Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Is There a Better Solution to Help Cars with 4 Flat Tires?

1. Will Hendrick take over Richmond like it did in April, or will it be another showdown between Ford and Toyota?

The Hendrick Motorsports duo of William Byron and Kyle Larson dominated at Richmond Raceway in April, as the pair combined to lead 210 laps with Larson reaching victory lane.

Richmond, traditionally a Toyota stronghold, has seen each manufacturer win in the last three races. Kevin Harvick and Ford picked up the win in this race a year ago, while Denny Hamlin made a last-lap pass for the win at Richmond in April of last year.

Despite the recent parity at The Action Track, all signs point to another weekend of Toyota dominance.

Hamlin enters the race as last week’s winner at Pocono Raceway and has four Richmond wins, while Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. has the hot hand and is a three-time winner at the track. And although Christopher Bell has not won at Richmond in the Cup level, he has four top-five finishes in six starts on the 3/4-mile oval.

Sure, Chevrolet has won three of the last five races. But Truex has been lights out in the summer as the regular season points leader with two wins, six top fives and 380 laps led in his last eight starts. Hamlin has climbed to third in points, and he’s shown top-five and occasional race-winning speed in the same races that Truex has dominated.

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That’s not to say that Chevrolet and Ford won’t be factors this Sunday (July 30), but Truex, Hamlin and the rest of Toyota will enter as the favorites.

2. Joey Logano was frustrated with the safety crew and the time it took to tow his car at Pocono. Is there another solution?

After leading 21 laps and scoring a stage one win at Pocono, Joey Logano restarted in the middle of the pack for the start of stage two. Cautions breed cautions, and he was immediately collected in a crash with Daniel Suarez.

The damage proved to be terminal for the No. 22 car, but before the crew was able to inspect his car on pit road, Logano was stuck with four flat tires, a scenario that has been seen several times since the implementation of the Next Gen car. He grew frustrated with the lack of urgency within the track crew, and the frustration led to one of the most hilarious (and explicit) soundbites of the season.

It was the fiery soundbite that one wouldn’t expect if they had only seen his interviews with the media.

One idea that Logano suggested was to have a spare tire available in a safety truck in the event of situations like this.

The safety crew would work to change one tire on the car, and the driver would be able to carefully limp back to pit road for further service.

It’s an idea that would take practice and training, but it would speed up the process of getting the race back under green in addition to expediting the process for affected teams.

It’s certainly worth a try.

3. Is it a mistake for AJ Allmendinger to run the Xfinity race at Road America when he’s fighting for a playoff spot?

With five races left in the regular season after Pocono, AJ Allmendinger is currently 17th in points, 17 points below the playoff cut line.

Unlike last week’s tripleheader, the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are at Richmond while the NASCAR Xfinity Series makes the trek to Road America.

Allmendinger is the only Cup driver attempting to run the Xfinity race at Road America. And since he will be unavailable for Cup practice and qualifying at Richmond (Derek Kraus will drive in his place), Allmendinger will be forced to start shotgun on the field when Sunday rolls around.

Given Allmendinger’s spot on the playoff bubble, his decision to compete at Road America has been seen as a head-scratcher given how much of a handicap he’ll have at Richmond.

Allmendinger doesn’t seem to care, though.

The M.O. of Kaulig Racing has always been ‘Trophy Hunting.’ The slogan is prominently featured in the team’s Twitter bio, and #TrophyHunting is occasionally used in the team’s Twitter posts.

With no Cup drivers in the field, and with Allmendinger’s record as the most decorated Xfinity road racer to try some ‘trophy hunting,’ it’s obvious why Allmendinger and Kaulig want to go for another win.

But if Richmond goes awry thanks to the No. 16 team’s poor starting position, the team will have to face the music on its decision.

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4. Final Truck race of the regular season at Richmond. Who makes the playoff cut, and who misses out?

Barring a disastrous finish on Saturday, Corey Heim looks to have the regular season championship locked up with a 42-point lead over Zane Smith.

But there is a far more interesting battle at the cut line, as Matt DiBenedetto (+31), Nick Sanchez (+21), Matt Crafton (+9) and Stewart Friesen (-9) are battling for their playoff lives.

Everyone else lower than Friesen is essentially in a must-win position at Richmond on Saturday night. With four worthy contenders on the bubble, one or two of them will leave Richmond on the short end of the stick.

Don’t expect anyone else to pull off the upset victory at the 11th hour. The playoff eligible drivers that are 12th to 22nd in points have combined to lead 35 laps this season, and that likely won’t change at Richmond.

Of the four on the bubble, Crafton has a best Richmond finish of second since the track returned to the Truck schedule in 2020. Friesen has a best Richmond finish of 10th while DiBenedetto finished 17th in his only Truck start at the track a year ago; Sanchez, as a rookie, will be making his Richmond debut.

DiBenedetto and Sanchez have a solid points cushion unless disaster strikes for either team. And while past history may be on Crafton’s side at Richmond, Friesen will overtake him for the final playoff spot.

Friesen has shown more speed as of late, and he was top-five truck until a late crash at Pocono last week. Crafton, meanwhile, hasn’t had an average running position better than 13th in a race since April, and the No. 88 team has scored a grand total of six stage points in the last nine races. Unless that team finds magic in a bottle, Crafton is at the greatest risk of missing 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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8 Comments
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Steve C

The tire/ wheel pkg is just part of the “modern” car the na$crap brains wanted. Like KB said, it’s a Walmart race car. But heaven forbid they would admit a bad choice and go back to what is proven to work.

DoninAjax

The tow truck driver who picked up Logano’s car took the car the long way around the track and dropped the car facing the wrong way when he could have taken the car straight back to pit road and dropped it facing the correct way. But knowing NA$CAR he was following the “rules.”

Matthew

I had a chance to sit in on the
top secret concleve that WWE
had prior to Pocono and what was actually said was drop all cars
that were towed in the parking lot just outside the garage area.

Rick

Inner liners

gbvette

I said this in another article earlier this week, but I’ll say it again, why don’t they just use a set of dolly wheels? Most modern tow trucks on the street carry a set of them, so why can’t wreckers at the track? How long would it take to pick up the front, roll the dolly wheels under the front tires, pick up the rear of the car and tow it back? Not only would they be able to tow a car back without causing more damage, but they’d probably be able to tow it faster.

kb

I don’t blame Logano for being super pissed. I believe any driver would have that level of frustration in the same situation. The damn crew were slower than sloths. Big slow oafs lumbering around. It looked like they were foraging for shrooms in a forest on Sunday afternoon. It really was a pathetic sight. IMO!

Shayne

It’s embarrassing to witness the “Chinese Fire Drill” shit show that NASCAR chooses to demonstrate nearly every weekend.

DoninAjax
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