NASCAR is reviewing the Sprint Cup package following lackluster 600

NASCAR chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell says the sanctioning body will go back to the drawing board after observing the complexion of racing in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

NASCAR is reviewing the Sprint Cup package following lackluster 600
Race winner Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
The sun sets over Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota leads a restart
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford
Start: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota leads
Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, Casey Mears, Germain Racing Chevrolet
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Michael Annett, HScott Motorsports Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Start: Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota leads
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford race winner
Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford crash

While the action in the Sprint All-Star Race was scintillating, Martin Truex Jr.’s dominating performance — where he led 392 of 400 laps — coupled with the inability of competitors to pass at the front of the field, left a lot of observers feeling flat.

“One of our stated goals is passing up front, right? And that was not what we saw (Sunday) night,” O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday. “Not to take anything away from Martin. He had the car to beat and he didn’t give it up all night long.”

Two races, same track, two different packages

With competitors not running for points in the All-Star Race, NASCAR was able to experiment with the current Sprint Cup package. Prior to the event, teams were required to weld truck arm mounts, remove some of the aero-enhancing fans and reset the rear toe to zero in an effort to reduce sideforce. While rear toe adjustment (skew) changed for the 600, the other elements remained in place. 

Other than the obvious length of the races, another difference between the Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star package — the latter which provided some of the best racing from previous week at Charlotte Motor Speedway — was the qualifying races for the Sprint Showdown were held during the day. 

O’Donnell said the ability to see both setups in action will provide NASCAR with data to move forward. He insisted the sanctioning body will get the night racing package “dialed in to where it needs to be.”

“That’s on of the reasons why we ran two different things to have some comparative data,” O’Donnell added. “Obviously, we saw some really good things with the skew after the All-Star Race and it’s something we can immediately pull the lever on, we’re also looking at the rules package for Michigan and Kentucky. 

“Moreso than anything, we probably look at our partnership with Goodyear and what we really need to do to look at how we wear tires as much as possible, particularly at night races. We can look at that. Goodyear has been a great partner this year from the rules package and matching that up. We’ve seen some great results — particularly in the day races. And we obviously have some things to look at we look at some of the future night races and see what we can do with that tire combination and that rules package.”

Tire fall-off

Developing a tire with significant fall off has been a challenge for Goodyear as it tries to balance performance with durability. O’Donnell says the challenge is greater at night when the track is cooler and tire wear decreases. 

As for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota spanking the field on Sunday in NASCAR’s longest race on the schedule, O’Donnell acknowledged the sport will “have those blowouts from time to time.”

“I don’t want, by any means, to take away from what Martin, (crew chief) Cole Pearn and that team has done,” O’Donnell said. “They are more deserving of that win. He is a great story. When you look at it, he’s a guy who you can expect to win a championship now and that is just great to see, especially with what he and Sherry (Pollex, Truex’s girlfriend) have gone through.

“You’re going to have dominating performances, but we saw a record-setting one for 600 miles — and again, that’s a long time not to lose concentration. It’s a team effort — each time in and out of the pits they were flawless. It was an incredible performance by a race team.”

Changing Charlotte schedule? 

One of the hot rumors circulating over the two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway was condensing the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 into one long weekend ending before Memorial Day. A popular scenario was running the All-Star activities on Thursday, trucks on Friday, Xfinity on Saturday and the 600on Sunday

When O’Donnell was asked by Mike Bagley whether NASCAR has considered making the Coca-Cola 600 a Memorial Day show, he replied, “It’s an interesting concept. I have not personally had those discussions with Marcus (Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. president and chief operating officer). I can tell you, though, it’s always worked really well for the track. 

“But Marcus is certainly an innovator and looking at things in the future, so that is a conversation we could have. Our immediate goal is to dial in that package for the night race. We like being the finale. We like the tradition built into that event. But it’s certainly a discussion we could have.”

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