Opinion: Spring Cleaning
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 19, 2017 | 9:30 A.M. EST
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back in action this weekend. (Photo: Getty Images)
A few random thoughts as the NASCAR season prepares to kick back into gear this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
- The Easter break was a nice change of pace in the NASCAR world with none of the top three tiers in action. It wasn’t too long ago either the XFINITY Series or Truck Series, sometimes both, filled the void left when the Cup tour stepped aside for Easter. Hickory Motor Speedway’s Easter Saturday then Busch Series race was a long-time tradition with Nashville Superspeedway picking up the baton years later. But as with most things times change and now the sport is dormant across the top three. It’s a good thing. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. That’s tough to do when there isn’t any absence. The long NASCAR season doesn’t allow for it. The Cup Series only has one more off date coming up in late August, which will find the XFINITY Series racing at Road America, meaning NASCAR will not have a complete weekend off until the season ends this November in Miami. Yep stepping aside a couple of days over Easter is not a bad thing at all.
- Now that Hendrick Motorsports has gotten to Victory Lane thanks to Jimmie Johnson’s Texas win the heat shifts to Joe Gibbs Racing. The organization won 12 times last year but thus far in 2017 has been shut out. Speculation has run rampant about what’s ailing the powerhouse team, which did undergo a significant change when first Carl Edwards and then crew chief Dave Rogers vacated the No. 19 ride for personal reasons. Rookie Daniel Suarez will take some time to develop while the other JGR trio of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin look to regain their formerly more competitive ways. I wouldn’t expect the drought to last too much longer and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it end as early as Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
- Friday’s Bristol qualifying session will be quite interesting to watch in the aftermath of what happened in Texas when nine drivers failed to make it through in time to turn a lap. NASCAR has indicated punishment in the form of some kind of penalty could be used as an added deterrent to the practice of missing qualifying, which results in a driver starting at the rear of the field but on fresh tires given the new rule of starting races on qualifying rubber. Depending on the track, having new tires negates the poor starting spot thus the possible incentive to miss qualifying. It’s a situation the sanctioning body is monitoring closely.
- NASCAR would be wise to also look closely at practice as a means of tightening up weekend schedules. There is simply too much practice available to Cup teams with this week’s trip to Bristol a prime example. Friday opens with nearly a 90-minute session ahead of qualifying. Saturday’s two practices add up to just about two more hours’ worth of track time. It’s a simple equation; less practice time makes for better racing. The more time teams have to practice, the more perfect cars become in race trim. Even drivers themselves say they like to wrestle their cars in race conditions. Cutting down the inordinate amount of practice every weekend would provide much more potential for a competitive main event every weekend – the actual race.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.