Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Are Saturday Doubleheaders the Answer to Sunday Delays?

1. One Way to Avoid Monday Races? Saturday Doubleheaders

Yet another race in the NASCAR Cup Series was pushed to Monday last weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Weather cannot be controlled. If NASCAR could do so, there would be no reason to talk about whether or not Darrell Waltrip‘s infamous ‘vortex theory’ exists.

Is this year’s rash of races impacted or postponed due to weather a fluke or a new trend? That is not known. What is known is that track operators may need to do more to be flexible in place of the variable which is the weather.

One option, especially if a delayed race cannot be run later into the night, is to run a Saturday doubleheader. A handful of tracks do so with the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series. Why not do likewise and use the Cup Series as well?

See also
Tuesday Morning Pit Box: Track Position, Execution the Keys to Success at Michigan

Even if lights do not exist, it can be done — see Talladega Superspeedway’s ARCA Menards and Xfinity series doubleheader in the spring. Yes, rain could push a race at a track with no lights back to Sunday, but that’s a lot more fun in an at-track environment than mostly empty grandstands on a Monday.

2. Playoff Berth May Be Falling Into The Hands Of Ty Gibbs

There has not been a lot of flash for Ty Gibbs’ first full season in NASCAR’s top series, but there has been a lot of recent consistency. And that may be enough for a postseason spot.

As things stand now, Gibbs would barely be in the playoffs in the 16th spot by the skin of a toothbrush. Of course, there is no guarantee he would get in given that the three remaining races before the cutoff are road courses at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Watkins Glen International, plus the anything-can-happen superspeedway racing of Daytona International Speedway.

Gibbs, with an 18.2 average finish this season, is in a position to hang on to that final spot, but the schedule also could not set up much better for him. He has two top-10 finishes on road courses this year and a top five at Pocono Raceway, a track that has some crossover to road courses in terms of how parts of it are raced. He also has three road course wins in the Xfinity Series, one being where next weekend’s race will be: Watkins Glen.

Every rookie season needs something to hang its hat on, and Gibbs may very well be on track to do that with a playoff berth.

3. Debate’s Over. RFK Racing is the Ford Flagship

Team Penske has won a combined two races this season. That’s the same number that RFK Racing has won. The difference? RFK’s done that in the past two races.

Yes, Chris Buescher‘s win on Monday was not his first for the Ford team, but it may have been the biggest. Like Jimmie Johnson when Charlotte Motor Speedway was known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway, there is an understood importance for the Ford teams at Michigan, especially if your boss is Jack Roush.

There was debate at this time a week ago of whether or not RFK Racing had supplanted Penske or Stewart-Haas Racing as Ford’s flagship. Monday’s (Aug. 7) win by Buescher and the subsequent showing by Brad Keselowski for his fourth finish of sixth or better in the last five races back that up as well.

If RFK keeps this up, there could be what those in the South call “prayer meetings” in the shops of the other Ford teams before the postseason begins.

4. NASCAR Should Follow SRX’s Short-Track Lead, Even If It’s Just the Truck Series

Indirectly, Don Hawk may be doing NASCAR a favor.

You may know Hawk from his key roles in previous years with some of the giants of the sport: Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Bruton Smith. He’s now CEO of the Camping World SRX Series, and through this series, famed bullrings are given national exposure.

See also
SRX Review: Rowdy Goes Back-to-Back in Crash-Free Berlin Race

Naturally, when the SRX drivers put on a good show, the question cannot help but be considered: wouldn’t it be a great race if Trucks or Xfinity raced here?

It’s absolutely worth considering given the great show last week at Berlin Raceway.

Yes, I know the roots of the sport are in the South. The fact was drilled down in May with the All-Star Race being held at North Wikesboro Speedway. But the Midwest is also a fertile ground for the sport too: Dick Trickle, Larry Phillips, Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki. The list goes on and on, along with tracks like Berlin, Knoxville Raceway, Eldora Raceway and Slinger Super Speedway.

While there may be a benefit for track promoters to stage Truck Series events alongside a Cup Series race, it’s a lot more entertaining to shift that action to the short tracks. That’s what the SRX has done, and there is no reason for NASCAR not to take a try and do the same, even if it’s in the Truck Series.

5. Does Martin Truex Jr. Delaying Retirement Change the Championship Narrative?

It was compelling storyline a few weeks ago.

Will Martin Truex Jr. walk off and take the championship in Phoenix Raceway on his way out the door to retire?

The sport has seen drivers retire while still running well. Jeff Gordon‘s “Going to Homestead” elation after winning Martinsville Speedway is hard to forget. Fans of Bill Elliott may have some solace that his final full season ended with a late-season win at Rockingham Speedway and nearly another at Homestead-Miami Speedway before the closing laps.

Truex was in line to grab the championship trophy on the way to retire, but at least for this year, that won’t be the case with him now agreeing to come back to Joe Gibbs Racing for at least another year.

As far as this year goes, Truex is still on a short list of drivers running well enough to win a championship, and it’d be hard to pick against the No. 19 team right now (unless you were Buescher last week).

But it is worth pondering (see what I did there?) if the motivation to win will be lessened now that this season is not a chance to walk it off with a title.

About the author

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Brad joined Frontstretch.com in 2020 and contributes to the site's 5 Points To Ponder column and other roles as needed. A graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he has covered sports in some capacity for more than 20 years with coverage including local high school sports, college athletics and minor league hockey. Brad has received multiple awards for his work from the Georgia Press Association.

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4 Comments
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Christopher

Nearly every rain-delayed race this season (and for several seasons now) could have been run if it had started at 1PM Eastern or 3PM Eastern for the West Coast races. Saturday double headers are not the answer; NASCAR growing a pair and dictating start times rather than bending over to their ‘broadcast partners’ is.

SBan83

Agreed. Start times need to be moved up for all races.

jim

Have to agree about the 1 PM starts has worked for years.
Nascar knows best along with the TV money.
I find it amazing that there are less viewership and less people in the stands, but this marketing powerhouse keeps bringing in the money.

Bill B

It seems obvious to we idiots in the audience, start the races earlier!
But I suppose greed blinds the networks from seeing the obvious.

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