Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – SPARTA, KY – Each week we look back on the most recent NASCAR weekend and pick three topics as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly moment of the weekend. Here are this week’s most memorable moments from Kentucky Speedway.
Over the course of the three race weekend at Kentucky Speedway, we finally got to see the racing groove begin to widen out a bit. After using the ‘Tire Dragon’ after each of the preliminary races on Thursday and Friday night, the groove widened out substantially in turns three and four. Something we hadn’t seen to this point since Kentucky’s reconfiguration.
It wasn’t just Kyle Larson plowing through uncharted territory, multiple drivers found a comfortable line in the second groove on the long runs. Though it didn’t show the outright speed needed to make big moves on the restarts, the groove is now there. The next race weekend at Kentucky Speedway should prove to be even better than last weekend and finally we’re seeing some light at the end of this one-lane tunnel.
Unfortunately, over the course of all three events this past weekend, an old familiar ‘friend’ showed up. Aero push. In the final laps of Thursday night’s truck race, Stewart Friesen clearly had the faster machine than Ben Rhodes. However, due to the one groove nature of turns one and two, anything gained on the other side of the speedway was lost every time the duo headed into turns one and two. Rhodes would take home the victory
During Friday night’s XFINITY Series event, Daniel Hemric clearly had the fastest car. Again, like the night before, the RCR driver would make in roads on the leader in turns three and four, only to lose the time gained in the dirty air behind eventual winner Christopher Bell’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs racing entry. Bell would also take home a trophy and the winner’s share of the purse.
Saturday night, Martin Truex Jr. held off Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Penske Ford to win in a longer run than the prior two examples, but once Truex was ahead, there was no passing him due to the aerodynamic wash created in his wake.
Unlike IndyCar, NASCAR doesn’t have the luxury of a complete rethinking of where to place the aerodynamics on the cars. The only solution we will see is the eventual widening of the groove in turns one and two. As stated above, turns three and four have widened out nicely this year. We need to see the same in turns one and two to see the racing we’ve been hoping will come from this unique 1.5 mile intermediate track layout.
After incidents a plenty at Talladega, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch exchanged words all weekend long. In what amounted to a war of words played out on tv, the drama was befitting a day time soap opera. Pundits conversed the subject either lauding it or showing displeasure with the timing of some comments. Particularly Stenhouse Jr.’s during practice.
The ugly part of all of this? Unrealistic expectations. For every word and every posture for dominance between the two, was the underlying tone that something may occur on track. When television and other media outlets build up such insignificant spats as something that might transfer to the on track competition and it doesn’t. It feels almost anti-climatic to those looking for that sort of thing. For those who want the rough and tumble aspect of the sport to shine through, it’s a disappointment when it does not.
That is not a viable way to retain fans and build a sport. Sometimes it takes a bit more restraint on the part of those trying to sell the sport to fans. Sometimes the correct approach is to acknowledge the issue and chalk it up to a disagreement instead of building the incident up to proportions that neither participant is actually willing to take the offending issue to. That is more detrimental than helpful when trying to peak interest in a down time in this sport.