|DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA
|FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER
|WINNERS NOT ADDING UP
|THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
|NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
|WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER
NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
When it comes to races on the mile and a half tracks this season with NASCAR's new rules package for the Cup cars, I thought Texas was entertaining and Kansas even better yet. And it leads me to believe the next two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Monster Energy Cup Series All-Star race and the Coca-Cola 600 could be too good to be true.
Interestingly, it was a year ago in the 2018 All-Star shootout this package, as a test, hit the track to rave reviews from the fans, NASCAR, and a few, but not all the drivers. It wasn't, however, until last week at Kansas that we saw all the right conditions come together to truly show the potential of all these changes.
I know a significant number of drivers deep down don't like the way they have to race these days, but the lead was swapped 23 times at Kansas, one shy of the total for both of their races last season. The restarts were crazy and who doesn't like seeing cars three, four, and, yes, sometimes five-wide. Kyle Busch saw his chance to set a record by starting the season with 12 straight top-10s go up in smoke when he tried to split the gap between two cars and ran out of real estate on one of the final restarts. Although unsuccessful, it was the type of daring move we wouldn't have seen without this new package. Not to mention, the winner was in doubt almost to the very end.
How did it all add up to make Kansas the best 1.5-mile race we've had this year? First, it was the fifth race on intermediate speedways with this new package and more teams are clearly are getting their set-ups fine-tuned with Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske still at least one step ahead of everybody else. Secondly, having been repaved in 2012 the track still has a ton of grip. Thirdly, the race was run at night with temperatures on the cool side, adding more traction and, as a bonus, we all know the engines love gulping cold air.
That's what has me excited about the next two weekends at CMS. The All-Star race is being run at night and the forecast is calling for temperatures as low as 67 degrees, a little cooler than normal. That means everything is in place, weather-wise, to duplicate Kansas. And although the Coca-Cola 600 starts during the day, they'll run 300 miles or so after the sun goes down with conditions, again, comparable to what we saw last weekend.
Add to all this, the bragging rights to winning what all the teams consider backyard brawls with Charlotte Motor Speedway casting a shadow over where many of NASCAR's top operations call home. Crew members who don't usually get to go to races can attend Charlotte and the same goes for the wives and other family members. It might not be a driver's home track, but for most of their race teams, it certainly is. It certainly intensifies the hype inside the garage. You sense it, you hear it, and you feel it.
Given we had a great all-star race a year ago when nobody knew what to expect, I dare to think it will be even better this time around when everybody has had a chance to tweak their cars, their strategies, and their driving styles. The same goes for the Coca-Cola 600.
So, call me a cock-eyed optimist because I feel we're about to see two exciting weeks of racing in Charlotte. I wouldn't wager the whole farm, but I would put up my barn and three goats. Sorry Sasha, Tasha, and Esmeralda, but don't worry I believe it's a good bet.