Turn 2 Blog: COTA Thoughts & What to Expect from Bristol Dirt

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

NASCAR’s Next Gen(or Gen 7) car just completed its first road course weekend. Thoughts?

Richard: Many aspects of the Next Gen car appear to have been designed with road course racing in mind. The new machine’s independent rear suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and the sequential transaxle are all components used in road racing. With the NASCAR Cup Series employing more road courses than ever before on its schedule, it would make sense for the car used in the sport to be engineered for that form of racing. 

One thing that was immediately noticeable was that it wasn’t just a race between the traditional top teams. Yes, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske were in the mix as the laps clicked away but so were eventual winners Trackhouse Racing along with Richard Childress Racing, Kaulig Racing and Petty GMS Motorsports were also among the late-race front runners. The car seems to have allowed teams that were once considered mid-pack to run closer to the front of the field so far in 2022. 

With all of that said, the race still proved to be very typical NASCAR with the finesse and precision of traditional road course competition being replaced by the Bull-in-a-China-Shop method of racing as the checkered flag approached. Ultimately, it might not have been a product that the purists saw as “proper sport” but it was entertaining. 

Further, NASCAR needs to be on that race track. It is one of the world’s premier racing facilities so if it, along with the new car, can produce a final product that pleases fans, it should always be on the schedule. 

Ross Chastain got Trackhouse Racing its first Cup Series win

Michael: The new car seems to be a great equalizer for all the teams as this season starts out. Over time, I think the top-tier teams will eventually be the ones to beat every week. To this point, I have enjoyed what I have seen in that nearly all teams have a legitimate shot at taking a win.

I have a different take on COTA on the NASCAR schedule. While it’s one of the top facilities in the country, there aren’t the passing zones for stock cars like we see at Sonoma or Watkins Glen. I haven’t noticed if there is a boot leg portion to the track that would shorten the course just a bit. Still, the only two races for NASCAR have been a rain-marred race and one with a new car.

The finish of Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix had a wild finish. Was there any wrongdoing in the way it played out?

Richard: As I said above, road racing purists might not like the beating and banging that is common to NASCAR, but it ultimately is common to NASCAR. The three-way battle between eventual winner Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman and A.J. Allmendinger made for one of the best shows of the season. And it has been a season of good shows so far. And again, it was nice to see some of the sport’s lesser recognized drivers and organizations vying for the win. 

As far as the contact goes, I just saw it as hard racing between guys who wanted to win a NASCAR Cup Series race. I don’t think there was anything malicious about Chastain’s move. And let’s be honest, with a green/white/checkered double-file restart, who couldn’t see that coming? It’s almost as if NASCAR wants that sort of thing to happen… wink, wink. 

Michael: Yeah, we had a car come to a complete stop on the track and it took NASCAR almost a whole minute to throw a yellow. But get to the end of the race, the yellow comes out for almost anything.

I didn’t have a problem with how the race ended. You have a driver who has never won a Cup race going against another driver with only two Cup wins. Something was bound to happen. I think many have discounted how Bowman affected the outcome. I think if it only had been Chastain and Allmendinger racing for the win, we might have seen a finish that resembled the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500.

You and I got a first hand look at the dirt covered Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend. Will NASCAR’s second run on the half-mile clay track be different from the first?

Richard: Almost to a man, the Dirt Late Model drivers who competed this past weekend in the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals lavished praise on the track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway. Particularly Brandon Overton and Scott Bloomquist, who raced last year, pointed out that it was much smoother this time around. Both complimented the track crew for their efforts.

Based on what was said in the Media Center following the races on both Friday and Saturday, it looks like NASCAR drivers and teams can expect a very racy surface when they hit the track for the Food City Dirt Race on the weekend of April 16th and 17th. With this being the second time racing on clay, the teams will likely be even better prepared than they were in 2021. 

And more, this year’s race will be held at night which, as we all know, makes dirt surfaces more workable and predictable than is the case for daytime racing. I’m hopeful that it will be an even better show this time around. 

Joey Logano was last year’s winner on the dirt in Bristol(Photo: Getty Images)

Michael: I hope to so. Having a daytime dirt race with 3,400-pound stock cars is not a good recipe for competitive racing.

One thing that caught my attention last weekend was that the banking was slightly reduced from last year’s dirt track but I don’t know if that will change the racing all that much. The other thing is the fact the crew responsible for putting down the dirt was instructed by NASCAR to add calcium to the surface to help dry out the track. I suppose the reason is they didn’t want a lot of mud on the bottoms of the cars and on the windshields.

The X factor is again going to be how the new car behaves on a dirt track. How will the cars react on a dirt surface and will there be any issues with the cars on dirt, especially with the rear suspension? We’ll find out in a couple of weeks.

Turn 2 Blog: First Bristol Weekend in the Books & Takeaways from WoO at Cherokee

Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.

Respond to this piece on Twitter –> @RichardAllenIDR 

or on Facebook –> InsideCircleTrack/Facebook

Comments are closed.