Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: What Does it Say About the Truck Series When Zane Smith Doubts Staying There?

1. What does the Austin Dillon – Austin Cindric incident mean going forward?

After Denny Hamlin was right reared by Chase Elliott in the Charlotte Motor Speedway trioval on May 29, he took to Twitter to post the No. 9 car’s SMT data, data that normally isn’t available to the public.

Evidentially there was enough data for NASCAR to suspend Elliott for a week, just as they did to Bubba Wallace for right rearing Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last fall.

It only took one week for another driver to make another accusation, however, as Austin Dillon accused Austin Cindric of intentionally wrecking him in World Wide Technology Raceway’s turn 1 last Sunday (June 4).

NASCAR handed out no penalties from the incident, and Cindric had to post his own SMT data on Twitter a few days later to clear the air.

With the accusations disproven by the SMT data and Cindric himself, the Gateway interview wasn’t a good look for Dillon.

Will the aftermath of the saga bring an end to intentionally accusing other drivers of intentional wrecks? Maybe, maybe not. But now that SMT data can and has been used to set the story straight, drivers may think twice before bringing such claims forward again.

2. What does it say about the Truck Series when the defending champion has doubts about staying in the series?

Zane Smith was the leader with six laps to go in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Gateway on Saturday (June 3). Well, at least until Ty Majeski took both of them out of contention.

Majeski took full responsibility for the incident, but Smith — who now has four straight finishes of 20th or worse in the Truck Series — showcased more than the usual disappointment of getting wrecked.

“It’s just a bummer, I kind of did it to myself with staying in this series,” Smith said. “It is pretty unbelievable how scary some of these guys are.

“We’ve just had now four bad weeks, some self-inflicted. But our day obviously snowballs once we get around some of these guys. So, just frustrating.”

To each their own, but to me, the defending champion publicly blaming himself — whether it’s jokingly or not — for staying in the Truck Series is a poor reflection on the direction it’s headed in.

Smith isn’t the only one the criticize the driving of the field either. After crashing out at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Dean Thompson said that the Truck Series has “the dirtiest drivers I’ve ever raced with.”

Aggressive driving seems to be up in all three series, so the Trucks Series isn’t an outlier by any means. But whether the series needs a greater presence of veteran drivers or more penalties set in place, it appears that something needs to change.

3. A return to Montreal?

The top three series have been run exclusively in the United States ever since the final Truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in 2019. Could that change in 2024?

Currently an annual stop on the Formula 1 calendar, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal was an annual trip on the Xfinity Series schedule from 2007 to 2012.

If the circuit was added to the Cup Series schedule, it would mark Cup’s first race on international soil since a 1958 race at Toronto’s Canadian Exposition Stadium in 1958.

Would it be a great addition? Absolutely. The Xfinity races consistently drew a crowd between 60,000 and 70,000 people each year; it was a party every time the series made the trek to Quebec.

When you combine good attendance, a new market and international exposure, a Montreal return should be a no brainer. Now it’s time to wait and see what the 2024 schedule will look like in a few months time.

4. As the Cup Series approaches its bye week, which teams are feeling the pressure?

With 20 stops left after Sonoma Raceway, just under half the NASCAR season is in the books. Which teams have fallen short of expectations up to this point?

When looking at last year’s playoff drivers, five of them are currently below the cut line: Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe.

Bowman and Elliott have both missed multiple races this season, which explains their current positions. And while Briscoe and Dillon have been hit with points penalties, they were still under the cut beforehand.

Despite some early speed, it’s been a disastrous 2023 for Briscoe, who now sits 31st in points after a behemoth 120-point penalty from Charlotte. To make matters worse, however, Briscoe has had an average running position of 26th or worse in the last six races.

Dillon currently has an average finish of 21.9, the worst of his career. Currently 29th in points, Dillon would be 24th without a 65-point penalty at Martinsville Speedway. As for Cindric, he has only two top 10s on the year and an average finish that’s five spots lower (21.7) than his rookie season (16.3). A 13th-place finish at Gateway was his first top-15 finish since Circuit of the Americas in March.

Beyond playoff drivers, it’s been a rough season for Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole outside of Kevin Harvick. AJ Allmendinger has just one top 10 in 15 starts despite scoring eight top 10s in an 18-race schedule last year. And as for Legacy Motor Club, its 2023 struggles need no introduction.

There’s still time for these teams to turn things around, but that time is running out.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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WJW Motorsports

It says it’s a feeder series, akin to AA baseball, and that no ambitious young driver with talent would want to stay there forever. Aggressive driving is up in all series because NASCAR wanted (wants) it to be – with their silly win and in system and IROC cars. But the series should be looked at as a bellwether for Cup – the kit truck ruined the racing in that series for a number of the track styles and same thing happening in Cup.

Last edited 11 months ago by WJW Motorsports
Sue

Ty Majesty is a rolling disaster. He has been a rough driver since he entered the trucks. He doesn’t care who he wrecks. He has wrecked team mates (among others) a couple of times.

Steve

Does he think its going to be any better in the Xfinity or Cup Series? There are plenty of drivers that don’t belong in either series. Too many silver spoon drivers in Nascar and not enough guys making it on talent will do that. Add in the garbage playoff and this is what we have. All 3 series are becoming a joke.

Echo

Zane Smith might as well race with a half field of low talent cup drivers. He will be one of the better drivers in cup and make more money.

Jill P

The standards are too low. They allow 16-year-olds in some races and those with only a few ARCA races under their belts. Plus anyone with a sizable check. What could possibly go wrong?

Dawg

That Dillon is way below the cut line isn’t surprising. He wouldn’t have made it last year except it was handed to him.

Every single car that got the lead at Texas, would lose the right rear tire, hit the wall & be done. By the time Dillon inherited the lead there wasn’t much competition so he could take it easy.

The only one to challenge him was Sindric, who briefly took the lead, but Dillon retook it. That says more about Sindric, than Dillon.

If he makes the playoffs it will take another gift.

WD

Just wondering if you are seeing the end of the Dillon boys ? Ty Dillon has been floating for yrs and pressure coming from both sides for Austin , both in Cup with Kyle Busch and in Exfinity from both drivers there

Last edited 11 months ago by WD
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