Podcast #65 — Iowa Speedway needs a Cup race

Show Notes:

Recap: Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity races at Iowa

  • Good races both days
  • Trucks: Noah Gragson tries the Carl Edwards video game move for the win.
  • Xfinity: Allgaier leads a ton of laps but holds off charges for the win

News Items:

New segment: Do we care?

  • This is a segment we will try to do every week on the podcast. We’ll take something a bunch of people are talking about or something not many people are talking about and discuss whether we care about it and whether the fans should care about it.
  • During this weekend’s races at Iowa, Fox saved money by not having their main broadcasters travel to the event. Instead, they announced the race from a studio in Charlotte. The pit reporters were at the track, but Vince Welch, Adam Alexander, Michael Waltrip, etc., were not there for the race.
    • Do we care?

Preview: Toyota/Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway

  • Picks
    • James: Kurt Busch
    • Eric: Clint Bowyer

Dark Horse

    • Eric: Daniel Suarez
    • James: Michael McDowell
  • Shoutouts if any
    • Plug the fantasy league
    • Plug Patreon

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook @ TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

  • Website address: www.thesuperspeedway.com
  • Podcasts will be found on there as well.
  • Find us on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud
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Eric’s Take: It’s time to run a Cup race at Iowa

NASCAR Xfinity Series Iowa 250 presented by Enogen

Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway on June 17, 2018 in Newton, Iowa. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about how to improve the on-track product in NASCAR, especially the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

And we’ve tried a number of experiments. We tried high-drag packages at Indianapolis and Michigan. That didn’t work. We tried low downforce at Kentucky, which ultimately became the package we have today. I think it’s safe to say that hasn’t worked.

And we tried the high-drag and restrictor plate package — some drivers are calling it the “snorkel package,” at the All Star race at Charlotte this year. While that package impressed in short, 20-lap runs, the verdict is still out on how it will react during a full race. We did get a sampling of it in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, however, as the same package was run at Pocono and Michigan the last couple of weeks after a successful debut at Indianapolis last year.

But the package stunk at Pocono, and while it produced close racing at MIS, a look at the finish the year before would tell you that the package there didn’t really need any tinkering. And while Indy was a huge improvement last year, there really wasn’t anything that could have been done to make the racing worse there. So any improvement would have been welcomed.

What I’m saying is the more we tinker with the aero package and restrictor plates and whatever else NASCAR decides to do, it’s just a band-aid. Putting PJ1 down in the turns is a band-aid.

And while I think that NASCAR spends too much time listening to the demands of the fans, I think one thing the fans have been screaming for lately needs to be listened to — we need more short tracks.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that short track racing is some of the best racing we get in NASCAR. But how do we increase that short track offering? North Wilkesboro isn’t coming back — it would probably be cheaper to build a new track than to resurrect that one, unfortunately. I don’t see a lot of tracks being built lately, and most facilities are tearing down stands rather than building them.

The argument that I heard against more short tracks is generally that there just aren’t any short tracks that could handle a Cup race.

But we saw one this weekend, and if you tuned into either the Camping World Truck Series race Saturday or the Xfinity Series race Sunday, you saw a great race — or two if you watched them both. Iowa Speedway was built with the help of a Hall of Fame NASCAR driver in Rusty Wallace. Wallace took one of his favorite tracks, Richmond, and built a bigger version of it — it is a 0.875-mile D-shaped oval with variable banking of 12 degrees to 14 degrees in the turns.

Let’s not ignore the fact that Iowa Speedway’s asphalt has also aged — the best ingredient for great racing — and the cars run all over it looking for grip. But this track has put on great shows since it was built.

Not only that, Iowa Speedway was built after the SAFER barrier revolution. So not only was it the first NASCAR track where the entire outer wall was fitted with “soft walls,” but there’s not even a concrete wall there. Every inch of wall at the track is SAFER barrier.

Sure there aren’t enough seats to hold a Cup race there — the track has half the seats of Richmond at only 30,000. But it wouldn’t take much to add to the seats that are there to increase capacity. How great would it be to see a NASCAR track increasing capacity?

