Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Are the All-Star Rules a Step in the Right Direction for Short Tracks?

1. What’s the reason behind the new curbs in the Watkins Glen bus stop?

Track limits have been a hot topic on road courses this season in the NASCAR Cup Series, and the NASCAR world was in for a surprise on Thursday (April 25) morning when pictures surfaced of new curbs in the bus stop at Watkins Glen International.

For drivers and fans opposed to the tightened regulations on track limits, they were quick to express their displeasure at the development.

But it soon became clear that introduction of the curbs wasn’t necessarily done to deter drivers from using that section of the track — it was done to protect them from it.

Kyle Larson raced with a mouthguard in last year’s Cup race at Watkins Glen, and the data from that particular turn showed that he was receiving an average of 11.7 g’s every time he ran through the bus stop. On one lap, he received as much as 18.77 g’s.

If those numbers or charts are confusing, just know that 11.7 g’s is well, well beyond the normal amount for a driver to take in a corner.

Given the sharpness of the newly installed curbs, they should likely do their job in keeping drivers inside the racing line and out of harm’s way once the Cup field makes its return to the track in September.

See also
Did You Notice?: The Death Of NASCAR's Single-Car Team?

2. What about those new rules for the All-Star Race?

It was announced on Tuesday (April 23) this year’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway will come with a twist: required use of multiple tire compounds.

After the excessive tire wear at Bristol Motor Speedway produced an incredible Cup race by accident, NASCAR and Goodyear have turned to increased tire wear to serve as a fix for the mediocre racing that the Next Gen car has produced at short tracks and flat tracks.

That will be on display at North Wilkesboro on May 19, as teams will have the options of prime tires (tires developed by Goodyear after tests at the track in March), option tires (tires that have more grip on short runs but wear out quickly) and the normal wet-weather tires in the event of rain. The teams will use prime tires in qualifying, option tires at the start of the main event and any tire of choice in practice, heat races and the Open.

First off, I want to say that there is no better time to experiment than the All-Star Race. The ASR at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2018 made use of restrictor plates, while the 2009 ASR at Charlotte debuted the double-file restarts that have been used ever since. Those races are just the tip of the iceberg of innovations that have been tested during All-Star weekend.

To experiment with different types of tires is a welcome development after the action we saw at Bristol. With the current woes short track racing is experiencing with the Next Gen car, only good can come out of the experiment with alternate tires. The different sets will lead to more passing opportunities, putting the race back into the drivers’ hands in order to conserve their equipment. And after a mediocre ASR in North Wilkesboro’s 2023 return, the new regulations for the 2024 edition are bound to be a step up.

We may find out by the end of the weekend that the experiment didn’t work. And if it didn’t, no harm, no foul. The important thing is that NASCAR has listened to the fans and given the new sets of tires a try. But if it works, the presence of multiple tire compounds has the potential to improve the racing at short tracks and flat tracks and stick around for a long time.

See also
NASCAR Announces Class of 2025 Hall of Fame Nominees

3. Are Xfinity teams taking too many risks with fuel mileage at superspeedways?

Viewers of Saturday’s (April 20) NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway had to be feeling déjà vu as cars were running out of fuel left and right in the closing laps, just as they did at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier in the year.

In that race, it looked like the event was going to end on a long green-flag run until the Fords of Riley Herbst, Cole Custer, Ryan Sieg and Hailie Deegan simultaneously ran out of gas with two laps to go. That led to an overtime restart, where the dominant car of Jesse Love sputtered through the gears until he finally got it going a few seconds later. A few others ran out or sputtered with him, and we got an exact repeat with the first overtime restart at Talladega on Saturday.

Shane van Gisbergen immediately ran out, while Parker Kligerman got wrecked heading into turn 1 when his No. 48 car ran out of gas as well. Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith and others had to pit for gas under yellow before the second restart, and Ryan Ellis also ran dry on the final restart, turning what could’ve been his first top-10 finish in Xfinity into a 26th-place finish off the lead lap.

Just as we’ve seen in the Cup Series, the teams are going to push the limit on gas mileage in order to spend the least amount of time on pit road. But when we’re at tracks that frequently see multiple late-race crashes that extend the race well beyond the scheduled distance, why are teams so adamant on putting just enough fuel in the car to barely make it to the end of regulation?

It’s a risk, yes. But it’s as risky as a decision can be, as just one late-race restart can be the difference between bringing the car home with a win/solid finish or coasting on the backstretch apron with the checkered flag in sight.

Finishes like Atlanta and Talladega won’t stop teams from pushing that limit for fuel mileage, but if this season has been any indication, it’s better to be safe than sorry when filling up for the final run.

See also
Eyes on Xfinity: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

4. Can anyone break the run of Hendrick/Toyota dominance at Dover?

Hendrick Motorsports and the Toyota teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing have had a field day to start 2024, as those three organizations have combined to win nine of the first 10 races of the 2024 Cup season. Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse Racing is the only other driver to score a win, and Ford has been shut out of victory in the first 10 races for the first time since 2010 (in fact, Ford hasn’t scored a single win in any of NASCAR’s top three series this season).

If you’re looking for new faces to dominate or end up in victory lane in Sunday’s (April 28) Wurth 400 at Dover, you’re probably out of luck. Every driver in Hendrick’s lineup except for William Byron has scored a win at Dover, and Byron led 193 of the 400 laps in last year’s race before finishing fourth. At JGR, Martin Truex Jr. has scored four wins at Dover, while Denny Hamlin scored a win back in 2020 and has brought fast cars to the track in the Next Gen era.

The only driver to put up a serious fight to Hendrick or Gibbs in the two Next Gen races at Dover was Ross Chastain, who finished third in 2022 and runner-up in 2023 while leading a combined 184 laps in the process. Chastain has been hit or miss since the start of 2024, but he was one of the fastest cars a few weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway and was on pace for a runner-up finish until he got spun on the final lap.

So if you’re hoping to see new faces in victory lane this season, keep an eye out for Chastain at the Monster Mile.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
RCFX1

Did they check to see what kind of damage can be done by those pyramids? People try to get inside and are pushed out to the edge of the pavement. What is going to happen if they hit those by mistake? Where did the design come from? Where was it tested?

WD

New Rules for the All Star Race – The “IMSA Car” that has become an F1 car with fenders now has a tire option similar to F1 , whats next a standing start ? This car just continues to dissapoint

DoninAjax

More “genius” (note sarcasm) ideas from the NA$CAR Brian Trust! Makes one wonder what brilliant ideas will they come with next in an ATTEMPT to improve Brian’s product!

Echo

It never ends

DoninAjax

It’s the gift that keeps on giving that NOBODY wants!

Share via