It is easy to criticize NASCAR for the things we don’t like. And last year after the race held at Phoenix Raceway in November there was plenty of criticism going around, including from this writer. The aerodynamic changes that had been made to the cars coming into the 2019 season had seemingly improved the racing on the 1.5 to 2-mile race tracks, which was badly needed. However, that same package appeared to have hurt racing on the short tracks and road courses, where the competition had been quite good prior to the new stipulations.
When NASCAR released its 2020 schedule for the Cup Series one thing that immediately became apparent was that the traditional home to the championship deciding event was being replaced. The Miami-Homestead Speedway was to be supplanted by Phoenix Raceway.
Needless to say, when the race held last fall in Arizona proved to be less than interesting, those at the top of the sport along with those who produce the television broadcasts had to be more than a little concerned. Of all races, no one with a vested interest in the sport wants the finale to be a snoozer.
As a result, NASCAR changed its original stance that it would not make alterations to the aerodynamic package. In fact, changes were made. Most notably, the rear spoiler was chopped down considerably to take stability away from the rear of the cars forcing drivers to lift in the turns. In theory, that would provide more passing opportunities.
The racing this past Sunday in Phoenix was far better than had been the case in 2019. The changes made to the car for tracks of this size along with a softer tire brought by Goodyear and an extension of the traction compound substance seemingly made the racing more enjoyable to watch.
No doubt, there was a collective sigh of relief from NASCAR officials as well as television executives as the action played out on the one-mile track this weekend. There is hope that the Championship 4 race will be a good one rather than one that will encourage viewers to turn away even before the checkered flag waves. And perhaps more importantly to the sanctioning body, there might not be a mountain of criticism heaped against them for moving the event away from the already proven venue in south Florida.
The sample size is extremely small. As a matter of fact it’s only one race, but the results are encouraging that NASCAR did the right thing by changing up its aerodynamic package for the road courses and short tracks going into the 2020 season. If the upcoming races at Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville prove to be good, or even better than the two contests held there last year, those who run the sport will be even more relieved as the results from Phoenix will have been verified.
NASCAR has made its share of mistakes over the past couple of decades and many are quick to point those out. Perhaps this is one time in which they have taken a step in the right direction.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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