I have not personally been to Iowa Speedway — I hope to make the trip next year — so maybe I’m speaking out of turn in saying the track could host the Cup Series with only a few modifications. But I know the intent when the track was built was to host larger series than the AA and AAA NASCAR “leagues,” and the track has hosted the Verizon IndyCar Series as well, though it doesn’t bring in the fans NASCAR does.

Either way, with NASCAR’s five-year agreement coming to a close soon with its current race tracks, I think the time is right to take a good hard look at adding Iowa Speedway to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, even if it means taking a date away from another track. This place could host some excellent Cup races, and might just be the thing the series needs to get fans back in front of their TV sets, or maybe even out to the race track.

Eric’s Take is a new series on The SuperSpeedway that will be featured each week.

Podcast #64 — Clint Bowyer knows how to celebrate

Show notes:

Recap: FireKeepers Casino 400

  • Clint Bowyer gets the win.
    • Bugga goes for two tires. Clint holds Harvick off for two laps.
    • Clint Bowyer tweet Monday:
    • End of Stage 1, NASCAR doesn’t open pit road.
      • NASCAR’s Richard Buck said this is not unusual
      • Audio (2:43) — Richard Buck explains stage protocol
    • Race was rain-delayed and rain shortened
      • What do we think of NASCAR’s calls this weekend on the rain?
      • Both days forecast said we wouldn’t race
      • Both races seemed rushed to try to get halfway.
      • Got both races in but barely.
      • Is it better to run a shortened race on the scheduled day or run the full race a day later?

Recap: Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250

  • Austin Dillon gets the win
  • Second week in a row with the new Aero package. What did we think?

News Items:

Close show

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook @ TheSuperSpeedway

For more of the podcast:

  • Website address: www.thesuperspeedway.com
  • Podcasts will be found on there as well.
  • Find us on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud

Clint Bowyer leads 1-2-3 Stewart-Haas finish with win in rain-shortened FireKeepers Casino 400

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Clint Bowyer celebrates after winning the FireKeepers Casino 400. Eric Young/TheSuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MICH. — It was a Stewart-Haas kind of day at Michigan International Speedway Sunday. Kurt Busch sat on the pole, Harvick led the most laps, and Clint Bowyer found himself in the right position when the rain came to get the victory.

It was Bowyer’s second win of the season and the first 1-2-3 sweep for SHR. He led only the final eight laps of the race.

The winning move was a call to take two tires on a pit stop at the end of stage two. Crew Chief Mike Bugarewicz said he second-guessed himself on the call.

“When we were coming on pit road I was 100 percent sure two tires was the right call,” he said. “We got about three quarters of the way down pit road, I was about 70 percent sure. When he slid into the pit box, I was about 50 percent sure. By then, we were leaving. It was too late. Clint asked, ‘Are we the only one with two?’ ‘Yeah, we’re the only one with two.’ He did a great job on that restart, holding up one of the best, Kevin. Obviously six wins this year, one of the best in our sport right now. I can’t say enough about the great job that Clint did holding him off there. Just as much as important as making that two tire call for sure.”

Bowyer praised the call after the race.

“It took something crazy on a restart to be able to get to Kevin,” Bowyer said. “That was a really gutsy call. When we went out there on two tires I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else I was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble!’ The rain came just in enough time. I was trying to hold him off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win, you wouldn’t be doing that. He was so much faster than me in one and two. I got down in three and just had to take his line because that bear was coming.”

Bowyer led Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch to the caution and eventual checkered flag.

When asked if he was mad over the result, Harvick responded, “I don’t control the weather.”

“Look, I’ve been on both sides of this,” Harvick said. “If you’re going to have racing luck work against you, you want to at least stay on your own team. It worked the other way at Dover. He was kind of in the same position, we went back to green. Today it worked out for him. Our guys, the exciting thing to me is we did a great job on pit road, were able to maintain the track position, beat everybody off pit road. Obviously those guys took two tires and a gamble. It rained for them in three laps. Paid off pretty good.”

