Turn 2 Blog: Trackhouse sliding? & Was Pocono better than Richmond?

*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.

Which provided the better racing- Pocono or Richmond?

Richard: Following Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway, Denny Hamlin said that racing purists would appreciate that race because it presumably brought in the elements of strategy and tire conservation. On the other hand, Pocono provided not only entertaining racing but a myriad of storylines as well.

According to voters in the poll conducted weekly by Jeff Gluck of The Athletic, fans preferred the Pocono show over that of Richmond with 81% voicing their approval for Pocono with only about 53% favorable toward Richmond in the two separate “Good Race Polls”.

I enjoy racing of any sort and can find the value in both strategy events and the rock-em/sock-em affairs as well. But from a fan’s perspective, the Pocono type of race is more likely to have folks talking days later so a race in which a lot of competitors leave the track angry is likely best for the sport.

I will say, though, that the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in which Carson Hocevar made an extra pit stop yet still ran down long time race leader Ty Majeski at the very end was intriguing. Still, I wouldn’t want to have that sort of strategy race play out every weekend.

To answer the question, I would have to say that my pick would be similar to Gluck’s poll. I am more likely to say that Pocono was a better race than Richmond.

Michael: The poll shows how racing has changed in the Cup Series over the last several years. Fans have clamored for more short track races and have wanted the tracks 1.5 miles and bigger reduced. With this new car, the opposite is happening. The short track races have become uneventful in many ways while tracks like Pocono and Auto Club Speedway have provided better racing. Who knew short track racing could be made into uneventful races?!? NASCAR has found a way to do that. 

This problem is why NASCAR has been conducting a number of tests at Richmond, Bristol, and Martinsville. And the testing has not improved things. While attendance is increasing for a number of races, the attendance and enthusiasm for the short tracks is dropping. NASCAR better find some solutions soon with two short tracks that are part of the Playoffs schedule.

Compare and contrast the recent efforts of Trackhouse Racing vs. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.

Richard: As far as their NASCAR Playoffs eligible drivers are concerned, if not for Ross Chastain’s win in Nashville, it could be said that the past several weeks for Trackhouse Racing have been terrible. Earlier in the season it appeared as if the organization would get both Chastain and Daniel Suarez in the NASCAR Playoffs. Now, that is not looking certain at all.

Of course, Trackhouse did win the Chicago Street Course race with New Zealand’s Shane Van Gisbergen behind the wheel of their Project 91 car but he is not eligible to race for a championship.

Chastain will race for a championship because of his Nashville victory but Suarez is in a very precarious position as he currently ranks 19th in the standings 34 points out of 16th place. A look at their recent finishes shows just how far the organization has fallen off.

Chastain’s best result since his Nashville win has been a 13th which is mixed in with four finishes outside the top-20. Suarez was second at Atlanta but has otherwise recorded seven placements outside the top-20 since Dover.

On the other hand, Roush Fenway Keselowski seems to be on the upswing. Like Chastain, Chris Buescher’s recent win at Richmond will essentially lock him into the Playoffs. But unlike Suarez, Keselowski ranks 11th in the standings well above the cutline.

Buescher has been a steady top-15 runner over the past several weekends while Keselowski has been even better. As of right now, Trackhouse seems to be sinking while RFK seems to be rising.

Daniel Suarez has fallen off the pace recently

Michael: I don’t know what is happening at Trackhouse. I don’t know if they caught some lightning in a bottle last year, have some internal issues, or something else going on there. But you’re right, they are nowhere near where they were this time last year, especially Suarez.

I could see RFK making improvements as last season went along. Keselowski was starting to post some good finishes and then Buescher got the win at Bristol. With Jack Roush not being at the track very often before taking on Keselowski as a partner, I think it took away from their competitive side. It’s hard to run a competitive team and not be at the track to talk to people and see what others are doing. I think we’re seeing some of that with Stewart-Haas Racing as well.

Pick a driver just above or below the cut line who is set up well and one who isn’t going into these upcoming races.

Richard: Throughout his career, Michael McDowell has been good on road courses and the big drafting tracks. As it happens the next few races include the road courses of Watkins Glen and the Indianapolis Road Course as well as the drafting-style track at Daytona.

McDowell is currently just inside the Playoff cut and I would say that the next few races are perfectly set up for him.

On the other hand, Bubba Wallace has some breathing room and he may need it due to the fact that he has had some struggles on road courses in the past. However, he is good on the drafting tracks so if he should come to Daytona on the bubble that will be in his favor.

Michael McDowell could be set up well for a run at the Playoffs

Michael: One driver that could make a big rally is Chase Elliott. I didn’t think he’d be able to point his way into the playoffs. But he’s on 40 points behind the cutline with 2 road courses, Michigan, and Daytona left before the playoffs start. But his performance still needs to be better.

A.J. Allmendinger could get in with a win or two strong performances on the upcoming road courses. He’s been running a little better as of late. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him win one of the next two races.

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