Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Texas: To Repave or Not to Repave? We Can Wait Just a Little Longer

What Happened?

A lengthy winless streak was snapped as Chase Elliott survived a multitude of overtime finishes to win Sunday afternoon (April 14) at Texas Motor Speedway.

Behind Elliott, teammate William Byron made contact with Ross Chastain on the backstretch, spinning the No. 1. Brad Keselowski slipped through to second, Byron finished third, and Chastain wound up 32nd after his last-lap crash.

What Really Happened?

The nickname “No Limits, Texas” paints an ironic description of the current state of the Texas racing surface. Moments after a driver finds the limit of the track, things usually end up going sideways.

The word “sketchy” might as well have been a free space on this weekend’s NASCAR bingo card, because every driver used it to describe the racing at Texas. This time, the dusty high groove had a partner-in-sketchiness.

See also
Denny Hamlin Wipes Out with Texas Win in Sight

The bumps on the north end of the speedway claimed more victims this weekend than the notoriously difficult turns 1 and 2. While drivers still struggled for grip when they got too high on the wide end of the racetrack, they generally kept the cars out of the wall and the race stayed green.

To contrast, multiple drivers had their cars suddenly snap through the bumps in the high-speed turns 3 and 4.

These bumps claimed NASCAR veterans like Jimmie Johnson, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, and most notably, Denny Hamlin.

The difficulty of the outer lanes on both ends of the race track begs the question: Should Texas be repaved again?

In the seven years since its reconfiguration, the groove has widened at a snail’s pace. Though the racetrack looks super wide, the usable lanes still make it fairly narrow. With this Next Gen car, the racing feels like it becomes too sloppy, especially at the end.

The 2022 event set the caution record at 16. Last year saw 11 cautions in the first 400-miler, and we matched the record with Chastain’s caution on the final lap. After the lackluster racing and the crashfests of the past seven years, Texas definitely has a case for another do-over.

At the same time, NASCAR typically puts on its best shows when conditions challenge the cars and drivers, and Texas checks that box.

The pavement life cycle at Texas is also improving, especially since NASCAR stopped putting down compounds on the surface. The tires mattered a little more this weekend, and the warm, sunny conditions throughout the weekend caused the groove to move up as high as it’s been since the reconfiguration.

All things considered, the racing looked much improved from what we have become accustomed to at new Texas. Maybe we shouldn’t rush to repave just yet. I say we bring out that tire dragon and keep working with what we have.

With no race in the fall, Texas has a long time to decide what to do next.

Who Stood Out?

The mixture of cautions and strategies had different drivers looking good throughout the day, but ultimately only the finish counts. Keselowski, who struggled early, came roaring through the field after taking fresh tires late in the third stage. He drove past Tyler Reddick and sat in third before the melee at the end of the race. 

I hope Austin Dillon gave his team a hug. Through the strategies and the chaos, Dillon avoided the bad luck bug and earned his first top 10 of the season. Dillon’s eighth-place finish is his best on a pavement track since finishing fourth at Homestead in 2022.

Who Fell Flat?

It’s hard to say Alex Bowman fell flat since his race ended prematurely, but a month of momentum ended with today’s DNF. Today’s 37th-place finish marks the worst finish of the year for Bowman, who had top-10 runs in three of the previous four races. 

Ryan Blaney falls into a similar category. The No. 12 looked like a possible contender for the win early on before Blaney took contact from Ryan Preece and made heavy contact with the wall, recording his worst finish of the year.

Entering the day, polesitter Kyle Larson had a great shot at dominating the race, but a surprising loose wheel parked the No. 5 on pit road for a two-lap penalty. He returned to the lead lap but ran into more trouble and wound up 21st.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Sam Mayer Busts Out of Slump at Texas

Better Than Last Time?

Slowly but surely, the green flag action at Texas continues to improve. Tires made a bit of a difference in the race, and the assortment of strategies only added further enjoyment as the field continually shuffled. The rash of overtimes took away from the previous 100 laps or so.

Even without the playoff drama, the racing felt a little more competitive on the Cup side of things. The overall weekend had some fun moments too. It would be a crime not to mention the fantastic finish in the Xfinity Series.

Paint Scheme of the Race

For a little bit, it looked like Lady Luck would cut Zane Smith a break as he piloted this pink No. 71 inside the top five. Though he ultimately finished 26th, this nice paint scheme still looked clean at the finish, a great accomplishment for Smith. Maybe they need to keep it around to bring him some more luck this season.

What’s Next?

The NASCAR Cup Series takes to Talladega Superspeedway for the third speedway race of the year. The GEICO 500 begins Sunday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX.

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Bill B

What a messy race. With all the cautions, the race had a lot of randomness to it. I wouldn’t say it was a bad race but a record number of cautions isn’t something to be happy about. It certainly made it interesting to watch.

I was really hoping for Brad to win, but I was OK with Elliott or Chastain winning as well.

wildcatsfan2016

It certainly wasn’t a “pretty” race but I’ll take a track that’s worn & has “character” over a track where they ride around playing follow the leader all race long.

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