After a multitude of tire problems at Texas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, should NASCAR intervene in teams adjusting tire pressures or should it continue to be a self-policing situation?
Anthony Damcott: Generally it should continue to be a self-policing situation, but the race at Texas was the second consecutive race marked with several tire failures and is one of a handful of races that have consisted of multiple tire problems. So at this point, NASCAR needs to step in and intervene. It should have stepped in earlier, considering this is a new car, and things that teams were able to do to Gen 6-and-earlier cars may not work on the Next Gen. But it’s now time to put the foot down and make the teams set tire pressures that won’t cause the tire to fail over a 30-lap stint.
Luken Glover: There are things NASCAR needs to police and vice versa. This is one it should not, as teams have been trying different things. As Rodney Childers pointed out this week, the shock limiter rule can be linked to numerous issues. Because of how downforce sensitive the rears of these cars are due to the diffuser and shock limits, teams can only put so much air in the tires. Lower pressures on a track type like that of Texas asks for trouble. Teams are still figuring out loads at certain tracks, and track temperatures throw even more of an unprecedented factor in there. These cars’ rears have to come down to where downforce is affected positively and there is more freedom with air pressure.
Mike Neff: Goodyear gives the teams all of the information they need to compete with the tires and not have failures. Seven of the 11 tire failures last weekend were on three teams. It was a configuration issue, not a tire issue. Losing races, points and especially racecars is policing enough. NASCAR doesn’t need to step in.
Joy Tomlinson: No, NASCAR shouldn’t intervene in teams adjusting tire pressures. As it is, the Next Gen doesn’t have as many options for crew members to adjust as before (packer shim and track bar adjustments were done on the old car). Also, air pressure wasn’t the only thing that played into the tire issues, though it played a significant part, according to Goodyear’s Greg Stucker. This tire compound was only just used at Kansas Speedway, so it was still fairly new from the rest of the year. Teams and drivers weren’t used to this tire from the other 1.5-mile tracks. Plus, the heat may have played a factor in the tires blowing out. Let the teams figure it out — allow them to adjust air pressure so the cars can perform at their very best.
Martin Truex Jr.’s annual winning streak since 2014 is in jeopardy. Should Joe Gibbs Racing make any changes to the No. 19 team for 2023?
Glover: Unfortunately, a crew chief change would be needed. Look, James Small is a great crew chief who probably does not get enough credit. Some things just don’t work out. The Martin Truex Jr./Cole Pearn pairing was bread and butter. When Pearn left, I predicted pre-2020 that the No. 19 team would not be as dominant. So many new things were thrown at this team from the new crew chief to the new car. We saw Truex and Small figure it out in a four-win 2021 campaign that nearly netted them a title only to face a new car this year. But between 2020 and 2022, they have exactly one win. It would be a shame to see Small go, especially with Truex getting closer to the end of his career, but it may be the best thing to see Truex compete for title number two.
Neff: It seems apparent a change is necessary. Truex hasn’t been the same since Pearn went off to be a ski instructor. Small has the skills and knowledge, but he and Truex just don’t seem to be a good partnership.
Tomlinson: I hate to say this, but maybe a new crew chief. Truex has come close to winning several times, and occasionally a late pit stop lessened his chances. For example, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in March three Hendrick Motorsports drivers took two tires while Truex and Kyle Busch took four. As a result, there were too many cars in front of Truex in the final two laps to challenge for the lead; he ended up eighth. And at Nashville Superspeedway, Truex had trouble on the final stop while running fourth. He came out 14th and finished 22nd after leading 82 laps. Of course, he’s also had some bad luck, even while leading (like what happened at Texas when he blew a tire). Perhaps a new crew chief would help Truex start fresh next year.
Damcott: The thing that stinks for Truex and the No. 19 team is that they have had winning speed several times, before and after the playoffs started. The team somehow always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to finishing races. That being said, there really isn’t much of a reason for the team to change anything major for 2023, because the team cannot control bad luck. However, even going so far as adjusting tire pressures could be the difference in Truex winding up in victory lane.
