Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – BROOKLYN, MI – As a whole, the Michigan / Texas race weekend went very well for NASCAR. Here’s this week’s edition of the good, the bad & the ugly.
A Thrilling finish on Friday in Texas with the trucks, an XFINITY event that taught us a lot about the aero package that has been in the headlines for the past few weeks and a rain shortened but solidly exciting Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday that saw a fan favorite in victory lane.
Friday’s Truck Series event almost saw a first time winner in the form of Stewart Friesen. Though his GMS alliance team mate Johnny Sauter picked up the win, Friesen was the show for most of the night. Once losing the lead on pit strategy, Friesen drove from 11th to 2nd by the race’s end and came within one truck length of making a lot of fans in the Northeast and Canada very happy race fans.
The Xfinity race was a bit underwhelming for the first portion, but by the event’s end it began looking like cars could at least use two solid lanes of the race track, which since the repave, has been a big ask of the facility, cars and competitors. The victory by Austin Dillon came by way of aggressive driving and bold moves. Something we’ve become accustomed to at the end of big time NASCAR races yet it never gets less impressive to see drivers push to the absolute limit but not past it.
The Cup Series event in Michigan only made it a few laps into the final segment before the rains came and washed out the rest of the 400 mile event. Clint Bowyer’s second win of the season came in Ford’s backyard, always a plus. However, this was a race, unlike the years prior, where fans probably wish they’d gotten to see more green flag racing. This package at Michigan produced some great racing and for all the talk of new aero packages, one isn’t very sure they need to re imagine the wheel when it comes to the 2.0 mi oval.
There seems to be a lot of support for this new aero package that debuted at the All-Star race. I’m not very sure why though. Indianapolis is the only track we’ve seen this package on to date, whether it be in the XFINITY Series or Cup Series, where we’ve seen honest to goodness improvement in the overall ability to pass and put on a show for the fans worthy of the time and investment teams must make to apply these changes to their cars.
NASCAR doesn’t need to make this drastic a change to the cars for the results we’ve seen so far. We should hope to see NASCAR run a few more events with this package and make an honest decision to either scrap it, or run with it based solely on the performance on the track. So far, if that’s how the judgment will be made, I wouldn’t expect to see this be the package NASCAR goes with for the Cup Series moving forward.
Though Sunday provided plenty of on track action, the end of Stage one was frankly, unacceptable. NASCAR made the decision to keep pit road closed to allow a green flag, one lap dash to the finish of the stage. This caught Matt Kenseth, who was the cause of the caution, out on an island. Where the No.6 Roush Fenway team would’ve usually had the chance to take a wave around on any other week, they were now penalized a lap because NASCAR never gave them a fair opportunity that every other team would usually get under the circumstances to take advantage of the usual procedures.
This hurts the integrity of Stock Car racing. Unfortunately, there is no one to police NASCAR itself on actions detrimental to Stock Car racing. NASCAR runs the show. We all know this. However, NASCAR is entrusted by fans, teams and sponsors to create a level playing field to compete on.
If this had been a scenario where NASCAR was trying to get to the end of Stage two and make an official race with impending weather, it would have made far more sense. To allow it to happen in a non vital situation, where whether it rained or not the race would not be over, made little sense to anyone outside the NASCAR Control Tower.