Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Should NASCAR Further Investigate Hendrick?

With all appeals over, does NASCAR need to further investigate the Hendrick Motorsports situation, or are you satisfied with the end result?

Luken Glover: The whole process simply needs to come to a conclusion. I don’t fault HMS for filing an appeal, but considering the speed and caliber of the team thus far, the best thing to do now is advance past this and focus on winning more races. Based on the speed from both Alex Bowman and William Byron, they should be able to get into the regular season title conversation again. It is very peculiar that NASCAR chose Nos. 24 and 48 following the Richmond Raceway race without much of an explanation. I would need further context of what happened pre-penalty, but that points to another problem: There is a lack of transparency in the garage which continually casts a shadow on the sport. Given that this past week was far from NASCAR’s finest, both sides need to move on and focus on other things. Teams need to know where the line is drawn, and NASCAR needs to eliminate the excuses and be more transparent. Otherwise, we are going to get more black eyes like we did last week.

Zach Gillispie: The appeals process is the bigger issue, as it created the fiasco in the first place. But the biggest issue is the Next Gen car itself. The Next Gen has been a total flop. The cost savings that were promised have not panned out. The racing has been mediocre at best. The elimination of in-house fabrication has been terrible for quality assurance, which is why we saw the Hendrick louver fiasco in the first place. NASCAR should be ashamed because it has created an absolute sham by switching from the reliable Gen 6 car to a bolt-on sports car that comes from a kit. That’s just not NASCAR, but it is no surprise to see the leadership shooting themselves in the foot again.

Steve Leffew: NASCAR is expected to maintain a fair playing field where the rules apply to all teams equally. So if HMS does something outside the rules, I expect NACAR will hold them accountable. How could anyone be satisfied with the results, though? HMS had its points returned while the newer and smaller Kaulig Racing only got a quarter of its points back? This whole saga has been a public relations nightmare for NASCAR, so they might be out for revenge.

Josh Calloni: The situation needs to be over. They’ve been penalized twice, once with an appeal accepted, and once with no appeal being filed. Was the first penalty getting changed in the eyes of NASCAR? Probably not, but it’s no fault of the sanctioning body or Hendrick. The team ended up with a penalty in the end, and now that the sport is looking for any potential modifications to their cars, any further punishment seems redundant.

Mark Kristl: Both — the situation should be over regarding previous infractions but NASCAR should absolutely keep its eye on Hendrick racecars. NASCAR rightly will now also display confiscated parts at racetracks. It’s about time everyone is able to see what constitutes illegal modifications. Hopefully, the public display will dissuade NASCAR Cup Series teams from committing infractions on spec parts.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Continue Racing at Bristol Dirt?

If NASCAR does not return to the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, which track should replace it?

Calloni: As much fun as the dirt races can be to watch, and perhaps to compete in for some of the drivers, I feel as if its best replacement is on pavement somewhere. Some drivers have vocalized their disapproval of the dirt, with aces Kyle Larson and Jonathan Davenport included. Returning to a paved short track somewhere seems to be the best option. If North Wilkesboro Speedway works well as the All-Star event, it could be a fun replacement for the spring Bristol race.

Glover: The Bristol dirt race this year was the best one we have had. However, it is time to go back to two concrete races. If NASCAR wants to stick to dirt, Eldora Speedway would be a good option. It is a true dirt track that hosted entertaining NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing from 2013-2019. Dirt racing in general has been questioned by some drivers, but based on this past event, it deserves a place on the schedule. If NASCAR replaces it with a pavement track, I would like to see the series go to Iowa Speedway. That track deserves to not only have NASCAR return there, but a Cup race as well. It has short track features with some intermediate-style racing mixed in as well.

Kristl: if Bristol dirt isn’t on the schedule in 2024, NASCAR should move Sonoma Raceway to the West Coast swing to replace Auto Club Speedway, add Iowa to the schedule on Father’s Day, then have an off weekend in the summer.

Gillispie: The Bristol concrete should replace the dirt. The Trucks should be NASCAR’s only series racing on dirt. Period.

Leffew: Let’s keep Bristol dirt, but make it the All-Star race. In exchange, let’s give North Wilkesboro a regular season points race.

Will the quality of racing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend be the line in the sand on whether NASCAR will pursue more short tracks for the Next Gen car?

Gillispie: No. Richmond has already given a glimmer of hope for the short track package this year. The fact that we are even considering abandoning a pursuit of short tracks should be considered indubitably dangerous for the future of the short. If there is ever a time NASCAR abandons a pursuit or emphasis on short tracks (no matter what the quality of racing), then there is no point in continuing as a sport. NASCAR was founded on short tracks, should continue to stay on short tracks and should always put its most emphasis on putting on the best show on short tracks compared to any other configuration.

Glover: It would have to be. The Phoenix Raceway race had its moments but wasn’t that much better than last year. On the other hand, Richmond had one of its best races in years and looked like a true short track race in many ways. Considering one of Martinsville’s two dates is the penultimate race and NASCAR is looking to add similar tracks to the schedule, this weekend will tell us a lot about what to expect for the future. At Bristol, Bubba Wallace said the drivers were told the sport is about entertainment. So if we get a similar race at Martinsville compared to last year, I’m not so sure more short tracks won’t still be added.