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Busch said his team had a strong day.

“We had an excellent day all the way through,” he said. “No big mistakes, no rough moments. Pit stops were solid, adjustments were solid. Restarts, I’d say three quarters of the time I was on the inside line, so that might have been a little bit where we were pinned down. But you have to make do with what you have, how the chips fall. I’m happy with our effort today. To finish third, rain shortened, of course you always want to go back racing again. But to see the two cars in front of me at the end, the 4 and the 14, that’s a big day for Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s very special to finish 1-2-3.”

Kyle Busch finished fourth while Paul Menard finished fifth.

The race was delayed by more than two hours at the start due to rain, and only 133 of the scheduled 200 laps were completed. There were eight cautions for 30 laps and nine lead changes among seven drivers.

Harvick led a race-high 49 laps, while Busch led 46.

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Clint Bowyer leads Kevin Harvick late in the FireKeepers Casino 400. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

Scannable Document on Jun 10, 2018 at 8_20_58 PM

Martin on NASCAR’s issues: Product is not the problem, the changing world is

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Hall of Famer Mark Martin talks about the state of NASCAR in the media center prior to the start of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Former driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin said Sunday that while he’s embraced the changes to the sport in recent years, he is not in favor of the restrictor plate package that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tried at the All Star Race at Charlotte last month.

“There is some integrity that I feel needs to be maintained in the sport,” Martin said during a media appearance before the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday. “There are some issues that could be addressed. Artificially making the racing exciting for a portion of the fans, to me, is not what — I’d rather see that in yesterday’s race, not today’s race.”

Martin was referring to the NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250 the day before, which featured a similar package including restrictor plates and front air ducts designed to keep the cars closer together. The same package was run last weekend in Pocono, where it was met with criticism, and last year at Indianapolis where it was praised.

“I bought into many of the changes,” Martin said. “I bought into the Chase. I’m good with the playoffs. I’m good with the double-file restarts. I’m good with the segment racing. I like it.”

But he said he didn’t like the All Star package.

‘I think there’s a lot of people who agree with me,” he said. “Fans. I’m not a driver anymore.”

Martin echoed statements made by Brad Keselowski earlier in the weekend, that by making the changes to the cars, NASCAR was taking a lot of the skill out of the hands of the drivers.

“I would say at most plate tracks, first through fourth has control of their own destiny and have acquired that finish based on talent, skill, etc.,” Keselowski said Friday. “From there on back it is a random bingo ball. That is my approach to that kind of racing. I think the top four or five generally dictates their finish and the rest do not. I think with this current package, you are looking at more depth to the field in terms of being able to determine your own finish based on your team’s skill and talent from the driver on back.”

Martin said looking back on the history of the sport, NASCAR wasn’t built on choking cars off and slowing them down.

“It’s not the same kind of racing,” he said. “It’s hard to win at Daytona and Talladega. And they’re interesting races. I like watching them. But I don’t want to see that every week, and I’m a fan. And I have some other fans that feel the same way. I’m not speaking as a driver, I’m speaking as a fan.”

“Fans that are bashing the racing, in my opinion, are not real fans,” Martin said. “They’re looking for something different than auto racing.”

He said in the past, people who loved racing loved racing, whether everyone was on the same lap or there were only three cars on the lead lap, and NASCAR should continue to be true to what brought it to where it is.

“I think we should continue to be true to what we are, where we came from, and I think the racing is really good now,” Martin said.

After reaching its popularity in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, NASCAR has seen a decline recently in attendance and ratings. Most tracks on the circuit have gone from building more stands every year to tearing them down. Michigan International Speedway just removed several sets of bleachers in turn one prior to this year’s races, adding premium camping spots along the fence to replace them. Martin said while NASCAR is losing some popularity right now, it’s something all forms of entertainment are facing.

“I also recognize that NASCAR is not the only sport that is struggling with their fanbase,” he said. “All sports are. There’s a reason for that. Because young people have different interests. The competition for their interest is a thousand times over than when we grew up. Every kid from who knows what age has a phone and an iPad and they can do any infinite kinds of things.”

