The game has completely changed according to the drivers
In recent years, crashing for the race win has become the norm in NASCAR. Specifically, this style of racing comes in play on road courses and short tracks. But, the aggression has been turned up, across all tracks.
The race at the LA Coliseum comes to mind. Specifically, the LCQ races was full contact. Drivers wrecked each other, over and over as they fought for the final transfer spots, just to start the main event.
But, the examples are endless. Ross Chastain knocked AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman off the track on the final lap at Circuit of the Americas. Just this week, Ty Gibbs ran through teammate John Hunter Nemechek in the final lap of the Xfinity race at Richmond Raceway.
In years past, these are examples of contact that would have brought confrontation when drivers climbed from their cars. Now, it appears to more accepted.
Why? All of them understand that a race win locks a driver into the playoffs. They all see how important a win is and when they see a driver do whatever it takes to get the win, they get it.
At the same time, a new crop of drivers have moved into the sport. Those drivers have helped steer the new rules of engagement.
This year, the Next Gen car has only added to the aggression. The car features a composite body which is less likely to be dented, cutting a tire. The spec chassis has also made the playing field more level than ever. It’s hard to win so win at all costs.
Denny Hamlin comments on bumping for the win
“I don’t think there’s any consequences to it,” Denny Hamlin stated of running into drivers for the race win.
“We’ve seen that you can kinda do whatever. You might be worried about getting wrecked here and there in the future but in the end, I think it’s just become accepted.”
“The art of passing is something that isn’t quite used as much, nowadays. The easier route is to just get them out of your way, as quick as possible by moving them.”
“I’ve done it. Every time I’ve done it, it’s been unintentional. I think it’s become more intentional here lately.”
“I think that they’ve seen that ‘win at all cost’ is worth it because there is no cost. It’s no cost to them.”
“There’s not enough drivers out there, and I’m guilty of it too. I got spun out of the lead, two races last year. It cost us the regular season championship. I haven’t done anything about it. So, maybe that’s a message to competitors that you can do that, he ain’t going to do anything.”
Hamlin concluded was an asterisks, “But, I haven’t had the opportunity yet.”
One of those incidents took place at Martinsville Speedway. Alex Bowman knocked Hamlin out of the way, spinning him. Bowman went on to grab the win as Hamlin famously called him a ‘Hack’.
Martin Truex Jr comments on the aggression
Martin Truex Jr has spent 19 years in the sport. He’s seen more than one shift in the way drivers race each other. This is just the latest.
“It’s definitely changed, as Denny mentioned,” Martin Truex Jr stated.
“It’s part of the way that the kids come up racing now. I flew with Harvick. He goes to watch his kids race go karts. And he’s like, ‘It’s crazy! They all go out there and just drive through each other from lap 1 of practice. It’s just a normal occurrence.’ “
“Everybody comes up through racing a certain way. I learned a certain way, Denny learned a certain way. Kids nowadays, maybe it’s different.”
“When I was making my way up through the ranks, I was working. I was building my cars. Didn’t want to tear the nose off the thing because I knew I had to fix it on Monday. You couldn’t just go out and buy a bunch of stuff, we didn’t have the money. Maybe that’s part of it.”
“It’s different, short track racing. Oh, it’s exciting because they’re racing for the win and beating the hell out of each other. That’s what everyone wants to see. It’s made it’s way here, that’s how it goes.”
Truex added, “A group of younger guys come in. What didn’t used to fly, you can now. It’s certainly a lot different.”