To quote Denny Hamlin from back in 2015 when he won an Xfinity race at Richmond International Raceway, “I wish we could run short tracks every week.” So the fact that NASCAR decided to again put two tracks of less than a mile in length in consecutive weeks seems to play in his favor. Add in the fact that Richmond is the home track for Hamlin, and you have an ironic reason as to why he’d say that.
But the fact is, the last two weeks of short track racing mean the talk of the draft and/or qualifying is nonexistent. However, it is the talk this week only because of the extremely short rounds to get in a quality lap.
Having the first round be just five minutes in length means that the teams had a limited amount of time to get on track, log laps, and then cool down just in an effort to possibly go out again. This idea works on a short track, and can even work on a road course, because the draft is not utilized to get the best possible time. Sure, a road course has elevation changes, turning left and right, and is hard on braking, but it’s all about driver ability versus aerodynamics. So, does this idea work on a track that is having laps click off in 20 second intervals…maybe, but a short round doesn’t.
With the first round going five minutes, and a field of nearly 40 cars, things get congested quickly like traffic when work lets out on any L.A. freeway.
If this idea of shorter rounds is to work, it needs to be on tracks where the draft is critical, because it forces teams to go out on track right away, and not play the games that have been done in recent weeks. Whether it will be used at bigger speedways will be determined after the Easter holiday, but for short tracks, at the very least the first round will need to be longer. At 10 minutes, teams can go out early if they choose, and if they are happy with their lap they can park it and wait to cool down to make another run if needed, or can wait a few minutes until things thin out and go on track.
After the second round, with fewer cars, then have the shorter time frame. Especially with a weekend like this where it’s an impound race, and teams have to wait to go through inspection till the day of the race, this could be a big deal.
The other big deal currently going on is the stranglehold that both Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing have on the season. We are at mid-April, and no other organizations can say they have visited victory lane.
This weekend, it could already seem that one team is ready to make a stand and end that streak, since we can tell that Kevin Harvick likes his car, and pushed his way to the pole with an excellent run. Former teammate Kurt Busch, who finished second a week ago, has also shown speed with his new team, and he could potentially be the first Chevrolet to see victory this season.
Then despite the speed, two heavy favorites now go to the rear with Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson failing inspection and having their top-10 qualifying efforts disqualified, so Hendrick Motorsports is already having to come from behind. The main difference, they don’t have to start laps down like Harvick did last weekend.
Best part of the weekend is the fact this race is happening under the lights. Nothing like a spring evening in Virginia to turn on the lights and have some fun.
Let’s get racing!!