Ever since the implementation of the Next Gen car, racing at 1.5-mile speedways has drastically improved. It felt like it was easier to pass, and the car breathed new life into those tracks.
Last week’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Las Vegas won’t be the most exciting race of the year. There was a lack of passing, especially for the lead. A green-white-checkered finish raised a little interest, but the two most dominant drivers of the day, William Byron and Kyle Larson finished 1-2.
Was that a sign of things to come, or was that a rare exception? To hear Tyler Reddick talk, it might happen more often as teams have had more time to figure out the nuances of this car.
Reddick was on The Dale Jr. Download this week, and he explained that the off-throttle times has shrunk at tracks like Vegas, and when drivers are able to drive wide open, it harkens memories to the 550 horsepower package that many fans disliked.
“I mean, you look at Vegas [spring 2022], the off throttle time was that of I think what everyone was hoping for. Then we go back, when it was even, I think it was 20 or 30 degrees, warmer in the fall. And we were able to run wide open in 1 and 2 and I think I breathed it around 3 and 4. Christopher [Bell] was I think completely wide open in 1 and 2 in his qualifying lap, and then we come back and qualify again, well everyone, I didn’t get to, but watching others qualify, they’re dang hear wide open in 1 and 2 and wide open in 3 and 4.
“So as they’ve continued to make this car better or figure this car out, it’s kind of slowly watching it migrate back to almost wide open racing we saw with the 550 package.
“I think it’s just the throttle time. Yeah, you know, it was cool. There was wind. There was things that added into that. Headwind down the front made you have to really plan. The headwind down the front, the tail wind down the back kind of shifted your options in the corners. In 3 and 4 it worked going up really high if you had someone in front of you, but if you didn’t, you would just be so stalled out from the headwind. 1 and 2, the bottom worked really good because you have the tailwind to get you back going down the back straightaway. So yeah those things did play into it, but from watching the trend of this car, and it’s been getting worked on and figured out by these teams, we’ve been getting closer and closer back to just completely wide open. And I think when we’re completely wide open, we’ll see some of the racing that we saw with the old car.”
Essentially, it comes down to how long do drivers stay off the throttle on these tracks. The Next Gen car was meant to be more difficult to drive, which meant drivers could be off the throttle, increasing the chances of drivers passing each other. But if teams are learning about this car, and everyone can stay on the throttle, everyone is theoretically going at the same speed. Add dirty air affecting the cars behind the leader, and suddenly we’re back to square one.
I’ll be optimistic and hope this was just a rare circumstance. Maybe when it’s hotter, tracks will be slicker, and drivers will need to lay off the gas regardless. If something doesn’t happen, there’s a chance we’ll revert to a form of racing many fans won’t enjoy.