Friday, June 10, 2016

Ideas and Execution: Five Questions for Michigan/Texas

(Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
There’s a busy weekend ahead in the world of NASCAR. As the three national touring series race at Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, three events will occur in two different time zones over three days.

Does your head hurt yet? Because mine does.

With The Lonestar State and Irish Hills in mind, I’m inquiring about Darrell Wallace Jr., penalties and more in this week’s Five Questions.

Wait, how many Trucks are entered at Texas? The Camping World Truck Series races at Texas this week – and a lot of people want to join in. Thirty-four trucks are attempting to make the field. However, the maximum number for the field is 32, leaving two teams heartbroken. It’s time to expand the field. These small-budget teams are simply looking for a chance, and how are they supposed to earn vital dollars if they aren’t in the field? This has been a pet peeve of mine for some time, and it is time to do something about it. With 34 drivers trying to compete in the Rattlesnake 400, two teams will go back to the shop and try to manage their expenses. Let’s hope NASCAR does something about it soon.

Where's Wallace? The Xfinity Series is invading Michigan – along with the Sprint Cup Series – and comes off their inaugural, and rain-shortened, race at Pocono Raceway. As the Chase inches closer, there are some drivers who need to get into gear to contend for the championship. One of those drivers is Darrell Wallace Jr., who finished 16th at Pocono. The driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford has two top fives and three top 10s in 12 starts this year. He is one of those drivers you expect a lot from, but who hasn’t produced much in 2016. RFR has had some recent success on the Cup side, and it should trickle over soon. The entire organization is at a turning point, and Wallace Jr. should be feeling those effects soon. He still has time to clinch a Chase spot with a win – although he’ll make it either way due to his points rank. If he wants to earn some wins and be a stout contender for the title, things need to turn around fast.

Are NASCAR’s intentions misguided? Once again, teams broke the rules, and Kyle Larson will be without crew chief Chad Johnston this weekend after receiving a P3 penalty. The culprit? Lugnuts, of course. This makes me wonder if NASCAR is a bit strict with this rule. As crew chiefs – most notably Rodney Childers – pointed out after the rule’s inception, lugnuts can fall off during the race for various reasons. This leads me to believe the lugnut rule was a poorly-conceived idea from the get-go.

On the other hand, you also have incidents like Brad Keselowski’s jack man hitting the side of the No. 2 to add side force – and an advantage. NASCAR held Keselowski for multiple laps during Pocono, but there were no penalties announced this week for crew chief Paul Wolfe or the jack man. Why no extra punishment if the deed is so dirty? Keselowski rallied back to finish third, by the way, so holding him on pit road didn’t do much. NASCAR is right to be critical, but their focus is off. If all they do is take away a few laps for an intentional hip check, then why wouldn’t teams try it at larger tracks like Pocono? Right idea, wrong execution.

Is Elliott close to his first victory? While some teams need to find their footing, one driver seems to be gliding through all the obstacles. Chase Elliott is maneuvering through his rookie year like a pro, with five top fives and 10 top 10s. He and Alan Gustafson are a match made in Heaven – but will they make it to Victory Lane in their first season together? Never say never; Elliott shined bright at Pocono and could smell that trophy before Kurt Busch took it away. The Hendrick Motorsports prodigy is making gains at an alarming rate, and it’s looking like his first win is right around the corner. Can it come at Michigan? Possibly, but I’m putting my money on either Daytona or even New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. We’ll see.

All-Star Race, part two? This weekend also features more aero changes. The rear toe reductions are back, an adjustment that made its debut during the Sprint All-Star Race. The other change is a reduction in both spoiler and splitter size. What does all this mean? Less downforce! What does that mean? As we saw with the exhibition race, less downforce equals squirrelly cars and upset drivers. The general rule of thumb is that if it angers the drivers, then it pleases the fans. There will be less craziness, though, due to not having the format. It will also be different because the race is in the daytime – something that enhances the low downforce package’s effects. We should see some elements of the All-Star Race, but these new adjustments will mostly speak for themselves – and it will be impressive. 

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