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.
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?
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?
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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