He said the number of choices people have for entertainment is more of a factor than the racing on-track.

“I think we ought to recognize that that is part of it,” Martin said. “The product is not the problem. The problem is the world’s changing and our generations are changing and what they do and what they’re interested in changes. You can do your best to fight that, but it’s definitely a tough battle to try to bring new people’s eyes to our sport and keep them there.”

Austin Dillon wins rain-shortened Xfinity race at Michigan

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Austin Dillon speaks with the media following his win in the LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway Saturday. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Austin Dillon was in the right place at the right time when NASCAR threw the caution for rain to end the LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway, getting his ninth win in the Xfinity Series in 138 starts.

“This feels good,” Dillon said after the race. “Me and Nick (Harrison, crew chief) had gotten in a run of a couple wins a couple years back and we felt like put us back together and we could go do it again and that’s on our second race this year? Third?”

“You put us together, we’re a pretty good duo it looks like,” Dillon said. “We’ve got a pretty good win percentage together. It’s nice to be back with him and that group.”

The win was Dillon’s first at MIS. The race ended with 91 laps of 125 complete due to rain, which delayed the start of the race for several hours and threatened from about lap 60 on.

Dillon and Harrison both said the rain played into how they ran the race.

“It was our strategy, I believe,” Dillon said. “We had a pretty fast car. We figured out track position was pretty important. Our car was handling well into a ru. That kind of factored into it.”

Dillon said Harrison made a call that eventually put them in position for the win.

“With the cautions and Austin saving, we could go clear past (lap) 100,” Harrison said. “But weather was definitely a — we made our strategy and we stuck to it and I got the OK from Big Dog down here on the end (team Owner Richard Childress) so it made me feel a little better about my call.”

It was a one-two finish for Richard Childress Racing, as Daniel Hemric scored a career-high second-place finish, earning his first top-10 at MIS in two races. It was his ninth top-10 of the season.

Hemric said after the last restart, as he was playing the rain game, he made his move to try and get the win.

“They kept telling me the rain was 10 minutes away for 30 minutes,” Hemric said. “I thought, well surely it’s going to rain. So I tried to pull a slider there on the 61 (Kaz Grala), which he did a great job of putting himself in the position there as well. I tried to clear him. I thought I was about a foot and a half too short and I’m sure when I watch it back it may not have been as close as I thought it was. But I tried to make the move because I knew the rain was there.”

“I’d get a couple sprinkles here and there but I made the move probably a lap too early and got myself hemmed up on the bottom,” Hemric continued. “Luckily I was able to rebound for second because I really thought I was going to be about 15th by the time we left the next corner, but fortunately that’s not the way it worked out.”

Cole Custer finished out the top three.

There were 14 lead changes among nine different drivers in the race. Kyle Busch led the most laps, leading almost all of the first stage before losing the lead at lap 31. He would not get back to the lead after that, finishing in sixth. There were 10 caution flags for 37 laps.

Scannable Document on Jun 9, 2018 at 7_13_50 PM

Starting lineup for the LTi Printing 250 NASCAR Xfinity race

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A pack of cars roars off into the first turn during final practice Friday at Michigan International Speedway. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MICH. — With rain washing out qualifying Saturday morning, the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway will start by the rulebook.

As a result, Kyle Busch will lead the field to green with Paul Menard joining him on the front row. Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer and Daniel Hemric round out the top five.

See the full lineup below.

Scannable Document on Jun 9, 2018 at 11_18_44 AM

Rain washes out Xfinity series qualifying

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BROOKLYN, MICH. — Rain forced the cancellation of NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying Saturday morning for the LTi Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway.

As a result, NASCAR said the race would be set by the rulebook. Kyle Busch and Paul Menard will lead the field to green hopefully still Saturday afternoon, though weather could still be an issue. Sunset at MIS is 9:11 p.m., which means the race would have to start by 7 p.m. to get it in today. Updates will be provided throughout the day.