Calloni: It’s a big weekend for the Next Gen car, yes. Martinsville tends to put on a show no matter what cars or drivers are on it, and, frankly, the Cup races at the track last year were just dull. Hardly any passing and little to no tire fall off. There has been some improvement in the short track package this season, but a dull race this Sunday will likely show one of two things. Either the car still needs more tweaking on short tracks, or perhaps the answer is fewer short track races.

Leffew: The quality of racing is always important, but especially after the rules package was retooled to make short track racing better. If the race is a dud, it could have an impact on whether we add more short tracks. The new car has put on good racing on the intermediate tracks, so the momentum has slowed for putting them all out to pasture in favor of short tracks.

Kristl: The quality of racing won’t determine it. Rather, the ratings and attendance will determine that answer. So if the ratings are lousy regardless of the on-track product, NASCAR won’t add more short tracks to the Cup schedule.

See also
For Nick Sanchez, the Sky's the Limit in First Truck Season

With 10 races left in the Truck Series regular season, who has been the biggest surprise?

Kristl: Nick Sanchez won the 2022 ARCA Menards Series championship with three wins, all at tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Still, even though I’ve watched him improve as a driver, the fact he has been so fast right out of the gate in his rookie season has been a surprise. Both he and his Rev Racing team debuted in the Trucks this season and they’ve been fast. Sanchez has two poles, one top five — a second-place at Atlanta Motor Speedway — and two top 10s. He could’ve won at Atlanta and he nearly won at Texas Motor Speedway. In the first two races, even though the results showed back-to-back subpar finishes, Sanchez had a fast No. 2. His team brings fast trucks to the racetrack, so he has definitely shown he can win a race this season.

Calloni: Christian Eckes has easily been the biggest surprise. He’s always shown some talent, cracking the playoffs in each of his full-time seasons, but this season seems different. It’s clear that Eckes has turned a corner with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, finishing within the top six at each of the first three races, including a win at Atlanta. His results in the next three races left a bit to be desired, but it wasn’t from lack of speed. He was up front at both Circuit of the Americas and Texas before mechanical issues and a last-lap incident took him out, respectively. All things considered, it seems clear that Eckes is alongside Sanchez as an early season favorite for the championship.

Gillispie: Ty Majeski is by far and away the best driver of the year so far. With no finish worse than 11th so far and a huge points lead, Majeski should be considered the undeniable championship favorite, which is quite surprising for the quiet driver who rarely appears in the headlines. And if you need more proof of his championship favoritism, his average finish is 5.2, and he has not qualified worse than fourth in the first six races.

Glover: Sanchez has really impressed me so far. After all, he dominated every aspect of the race at Texas but did not get the win. Sanchez showcased his talent in ARCA prior to this year, but he has exceeded expectations through the first six races. He sits two points outside the final playoff spot right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he locks a spot in the playoffs with a win over the next 10 races.

Leffew: Eckes has been the biggest surprise. He’s shown speed in prior seasons for Kyle Busch Motorsports and Thorsport Racing, but I think most people expected this season to be a step back with McAnally-Hilgemann. He’s run much better than Derek Kraus ever did in that truck. He’s fifth in the standings and looks like he’ll be a factor in the Truck Series playoffs.

About the author

Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.

Josh joined Frontstretch in 2023 and currently covers the ARCA Menards Series. Born and raised in Missouri, Josh has been watching motorsports since 2005. He currently is studying for a Mass Communication degree at Lindenwood University

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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4 Comments
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dawg

I think the real question that should be asked, isn’t about short tracks vs intermediates, dirt vs pavement, or good racing vs entertainment.

It should be about the many problems with the new car, starting with driver injuries. It has lead to lost wheels, steering issues, shifting problems, under trey damage in off track excursions, & continued suspension parts failures. At best they need to address this by doing away with the damaged vehicle policy, let teams make repairs & return to the race.

But by far the biggest failure is it’s main selling point, that’s cost savings for teams. That’s probably never going to come about.

The parity would seem to have been a fleeting thing, as the best teams have the best people, & the Hendrick dominance shows that they are figuring it out.

In the interest of fairness teams seem to have figured out the wheel nut issues, & Fords aren’t catching on fire, but they still have a long ways to go.

And not everything’s bad about it, the new body vs the metal bodies is an example. Many of these issues are fixable, & they are making some progress.

A good starting place would be to make Larry Mac, a VP, with authority to make changes as needed. He’s probably one of the best minds in the sport.

Sonya

I think they need to continue watching Hendrick Motorsports…. too much biased race calling and the penalties being reversed not just with louvers but William Byron admitting on national TV that he spun Denny Hamlin intentionally under caution..but yet Denny Hamlin admitting that he spun Chastain who kept spinning Hamlin … Hamlin penalty was upheld …again I wonder how much Hendrick is paying for all the favors

Bill B

HMS should under the same scrutiny as every other team. No more. No less.

Yawn

Just one thought : proof read.
My head hurts.

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