There has been much talk throughout the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season regarding the aggression exhibited by the sport’s drivers. Numerous incidents have occurred on all types of tracks and among, in one way or another, virtually every competitor in the series. Driver aggression has largely become the method of operation during races, particularly as the checkered flag approaches.
Many believe the seeming increase in aggressive behavior on the race track is related to the introduction of the NextGen race car. With its handling capabilities, the toughness of the car, and the sense of security the new machine gives its drivers, there has been a greater willingness to race in ways that might not have been as common as before.
The event held on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again brought the conversation of aggression to the forefront. A number or mishaps, particularly on late race restarts as one driver after another found himself “dumped” as the cars funneled from the wide front straightaway into the much more narrow turn one, became the order of the day.
In the days leading up to the Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, drivers Joey Logano and William Byron were asked by members of the media about the seeming increase of aggressive driving techniques. Both stars indicated that aggressive moves in this car are, more often than not, made to prevent others from striking first.
“Yeah, lots to talk about from last weekend, definitely very eventful,” Logano quipped. “A turn one like that and the late race restarts, you can kind of see what’s going to happen. If you’re not the one making the move, the move is going to be made on you. You kind of get put in a spot, the whole field gets put in a spot when you have a turn one that’s like that. It was an eventful race at the end there with everyone seeing an opportunity to pick up spots and moves happen.”
Byron largely echoed the thoughts of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion.
“I think it’s just a little bit of how road courses have trended,” the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet said. “It’s difficult to pass. If you get a late caution with these cars funneling down into a two-wide corner with six lanes on the straightaway is definitely a recipe for carnage. It’s the nature of how that braking zone is there. If you don’t do it, someone else is going to do it to you. You don’t want to get spun out so you end up driving in deeper than you want to because of the guy behind you.”
Logano says that no one can complain about the style of racing being employed this season. After all, it is what everyone said they wanted.
“I think it’s more this year than last year because the cars are more durable,” the No. 22 Team Penske Ford driver explained. “Last year, you didn’t want to push a fender in, you’d get more fender rubs. everyone has realized at this point that it’s a little bit harder to cut down a tire, the bodies are pretty tough, and so contact isn’t that bad. That is the number one thing we asked for when we built this NextGen car was a more durable race car to where we can bump and bang more. We got it, and now we’re going to complain? We asked for it, the fans asked for it, everybody asked for it.”
Byron may have summed up NASCAR racing in 2022 best with this statement.
“It was kind of hit or be hit, kind of demo go-karts out there. If you lift for somebody, somebody runs over you from behind.”
All the bumping and banging may not be the “proper” way to go about it, but it has been entertaining to watch. Perhaps this weekend’s race in Richmond will provide more entertainment.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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