The race at Martinsville Speedway had the industry asking what could be done to fix the issue
On Saturday night, the NASCAR Cup Series unloaded at Martinsville Speedway. It was a short-track race, where drama is expected.
The night previous proved it’s a track that can do that. It was a race that went down to the wire with Ty Gibbs losing the lead in the closing laps. Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer even threw hands after the finish of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
Yet, the next night, when the NASCAR Cup Series took the stage, the race went two full stages without a caution. And there wasn’t much passing either, across the board.
The race nearly ended with excitement. With 7 laps to go, a caution was thrown as a car tagged the wall. It was the first caution, excluding stage breaks. Joey Logano tried to beat on the bumper of William Byron and steal the race win. However, Byron held him off, claiming his second win of the season.
Instead, they went 400 laps without a single green flag pass for the race lead. Byron took the lead on a pit stop and led 212 laps en route to victoyr..
A caution at the end of a race on a short track can change the game. It can produce a great finish but what about the other 390 laps of the show? Those questions have surfaced.
NASCAR short tracks used to be the bread-and-butter of the sport. However, years ago, those tracks began to be removed, in favor of new 1.5-mile cookie-cutter ovals.
Yet, short tracks have taken a focus on the schedule in recent years. Especially, the championship finale which is now hosted on the 1-mile of Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR rule changes broke short tracks?
NASCAR Short Tracks (Cup Series): LA Coliseum; Richmond Raceway; Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway; New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Phoenix Raceway
Bad short track races aren’t a new problem. How did we get here?
According to Clint Bowyer and Chad Knaus, the issue stems from a rule change made back in 2014. The rule in question is actually the lack there of. Since 2014, there’s been no ride height rule in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Without that rule, teams are able to fix the noses of their cars right on the ground, all the way around the track. Aerodynamic grip stands before mechanical grip.
The NASCAR Next Gen car was expected to reduce the dependency on aerodynamics. However, that doesn’t appear to have helped the product on tracks under 1-mile.
Sure, the cars have the opportunity to beat and bang due to the composite bodies. That’s good because it appears that’s about the only way to pass on short tracks in recent years.
Clint Bowyer and Chad Knaus comment on NASCAR short tracks
Clint Bowyer asked, “This has to be fixed next week. What do you do? Boss comes to you and says, ‘I don’t care. Something has to change, next week.’ “
Chad Knaus responded, “You know, something that’s interesting, I feel like our racing has taken a bit of a dive on short tracks. And you’re going to laugh at this a little bit. Is when we took away the ride height rules.”
Clint Bowyer jumps in with exuberance, “I swear to gosh, I’ve said this a million times. I’m telling you, you can go back and look, it flipped the switch, at that moment. Why did they never look at that again?”
“I mean, I’m telling you it shows up, like black and white. I’m so glad you said that. I’ve preached that for 10 years.”
At this point, Bowyer was so excited that he had to stand up in the broadcast booth. He grabbed a pen and drew a line on a piece of paper. Visually displaying the change in short track racing.
Bowyer concluded, “That’s when it happened. And nobody ever says it! I’m so glad you said that. You’re the only person that’s ever agreed with me. I thought I was a complete idiot.”
Drivers comment after Martinsville
Joey Logano stated, “Tough to pass.”
Ryan Blaney added, “It was really really tough to pass.”
“You could run someone down from a straight-away, be two-three tenths faster than them. Then, just stall out. Couldn’t even really get to him, to put the bumper to him, was the worst part.”
Blaney added, “That was kinda unfortunate tonight. Hopefully we can figure out how to get it better, coming back here in the fall.”
Aric Almirola confirmed, “The track position game was really strong tonight. Everybody would start running the same speed after about 30 laps.”