If All Star package becomes permanent, drivers will race somewhere other than NASCAR, Keselowski says

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Brad Keselowski speaks to the media Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway. Keselowski said if NASCAR runs the All Star package permanently, the top drivers will leave the sport. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MICH. — Many are calling it the All Star package. Kevin Harvick called it “the snorkel package” on his SiriusXM radio show Tuesday, Happy Hours.

Whatever it’s called, if it becomes permanent, former NASCAR champ Brad Keselowski said the great drivers will choose somewhere else to race.

“I think that package needs to remain solely at the All Star race,” Keselowski said during a press conference at MIS Friday. “I think a lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands that the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers.”

“I think if you put a package like this out there, like we had at the All Star race, on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world will no longer go to NASCAR. They will pick a different sport.”

He said the shift would not happen immediately or overnight, but it would happen eventually.

“It would happen over time and be a tragedy to the sport,” he said. “They want to go where they can make the biggest difference to their performance and there is no doubt that the driver makes less of a difference with that rules package.”

Keselowski used IndyCar as an example, which experimented with high-drag packages that created pack racing on some of its oval tracks. It was during one of those races in October 2011 that Dan Wheldon suffered fatal injuries during a multi-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since that time, IndyCar has introduced different cars, culminating in a lower-downforce package this season designed to put the racing back into the hands of the drivers.

“I think a decade ago if you wanted to see the best racing in the world, it was in IndyCar,” Keselowski said. “They ran three- and four-wide and put on great shows, but long-term it didn’t translate to the fans or better racing than NASCAR. There are a lot of reasons for that and I would speculate that it goes back to the fact that the best race car drivers in the world were here, in NASCAR. And we saw that when IndyCar drivers came over here and didn’t find success. And they were some of the best IndyCar drivers. We have to tread very lightly with the next steps of this sport.”

In the end though, Keselowski said the decision was NASCAR’s.

“I don’t know what decision NASCAR will make,” he said. “It is their decision. All I can do is give my input and at this time, those are my strongest thoughts.”

Does it matter what the drivers think?

“Long term yes, short term no,” Keselowski said. “Long term yes because if you go to a package where drivers have less ability to determine their fate, they will go to an avenue where they can.”

“There’s a reason why Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and some of the best drivers of our time moved from open-wheel to NASCAR,” Keselowski said. “Kyle Larson is another great example. They know they have a better opportunity to affect their finish based on talent and they know they are racing the highest caliber race car drivers. They know that they can attain the highest level of notoriety with the highest wages in motorsports in the United States. I don’t think that is a coincidence.”

Kurt Busch on the pole for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400

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Kurt Busch speaks to the media after winning the pole for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

BROOKLYN, MICH — Kurt Busch ran a lap of 203.361 miles per hour to win the pole for the 2018 FireKeepers Casino 400 during qualifying Friday.

It was Busch’s 24th career pole position and his second of 2018.

Brad Keselowski qualified second with a speed of 203.166 mph. Kyle Busch barely made it into the second round of qualifying but was good enough for a third-place starting position in the final round with a speed of 203.120 mph. Kevin Harvick qualified fourth and Joey Logano fifth.

“I left a little bit out there,” Keselowski said after his run. “I’m kind of kicking myself in the butt. I don’t know if I could have gotten to Kurt.”

Busch said his run was fun because he knew he needed to go after it hard, but he had confidence in his car.

“Watching all the Forts in practice I knew we had a good shot at it,” Busch said. “The guys tweaked on the tires the right amount. It is a new compound, left and right side, and we didn’t want to get caught up too much in chasing the tires. We went with the status quo. I think it is because of the speed that I like here and Texas and the balance we had in our car in qualifying.”

He said now it is time to put it together for the race.

“Now we need to translate that to race speed,” Busch said. “I enjoy qualifying here. It’s a pleasure to have one of these Fords and have Yates power under the hood. To go 217 miles per hour, to haul the mail going into the corner, I love that feeling.”

Scannable Document on Jun 8, 2018 at 7_04_12 PM