8 APRIL 2022 During Practice for the BLUE EMU 400  at  MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY in MARTINSVILLE,VA (HHP Tim Parks)
Kyle Busch at Martinsville Speedway in April. (HHP Tim Parks)

NASCAR Nuggets: Work Continues On Martinsville Package

Through 18 points races, the general consensus is that the worst NASCAR Cup Series race of the season was the April 9 visit to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Won by William Byron, there were only four leaders. Byron (212 laps) and Chase Elliott (185 laps) led the majority of the 504-lap race, with only one car failing to finish.

Last week, a Goodyear tire test was held at the half-mile track with different setups used to try to find a way to make the Next Gen car more racey on short tracks. Martinsville is an important track, given it hosts the last playoff elimination race.

The three drivers who took part in the test were Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric.

When asked about the results of the test last Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway, Reddick didn’t provide an enthusiastic response.

“It was a tough test,” Reddick said. “Just the setting and the circumstances with weather. We raced there when it was in the 40s, probably right around there. When we went back and tested it was in the 90s. The control tire that we raced on in (April), laid plenty of rubber. The three cars of us laid more rubber than we saw the entire race.

Reddick said the different tire combinations used seemed “to work pretty well,” but the Next Gen car “is in this in this weird spot” when it comes to its power and tire grip.

“It’s got plenty of mechanical grip, but it just doesn’t seem like we quite have enough power for the grip that we have in the tires to in the driver’s seat be able to make the mistake of burning the rear tires off and making throttle and tire management a part of the Martinsville game that I feel like it has been ever since I’ve been driving in the trucks are watching cup races.”

July 4 , 2021: during the qualifying at Road America at the in Elkhart Lake , WI.  ,  .  .   .  (HHP/Andrew Coppley)
Race action at Road America in 2021.

One new element seen in the April race with the Next Gen car was shifting multiple times around the half-mile track.

Reddick doesn’t think a change to the gearing “would really be the solution.”

“As crazy as this may sound, in my opinion, I think if we change the gear and we eliminate to where we’re running just one gear that makes our problem worse, in my opinion,” Reddick said. “You could run 150 laps and never burn the rear tires of the car off if we’re not shifting. When you’re down shifting, eventually, 50, 60 laps into a run, you can start to feather the tire a little bit on corner exit, but in my opinion going to just running in fourth or whatever gear it would be, we’re never going to spin the tires.”

Rule Book Updates

NASCAR released a rule book bulletin Wednesday afternoon, including these notable changes:

  • Qualifying for races at Atlanta Motor Speedway will now match the format at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Qualifying will consist of two scheduled rounds, one timed lap per round. The top 10 in the first round will advance to the second round.
  • After years of being optional, windshield wipers are now mandatory on cars for road course races. Previously, only the wiper blade motor mechanism was mandated.

First-Time Winners On Road Courses

This weekend’s Cup race at Road America is the third road-course event of the season. The first two, at Circuit of The Americas and Sonoma Raceway, were each claimed by first-time winners: Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

Since 2018, NASCAR Cup Series road courses have accounted for four first-time winners in the series — Chase Elliott (Watkins Glen, 2018), Christopher Bell (Daytona RC, 2021), Chastain and Suárez.

There will be 13 drivers in Sunday’s race who have won a Cup Series race on a road course.

If Elliott wins this weekend, he will tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart for the second-most Cup road course wins all-time with eight each. That’s just one behind series record holder and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon with nine road course wins.

Stage Leader

Martin Truex Jr. had a great race at Nashville Superspeedway, at least until he finished 22nd after slowing to avoid a wreck on the final restart.

But before that, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota led a season-high 82 laps and swept both stages.

Despite not having a race win through 18 races, Truex leads the series in stage wins with five. However, he has only two top-five finishes going into Road America.

“It’s obviously a very long track, so you get a lot of different types of corners and some elevation changes,” said Truex, who started and finished ninth at the track last year. “We’re definitely looking at this weekend as being very important. We weren’t where we need to be at Sonoma (no JGR car finished in the top 25) and our guys have been working really hard since then to figure out why and hopefully come to Road America this weekend with a better shot at running up front like we know we’re capable of.”

Justin Marks Goes SRX Racing

Justin Marks, the owner of Trackhouse Racing, seems to be all over the place these days.

This weekend, the former NASCAR driver and frequent Trans-Am Series competitor will be back in a cockpit.

In addition to competing in the Trans-Am race at Road America, Marks will go short track racing in the Superstar Racing Experience.

Marks will be the 12th driver in the field for Saturday’s third round race of the SRX season. The race at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET Saturday.

Road America Repeat?

Not once in the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ history of visiting the four-mile road course in Wisconsin has a driver won there twice.

In 12 races, each one has seen a different victor. That’s the series’ active record for a different winners streak. The record for the most consecutive different winners at a single track is 23, set at New Hampshire Motor Speedway between the 1990-2009 seasons.

Only three drivers entered in Saturday’s race have a chance to be the first repeat winner: A.J. Allmendinger (2013), Jeremy Clements (2017) and Justin Allgaier (2018).

TV Ratings

The second half of the NASCAR Cup season began last weekend as NBC took over the TV broadcast role.

Unfortunately, NBC’s big day was hampered by 3 hours worth of weather delays that forced the race to finish around 11 p.m. ET on USA Network.

NBC averaged a 1.81 rating and 2.921 million viewers for the Ally 400 before the first rain delay.

Last year’s full Nashville race, which aired on NBCSN, averaged a 1.5 rating and 2.59 million viewers.

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