Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Does Parking Chase Elliott Accomplish Anything?

1. Does Chase Elliott’s Suspension Matter?

Ok, so NASCAR has suspended its most popular driver, Chase Elliott.

Hopefully, none of you bet actual money on NASCAR not penalizing one of the most visible faces of the sport. The dangerous precedent was set by NASCAR last fall when it said that turning someone into the wall at high speed at a 1.5-mile track or larger was worthy of a suspension. It didn’t matter if that driver was also one of the most visible, even outside the sport: Bubba Wallace.

NASCAR has lived up to a standard that it set — that wrecking someone into the wall at high speed is grounds for a one-week vacation. Sure, it gives fans and media something to talk about going into this weekend, and it probably hurts walk-up sales this week at World Wide Technology Raceway, but in the end, will it really matter?

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Up to Speed: The Rise and Fall of the NASCAR Cup Series Night Race

Hendrick Motorsports has already stated that it plans to apply for a playoff waiver in Elliott’s case. He still gets in the playoffs if he wins a race between now and Daytona International Speedway in August.

Let’s say he goes onto win the championship. Sure, you’d have detractors claiming he should not have gotten a waiver, similar to what was said about Kyle Busch‘s first title. But that’ll do little to take away the satisfaction of a championship for Elliott.

Let’s say Denny Hamlin gets parked for a week. He’s already in the playoffs, so what good would a suspension do? NASCAR is to be commended for figuring out that monetary fines won’t deter millionaire drivers. But until penalties impact postseason position, expect lack of consequences to do little to steer a driver from blatantly wrecking another driver in the future.

2. Can Kyle Larson Be Consistent Enough To Win a Title?

So here’s the good news when it comes to the good fortunes of Kyle Larson: In the past eight NASCAR Cup Series points events, he has two wins and one finish of second. That doesn’t even include his whipping of the field to win the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The bad thing about fortune is that there’s a bad side to it as well, and that has also found Larson as of late. In those previous eight races, Larson has finished 20th or worse five times, crashing out three times.

Sometimes, being hung up in wrecks can’t be helped — it can be dumb luck sometimes. Getting a win or two early in the season helps a lot in terms of getting into the postseason, but as anyone on the No. 5 team knows, you can’t have bad races in the playoffs and expect to win a title. And it’s something that Larson and his team have a few months to shake off before they aim to win another championship.

3. Was Running a Late-Monday-Night Xfinity Race a Good Idea?

Weather was no friend of NASCAR this weekend, pushing both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Alsco Uniforms 300 to Monday (May 29). The 300-mile Xfinity event was punished even more by Mother Nature, unable to be completed earlier on Monday and finished after the Coca-Cola 600.

That meant wrapping up around 11:30 p.m. ET, doing no favors for Xfinity Series teams having to turn around and trek across the country to Portland, Ore., for next weekend, with the Cup Series only having to go to St. Louis.

It was a tougher swing for teams outside Charlotte, with cars driven by the Sieg brothers and Jeremy Clements being located near Atlanta and Spartanburg, S.C., respectively.

What harm could it have done to run the Xfinity race and start the Coke 600 two hours or so later? It’d have given drivers in the number-two series more of an audience and also made for an easier time for its race teams, that’s for sure.

The schedule is an exhausting grind all year long, and pushing the Xfinity Series to the back of the line made it even more exhausting for those teams.

4. Have Intermediate Tracks Been Given Up on Too Quickly?

Auto Club Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. What do those tracks have in common? They are all intermediate tracks that gave us arguably three of the season’s most exciting races.

For all its faults, the current-generation car has made racing on intermediate tracks must-watch TV. NASCAR, however, has cut its nose off to spite its face in recent years. Charlotte, seeking to mix things up, replaced its October event on the oval with the ROVAL. Atlanta Motor Speedway ‘s reprofiling has turned the track from a 1.5-miler to a smaller pack-racing track.

In doing so, three events are now void of some of the most exciting racing in NASCAR’s top division. You can’t rip up the millions of dollars of new asphalt in Atlanta, but you can move the ROVAL to the oval. And, if the Chicago Street Course flops quicker than LeBron James, you can move that race to Chicagoland Speedway. …

5. Is NASCAR Overtime Better Than IndyCar’s Late-Race Procedure?

If you watched or even kept up with the Indianapolis 500, you are aware of one of the sticking points in Josef Newgarden‘s win. That following three late red flags, the race, rather than end under yellow, concluded on a one-lap dash for the win. Newgarden benefited, getting the win for Team Penske.

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The Pit Straight: Controversy at Indianapolis & the Future of Monaco

The problem, of course, was that it was not certain what the end-of-race call from race control would be. The gang in the tower at NASCAR events may get its share of static from fans, media and drivers, but it’s able to avoid the post-race events seen Sunday (May 28) at Indy due to its overtime procedure already being in effect.

Who knows what would’ve happened at the yard of bricks had there been two laps rather than one for all to get up to speed and jockey for position?

NASCAR one-upped IndyCar on Sunday, showing that it has a better way to set the field in the closing laps when needed.

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Kevin in SoCal

#3 was all about the TV time. The 600 was on Fox network, so they have to be mindful of them and the local Fox stations.

Bill B

Regarding #5.
I think Indy has let NASCAR’s circus endings affect their judgement. The ending of the 500 was very NASCAR-esque. Which, IMO, is not a good thing. The race should have ended under caution after that last wreck. A one lap shootout on a 500 mile race is stupid, no matter the series.

WJW Motorsports

Good comment (because I agree! ;-)). I was thinking the same thing when they did that. Roger Penske of all people should know – whatever has been done in NASCAR over the last 20 years or so? To be successful – use the George Costanza principle – do the opposite.

DoninAjax

I always believed that after a red flag the laps don’t count until the green flag comes out again. That way there won’t be multiple laps lost while the cars putt-putt around after the Toyota Camry TuRD pace car.

WJW Motorsports

On number 2 – I think it should read “another” title. But since you mentioned consistency it does remind me of the last time around. Larson consistently dominated the series for a season, but yet was just one bad pit stop away from coming away from that consistent domination with nothing. Your reward for consistent excellence across an entire season? A roll of the dice.

Bill B

I thought the same thing about “another” given he dominated the hell out of the series when he won his championship. And yeah, that and $1 will get you a cheap cup coffee when it’s all said and done.

Jason

1.5 mile tracks might be good now, but no way should nascar go back to having so many like they used to. It’s just not fun to see the same thing every week. Plus this car needs to get better at the other types of tracks, it can’t just give good racing on one type of track…

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