Drivers discuss ways to make short track racing better after a snooze event in Phoenix
Homestead-Miami Speedway has hosted the season finale since the playoff format has been introduced. The Florida track has taken criticism for being a boring way to end the season.
NASCAR has listened to the fans. For 2020, they plan to take the season finale to a short track. On paper, the 2020 championship race looked like something to be very excited about.
Fans have rallied around the track with consecutive sellouts. The track underwent a $178-million dollar renovation. The combination has granted it with the opportunity to showcase the Championship 4.
ISM Raceway, in the sports town of Phoenix, Arizona will host the season finale next year. It’s a track that’s brought excitement in years past.
But, last Sunday’s race was a snooze fest in the eyes of fans. That could be a problem next year.
Kyle Busch has been critical of the 2019 package all year. “Whoever gets the lead? Bye bye,” Busch said after ISM Raceway.
Truex isn’t surprised. “It’s been like that,” Truex said.
In a reaction to ISM Raceway hosting the 2020 finale. Truex was brief, “Yay.”
Jeff Gluck hosts a weekly poll asking, “Was ISM a good race?” Only 20% of the NASCAR fans voted Yes. That makes it the worst rated race of the season, as far as that poll goes.
PJ1 didn’t really work at ISM Raceway
Heading into the weekend, the track ran a test of PJ1 on the upper racing grooves. It was designed to create a second option with the 2020 race in mind. But, it didn’t work out.
Ryan Blaney: “It was tough for sure out there. I thought the PJ1 did a little bit, not much. You could at least go up there and get small runs, but they weren’t big enough,” Ryan Blaney said after the race.
“They’ve got to figure out something for this race because it’s going to be a letdown if it’s like that and it’s the championship race. Hopefully, they can figure something out. I thought it was a start. They just need to keep doing their homework on it,” Blaney concluded.
Kyle Larson was one of the first drivers to move up and give the PJ1 a try in practice. By the end of final practice, he was making it work. But, that didn’t play out in the race itself.
Kyle Larson: “I don’t know what to do exactly for the package,” Kyle Larson said.
“They tried to put the traction compound down and, honestly, to me for at least my car, the other people could make it work. But, for me, it felt like oil up there on the long run.”
“I was not good at all in that. So, I don’t know if it would have been better to just have it normal or what. There’s definitely less passing this year at Phoenix than there has been in previous races.”
NASCAR drivers on short track tires
Brad Keselowski: “I feel like this is a tough track for this type of car, but you look at the tires today and I think at Martinsville we could have ran 2,000 laps,” Brad Keselowski said after ISM Raceway.
“I don’t know if we could have gone 2,000 laps on a set of tires here, but maybe half of that at least. That really changes the dynamics because you get some guys that put a lot of camber in the car and take off on the short run and fall off on a long run.”
“You get some guys that drive really hard on soft tires and wear them out and that creates comers and goers, but when you have such a hard tire, one that doesn’t fall off like these do, you’re not going to see that,” Keselowski concluded.
Joey Logano: “I thought the PJ1 helped a little bit. It’s just a challenging place to pass,” Joey Logano said.
“It’s a really hard track to pass and there’s fall off, but it’s not like a ton of fall off to where there are comers and goers. It just seems like a lot of times, and being in the lead is such an advantage.”
“These spoilers on the car, you get behind another one and it’s tough, real tough, so that’s the reason why. I thought the race track got pretty wide. It got to the point that you can get pretty wide, but you couldn’t overcome the advantage of clean air,” Logano concluded after Phoenix.
Goodyear on the NASCAR tire for short tracks
Tires are important part of racing. Tire fall off, creates passing. Teams can elect to use up a soft tire in a hurry and be great on a short run. Or, they could install a setup that takes care of the tires in a long run.
But, when the tires don’t fall off, we lose that. This new rules package means cars are rolling faster through the corners. That makes things difficult on the tire manufacture.
The 2020 rules have already been released. They’re identical to 2019 and a freeze has been implemented on parts development. So, not much is likely to change on that front.
In the summer, Goodyear ran a test of a new tire at Martisnville Speedway. After that test, they essentially threw in the towel on a tire amplifying the rules package.
“We made some gains, but not what we expected to,” said Greg Stucker of Goodyear.
“We might have found some things we can take back there next year. There is only so much that can be done with the tires and more that can be done with the race cars,” Stucker concluded.
Steve O’Donnell on ISM Raceway
Many fans are under the impression that the new rules package is decreasing the number of passes.
Overall, that’s incorrect. Green flag passes are way up in 2019. However, when it comes to short track, they’re not wrong. The package isn’t working on short tracks.
“Every race is unique, we heard the same thing after the first Bristol. Then, put on a traffic race [in the fall], Steve O’Donnell stated via ‘The Morning Driver’ on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“We’re working with our partners at Goodyear to look at what we can do. Specifically, around the short tracks. Still some work to do on our end.”
“From the intermediate track standpoint, it’s delivered exactly what we wanted. Still some work to do for us, on short tracks and road courses.”
“We’ll continue to look at that over the off-season,” O’Donnell concluded.