*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.
Tire wear makes racing better, right?
Richard: The answer to this question is absolutely. More tire wear results in pit strategy becoming more of a factor. In Kansas we saw teams short pit, almost like they do in Formula 1, trying to hit pit road a couple of laps before the driver just ahead in hopes of getting back out on track and making up ground on newer tires. Also more passing comes about due to the ‘comers-and-goers’ effect brought on by the fact that some take better care of their tires than others.
A great example of tire wear bringing about different scenarios came when Joey Logano’s team opted not to pit under the final caution knowing that all of the front runners would. That move put the No. 22 car near the front for the green-white-checkered restart. Even though he was not able to win the race, the Team Penske driver finished 5th where, had his crew not gambled, he would have finished somewhere around 15th.
Lastly, having tires that wear out over the course of the run brings in the ever looming threat of a failure which keeps the outcome of races in doubt right to the very end in the same way a fuel mileage race does.
Tire wear is never a bad thing as long as they are not blowing out and causing injuries.
Michael: Lack of tire wear has been one of the biggest complaints in NASCAR for the last 8-10 years. How many times have we seen very little fall off in speeds or teams not changing tires and still be up front of all the teams that did change tires? It made for some boring racing.
Teams could get pretty aggressive with setups when tires had little to no fall off. It seemed like no matter what these teams did, they couldn’t wear out a tire. The only tire issues were from running over debris on the track. This also led to fewer cautions and the cars getting more stretched out. I think the last few ovals, no superspeedway races, have shown how much better the racing is when drivers and teams have to manage their tires instead of run all-out through a run.
Even with all the planning NASCAR teams do, isn’t it amazing that luck still plays a role?
Richard: NASCAR teams are as prepared as any organizations in professional sports. Still, luck will probably play a role in virtually every race. This past Sunday at the Kansas Speedway we saw that with two championship contenders in particular.
Martin Truex Jr. was eliminated from the race almost immediately when it appears as if a small piece of debris punctured a tire and sent him into the outside wall. The result was a last place finish which dropped the former Cup Series champion below the cutline.
The only car faster than that of Bubba Wallace on Sunday was that of Kyle Larson, at least in the first half of the race. But like Truex, Wallace found himself on the wrong end of a tire failure that ended up putting him multiple laps down ultimately landing the No. 23 Toyota in the 32nd finishing position and further below the cutline.
Truex’s situation had much to do with just bad luck as it would seem unlikely there would not have been anything the crew might have done to cause a problem so early into a run. The Wallace tire issue may very well have also been attributed to luck but there could possibly have been some tire pressure or camber shenanigans at work as well.
Bristol Motor Speedway presents the possibility of luck being involved as well. How many times have we seen a driver who was running well get caught up in a mishap not of his own making and eliminated from the race?
Yes, luck can be a deciding factor no matter how much planning is involved.
Michael: I think luck plays a bigger factor in racing than it does any other sport. Not only can a tire fail, but any moving part on a car can also fail at any time. While today’s engines are more bulletproof than 40 years ago, it wouldn’t take much for a broken rocker arm or something worse to prematurely end a driver’s day from winning.
All of this doesn’t include all the moving parts of a pit crew. A bad impact gun to a broken jack or a crew member tripping are all things that are at risk during each pit stop. And that doesn’t include a loose wheel nut, something that happens to a few teams each race.
Football teams have 11 players on the field at the same time for a team. Most problems are from players not executing or the opponent being better. It’s rare to see dumb luck come into play in a game. Bad luck is just around the corner for every NASCAR team at any time.
Which Playoff driver has the best chance of winning his way into the next round at Bristol?
Richard: While it would take quite a disaster for Kyle Busch to be bumped from the NASCAR Playoffs following the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, I will nonetheless pick him as my favorite among the championship contenders to score a win. After all, he has won there a total of eight times over the course of his career.
Busch and his Richard Childress Racing No. 8 team have been very hit-and-miss this season. When they hit, they are very good. When they miss, they tend to be not so good. I am going to predict that Busch, who will probably advance to the ‘Round of 12’ no matter what, will move to the next round with a win at BMS.
Michael: Busch does seem like the logical choice for Bristol. But their up-and-down season scares me from picking him to win.
Instead, I’m going with either of the RFK cars. Chris Buescher is the defending winner at Bristol in a fairly dominating performance last year. Brad Keselowski continues to get closer to a win each week. I can see him getting his first win as an owner at Bristol. Either of those two would be my picks.
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