1. Is waiting for the pavement at Texas Motor Speedway to age the best way of fixing it?
It’s no surprise that Texas Motor Speedway hasn’t been a fan favorite ever since its 2017 repave. In 2022, you even had Kyle Larson say that the best way to fix Texas was to demolish it and start over.
But what we saw Sept. 24 was progress. The NASCAR Cup Series race was run in a blistering heat of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, which made it the hottest NASCAR event in TMS history.
While not great for everyone in attendance, the heat helped the on-track product. Drivers were not just limited to a single groove, and fresh tires were a significant advantage over old tires.
More than half the banking in turns is still unusable, but drivers were able to make it work just one lane up from the bottom. Stage two was arguably the best segment, as split pit strategy led to some exciting battles through the field as cars on new tires charged toward the front.
For Texas standards, Sunday was a good race. It’s still below expectations when compared to other 1.5-mile tracks, but this year was a step in the right direction. And when given the extreme heat and poor attendance in recent years, last Sunday saw a solid crowd.
Attendance-wise, 2024 will probably see a jump, as it’s rumored that Texas will move to a slot in early April (which was all but confirmed when the NTT IndyCar Series’ Texas date in April was left off the 2024 calendar).
On the NASCAR side, Texas at least appears to have direction. The pavement in turns 1 and 2 is now six years old, and it will only lead to better racing over time. Tire wear and warm weather — even in April — will also be of help to the on-track action.
A repave or a reconfiguration of Texas would require a few years for the pavement to age, which would start the process all over again. The current situation is Texas is by no means perfect, but riding out the current configuration and letting the track age may be the best course of action.
2. The Brickyard 400 is back. Is it here to stay?
It was announced Sept. 28 that the Cup All-Star Race will return to North Wilkesboro Speedway. The second domino dropped just a few hours later as it was announced that the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will return in 2024 after a three-year hiatus.
One of the most marquee races on the NASCAR schedule is back, but this news is not simply an open-and-shut case.
The Indianapolis oval went away after the 2020 season due to poor attendance and lackluster racing. The Next Gen car still has issues with clean air, so it likely wouldn’t move the needle in comparison to the Gen 6.
That said, moving back to the oval was the right decision. There is no fanfare over winning on the road course, while Cup drivers all over have considered Indy to be one of the most prestigious wins on the circuit. And with its hefty purse and high attendance, the Brickyard 400 was arguably the second-biggest event behind the Daytona 500 from its inception until the late 2000s.
The race may be back for its 30th anniversary, but it is no longer a given. The date was taken off the schedule because of poor attendance, so the fans will have to show up in its return. Next year will likely see a higher turnout given the three-year wait, but fans, drivers, IMS and NASCAR will have to prove that this race is as prestigious as it once was and keep proving it beyond 2024.
Because if we are left with the same attendance woes and on-track product shortcomings that took the date off the schedule in the first place, did anything really change?
3. Will the 2024 schedule be released race-by-race?
Last week, I covered the delays in releasing the 2024 schedule. Next year’s schedule will be released later than any other season in the 2020s, and there is still no timetable for the official announcement.
With the rest of the schedule still in limbo, North Wilkesboro and Indianapolis announced their 2024 dates in advance. That could mean one of two things:
- The 2024 schedule is almost finalized, and the tracks are announcing their dates as a precursor.
- The 2024 schedule is nowhere close to being finalized, so the tracks are announcing their dates to expedite renewals and ticket sales.
With all the pieces in play here, my guess is the latter.
Could we see more individual announcements in the upcoming days and weeks? If the schedule is delayed any longer, that certainly might be the case.
For now, I’ve created a table of what we know and what we don’t know about the remaining races left on the 2024 Cup calendar.
4. Will the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Talladega Superspeedway winner lead just the final lap for the sixth year in a row?
What do all five have in common? They’ve won a Truck race at Talladega by leading just one lap.
What’s more absurd is that they are the last five winners at Talladega; you’d have to go back to 2017 to find the last time the victor led more than just the final lap.
Superspeedway races usually devolve into a crapshoot wreckfest by the finish, and the Truck Series at Talladega is far, far from an exception. Just three of the last nine races have ended at the scheduled distance of 94 laps and 250 miles, and you’d have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last time that a race ended under green with a final green-flag run of more than two laps.
Will Saturday’s (Sept. 30) winner lead just the final lap for the sixth year in a row? While I would say no, I also said no last year. I don’t think I even have an answer at this point.
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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