Sunday, July 14, 2024

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NASCAR's wet-weather racing stunt was improper, but 'a lot fun'

Earlier this season at Richmond, the Cup Series experienced the usage of wet weather tires for the primary time on shorter oval tires when teams began the race on them and ran the primary 30 laps until the track was dry.

It was only a preview, but most observers – and plenty of drivers – found racing on treaded tires within the wet to be higher and more fun than the slick tires used for the remainder of the race.

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On Sunday, an excellent greater opportunity and an excellent greater reward presented itself at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The race was red flagged after 219 laps when heavy rain and storms hit the track area. Tyler Reddick looked set for victory due to the daring decision to not pit through the stage break as his 23XI Racing team hoped the rain would clear before the top of the race.

They were right, but they probably weren't betting on NASCAR deciding to attend out the nearly two-hour and 15-minute delay after which run the rest of the race on rain tires as darkness approached.

Honestly, it was hard to search out anyone – media member, fan or driver – who did it.

Unlikely to restart

However, when NASCAR removed standing water from the track, it allowed teams to alter to wet tires while pitting of their stalls and in addition allowed them to refuel.

When the race returned to green with 77 laps remaining, “the fun” began – as race winner Christopher Bell put it.

Drivers used multiple lanes throughout the track and even created some recent ones, reminiscent of an apron. It gave the impression of the one place a driver wouldn't dare go was the infield, although a few of them looked like they might at times.

There were several cautions for wrecks, a couple of wrecks with cautions, and even an time beyond regulation restart.

Bell ended up winning the race – not exactly a shocking winner, as he had won on the track within the Xfinity Series race the day before and had owned the previous Cup victory on the 1.058-mile oval.

Race winner Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem Toyota Camry

Race winner Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem Toyota Camry

Photo: David Rosenblum /NKP/ Motorsport images

However, a fast evaluation of the outcomes revealed one glaring truth – the choice to proceed the race while the track was still wet modified the outcomes drastically.

Only three drivers who would have finished in the highest 10 had the race not restarted were there when the race ended after 305 laps – and one in all them was the winner.

The two drivers who were in one of the best position to challenge Bell after the ultimate restart for the win – Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Chase Briscoe and Josh Berry – weren't doing well enough to even compete earlier within the event.

Reddick, who had never been among the many front runners until his decision to remain within the second stage, managed to remain in the highest 10 and finished sixth. Kyle Larson ran concerning the same distance – he was seventh on the red flag and finished fourth.

Two different breeds

After watching their performances over the primary 219 laps, nobody predicted that Chris Buescher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and John Hunter Nemechek will likely be in the highest ten.

As Bell put it after the race, “it was literally a tale of two completely different events.”

He even admitted that although he had a superb run before the red flag – he was ninth – racing in wet weather significantly improved his fortunes.

“I mean, what race do we want to talk about? Do we want to talk about Loudon dry or Loudon wet?” – he said after laughing after entering the media center.

“Obviously the rain completely disrupted the track situation and we began rather well within the dry. I managed to take the lead on the primary stage and Martin (Truex) Jr. he really nailed it within the second stage.

“I definitely think we had some room to improve on a dry track. I certainly didn't have a dominant car. Then when the wet weather came, it was just like this… We might as well have been in a completely different place.”

In terms of on-track competition, that was definitely the case.

Fans who waited out the delay – on the track and watching TV – definitely received additional entertainment, and that's what most will remember.

Even after successfully racing on a wet oval track, there have been some noticeable issues that can have to be addressed in the longer term.

Between them:

– It seemed fair to permit each team to placed on wet weather tires while the race was red-flagged, but when NASCAR allowed teams so as to add fuel, it modified the end result of the race for individuals who stayed out after Stage 2 and risked it. for the upcoming weather. NASCAR's decision to restart the race mustn’t be a pass for teams that made a poor strategic decision.

-NASCAR doesn't let teams select when to make use of which tire – it makes the choice. This can have been comprehensible before the tires achieved real track performance, but now that they’ve, it's time for teams to have the ability to make the selections they’ve made throughout their careers.

“There is little doubt a security risk in allowing competitive pit stops on a wet pit road, which is why NASCAR has not allowed it up to now. Perhaps the cars could possibly be parked elsewhere under a red flag in case of rain, allowing for work to be done on pit road and on the track in preparation for a return to racing.

– Teams received 4 sets of wet weather tires for Sunday's race and ended up using three. At some point, NASCAR will face conditions that can allow the usage of tires for a whole race. However, they’re clearly not prepared for this. NASCAR would do well to determine some rules about how much of a race it’s willing to run in adversarial conditions, relatively than being in the course of an event and having to finish it prematurely.

Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, Mohawk Northeast Ford Mustang

Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, Mohawk Northeast Ford Mustang

Photo: Rusty Jarrett /NKP/ Motorsport images

Again, not one of the issues that arose during Sunday's race ultimately led to a nasty result or bad experience, but they continue to be legitimate questions and were raised by the teams through the event.

Another issue also got here up – why did NASCAR never implement its “darkness policy,” which incorporates setting a race end time within the event of darkness and no lights? More than one crew chief seemed surprised that it was never mentioned.

NASCAR faces plenty of criticism on quite a lot of issues, a few of that are definitely warranted, nevertheless it is well ahead of other major racing series in investments to enhance track drainage and wet-weather racing on road courses and now on ovals.

Sunday's race in New Hampshire – even in each cases – was a display of great gains.

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