Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kansas Whips Up The Action

The repaved Kansas Speedway whipped up the action starting with its 200-miler for the Truck Series, a race where the draft kicked in like the series hasn't seen on an intermediate in years and passing up front was heavy, but so were the wrecks, notably Todd Bodine's nasty melee.

That the Trucks saw a drafting effect kick in showed anew what is missing from modern NASCAR and what makes the intermediates better racetracks than the short tracks or dirt ovals such as what the Trucks will race at Eldora.   It is an even more pronounced problem with the cars; where back in the day the draft meant something even on intermediates and flat superovals like Pocono, Michigan, and Ontario, it has been almost entirely MIA in Cup for over a generation.

The Truck 200 at Kansas also showed anew the other big problem the sport has - the speeds are too fast.   The Trucks run tapered spacers so that helps, but it didn't work for them at Kansas; it indicates a need for more restriction. Certainly the Truck racing was very good and has been for the Trucks on the much-maligned intermediates, notably with memorable battles for first at Texas and Atlanta last season and this Kansas shootout, and what made it good - the above-mentioned draft - is what the sport needs along with reduction in horsepower to get back.  It's a fact the Cup Series still hasn't gotten right. The 400-miler saw its own share of hard crashes - highlighted by Kyle Busch's ugly ricochet into Joey Logano - and also saw a dearth of passing. The repaved Kansas track showcased a bizarre problem - for all the talk about downforce (shown in Todd Bodine's silly post-wreck rant) the Kansas track was criticized by several drivers for not having any grip with some criticism also aimed at the matchup of the car, the track, and the tires.

The 400 showed anew the loss of competitive momentum that has hit the Generation Six racecar after encouraging races in March. Given NASCAR's seemingly desperate push to promote the Generation Six (their earlier citation of scoring loop data showcasing an increase in lead changes, official and otherwise) it's bad news that passing has dropped since the Fontana melee.

The Gen-6's next test is Richmond Saturday night, but Talladega at the start of May will be the true next big test - Daytona was a fiasco for the Generation Six, and for the Winston 500 the excuses about lack of parts causing conservative racing won't apply.   If the Gen-6 produces another Talladega thriller then NASCAR will have turned a corner.

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