before the playoffs this is the weekend for an unlikely hero to solidify themselves as a contender for the championship.