Due to their on-track actions at Texas, NASCAR penalized William Byron and Ty Gibbs. Are the penalties sufficient? If not, what would suffice?
Neff: Both penalties are sufficient for the violations. William Byron admitted he did it on purpose, so the fine is justified. Ty Gibbs is still learning, and this was another one of those opportunities for him. The points weren’t a factor but the money, assuming Joe Gibbs made Ty pay it, should have sent a good message.
Tomlinson: The penalties from NASCAR are sufficient. Comparatively, Noah Gragson was docked 30 points and fined $35,000 for his retaliation with Sage Karam at Road America. That’s significantly more than what Gibbs incurred when he hit Sam Mayer’s car on pit road after the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville Speedway. Since Gibbs’ incident with Ty Dillon at Texas was his second on pit road, the fine amount was much higher. However, if I were Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, I would sit Gibbs out for the rest of the season and let someone else fill in for Kurt Busch. As far as Byron’s penalty, the points deducted appear to be about as much as if had he gone one or two laps down, like what happened to Jesse Iwuji at Portland International Raceway.
Damcott: The penalty for Byron is plenty for a playoff driver, as it knocks him from comfortably above the cut line to below the cut line with two of arguably the wildest races of the season ahead of him to make it to the Round of 8. I agree with the penalty against Gibbs, but more needs to be done internally at 23XI Racing. Gibbs is not a Cup driver, just a substitute who only got the opportunity because of Busch’s injury. His job is to bring the car home in one piece and get experience, that’s it. To come in as a substitute and pull the stunt that he did on Ty Dillon puts him in a hole respect-wise when he inevitably moves up to compete for a Cup championship. If I’m 23XI, Gibbs is out in favor of someone else for the rest of the season (or until Busch returns), and my choice would be John Hunter Nemechek.
Glover: The penalty was mostly sufficient. If NASCAR had caught Byron in the act, he would have likely been sent to the rear or held on pit road. So all in all, he was likely going to lose 10-20 spots, hence 25 points. My biggest issue is, once again, consistency. Byron said he did not mean to spin him. The jury is out on that, but if so, what about Hamlin? He appeared to attempt to turn Byron after the incident. There was also Martinsville Speedway last fall where Hamlin intentionally disrupted Alex Bowman‘s victory celebration. We also saw tempers between Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon under caution at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this year. For Gibbs, it may have been enough, but he needs a clear message. Texas doesn’t help his reputation, nor should a driver be out there if he can’t control his emotions. 23XI should sit Gibbs for a couple of races.
Three straight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Talladega Superspeedway have been won by first-time winners. Will that trend continue on Saturday?
Tomlinson: Not this time. Though these races tend to be wreck fests with some inexperienced drivers bobbling and causing large crashes, there are not a whole lot of drivers who haven’t won yet that I think would win there. Experience will win out this time. A playoff driver, like last year’s Daytona International Speedway winner Ben Rhodes, or someone like Johnny Sauter, who won at both Talladega and Daytona in the past, will bring home the checkered flag.
Damcott: I would go as far back as Grant Enfinger’s win in 2016 and say that every winner from 2016 on has been unexpected, so the idea of an unexpected winner is highly likely. A first-time winner, though? Highly unlikely. Of all the winners in the field, Ty Majeski will be a threat based on momentum from finally winning in the series at Bristol Motor Speedway, as well as any of the Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers. If a first-time winner were to emerge, one has to look once again at Carson Hocevar, but with the unpredictability of a plate race, I’d also look for Derek Kraus or Matt DiBenedetto to be in the running at the checkered flag.
Glover: I look for a previous winner to get it done this weekend. It definitely is possible that we get a new winner, but the playoff guys and other veteran drivers will be the favorites. Guys like Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece and Parker Kligerman are non-regulars who will be the ones to watch. If we do get a first-time winner, I’m watching Hocevar and Bret Holmes as the two drivers who could get it done.
Neff: Talladega is always a crapshoot and you never know who will emerge from the smoke victorious. That said, statistically speaking, we are due for a repeat winner rather than a first-time winner. Look for Enfinger to win another one in his home state.
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