Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – FORT WORTH, TX – Texas Motor Speedway’s race weekend was one of oddities. From unexpected contenders, to a damp XFINITY race, to blown calls on pit road, this weekend had a bit of everything. Everything is bigger in Texas, even the controversy. Let’s take a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of the O’reilly Auto Parts 500 race weekend.
Sunday’s Monster Energy Cup Series race saw quite a few drivers get their best finish of the season so far. Jamie McMurray led laps Sunday, on his way to a solid third place finish. Erik Jones came home a strong fourth after contending for the lead most of the day and Bubba Wallace grabbed his first top 10 finish since the Daytona 500 in February.
Cole Whitt took his No. 72 and grabbed a top 20 finish, which was impressive to say the least for a team with very limited funding and manpower.
On the flip side of that, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. all fell out in accidents, relegating them to the very back of the 37 car field. This gave some of the previously mentioned top ten finishers the opportunity to shine. Which in no doubt helped how people will look back on this weekends events.
Repaved or not, it seems Texas Motor Speedway has gotten things wrong so far with their new configuration and surface. Between the odd transitions to the corners, the narrow groove since the repave and arguably the worst job of using the “tire dragon” to-date something needs to drastically improve.
Sure, the current layout can work but again the “tire dragon” may be the key. We have yet to see one track fully rubber the top two grooves while leaving the normal racing line completely bare. I won’t get into a long tirade on what someone else needs to do, but someone should probably sit with the track operators and talk about racing grooves, rubber and track prep before they just lay rubber down in places it shouldn’t be.
Noticeable gaps of light gray in the very portion of the track that would benefit from having rubber laid down were an eyesore all weekend.
The racing this weekend wasn’t boring. It wasn’t uneventful, it was simply filled with events we didn’t really want.
Rainy, cold conditions wreaked havoc with the entire weekends events. With XFINITY qualifying cut short, to what amounted to NASCAR’s first oval rain race (that didn’t end in a heap of junk). Saturday was more of an endurance event for teams and fans than a sprint event.
In the end Ryan Blaney took the victory and that’s not a bad thing for this sport at all.
The Sunday event, however, sparked the ire of fans as Kevin Harvick’s crew seemingly won an appeal of a pit lane infraction on the part of a tire carrier. The “Fist bump heard ’round the world” was the subject of social media fodder and coupled with the very borderline call on Saturday’s race winner Ryan Blaney, had many wondering again why NASCAR seems to be so inconsistent with their penalty rulings.
In fairness, every major sporting league has officiating issues now and again. NASCAR is no different. However, in this particular case, one finds it hard to fathom how two situations so blatant could occur with cameras up and down the pit lane, and around 15-20 NASCAR officials on pit lane watching the stops.
NASCAR may have to re-evaluate how it went about making their decisions on Sunday. An “arms length” judgment call is exactly the type of call all of this modern technology was supposed to prevent. Sure it was supposed to make pit lane safer and less congested, however, it was also implemented to improve the quality of officiating decisions. Sunday, it did not do that.