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« Fantasy picks and race winner for the Kobalt Tools 400 in Vegas | Main | Kenseth being added to a number of enemy lists »

Too many races won in the pits rather than on track on cookie cutters

By admin | March 6, 2011

By Richard Allen

 

NASCAR went into Las Vegas with a number of feel good stories having been written during the first two weeks of the season. And to an extent, that continued this weekend. Mark Martin winning and Danica Patrick finishing in the top-5 of the Nationwide race certainly offered the potential for more positivism. A solid run on Sunday for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. provided hope to his legions of fans as well.

However, there was one very important issue in the Sprint Cup race that looked far too similar to the last couple of years. One of the biggest complaints about NASCAR from disgruntled fans has centered around the racing, or lack thereof, on the so called cookie cutter tracks. During the second half of Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 there was far too little exchanging of positions on the track, and most of those resulted from double-file restarts. Just about the only time a spot within the top-10 changed hands over the last 200 miles of competition was on pit road.

Tony Stewart clearly had the fastest car in Las Vegas but was cited for dragging equipment out of his pit box and forced to serve a drive through penalty on pit road which essentially placed him at the back of the pack.

Stewart seemingly overcame his issues later in the race when a two tire pit stop placed back at the front of the field. But with his left side tires feeling the strain of multiple laps, his crew opted to change four tires on their final stop. With everyone else changing two tires the #14 car came out of the pits in 3rd place.

It would have seemed logical to think that with a faster car and fresher tires than the competition Stewart would work his way back to the lead. However, that was not to be. As is so often the case on these 1.5-2 mile tracks, Stewart’s car ran into the dreaded ‘wall of air’ behind other cars and was locked in place.

There are fourteen races on this year’s Sprint Cup schedule set to be run on tracks of the 1.5-2 mile dimension. If the racing seen on Sunday is any indication of what lies ahead for the remaining thirteen trips to these type venues, the feel good stories of the early season will be lost in a sea of complaints.

Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton all fell back in the pack due to either an unscheduled pit stop or some sort of mishap on pit road. None of these cars was able to move back up because passing was essentially nonexistent within the top-10 or even top-15 during the race’s second half.

Now make no mistake, I am not blaming the troubles of these drivers on bad pit calls. If there is something worthy of penalty then punishment should be administered. I am using the drivers mentioned above to point out that even the best cars on the track could not pass when they fell back in traffic.

It seems as though races on this sort of track are almost entirely decided on pit road. On-track action has become secondary to what happens when cars are sitting still. Green flag runs on the cookie cutters have become stints in between the next trip to pit road in which there will be an opportunity for exchange of positions.

It’s no wonder drivers get so upset with pit crews after a poor stop. Positions lost cannot be regained on the track. That’s bad for the drivers, the pit crews, and most of all, the fans.

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Topics: Articles |

6 Responses to “Too many races won in the pits rather than on track on cookie cutters”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 5:54 am

    I don’t understand your point, Rich! Sure poor pit stops will cost you, don’t blame the track. And yes you can gain positions on the track, many were gained and lost during the last quarter of the race. A good for instance is the driver I follow, D.R. He lost 13 positions on his next to last pit stop which put him in 26th position if my memory serves me right and he finished 13th. So don’t blame the cookie cutter tracks because that’s not the real reason. And the fans aren’t lost because of them, hummm a full house yesterday!! The fans are lost because of recent years NASCAR decisions plus the economy.

  2. Russ Edwards Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Rich’s point is well made. This has been going on since the introduction of the COT and is the natural result of having a spec series, where everybody is using the same equipment. if everybody is “equal”, how can it be otherwise? Think about it, if every car has to meet a common template, and use the same gear, transmission, etc. what would make one faster than another?
    It wont change until the cars reflect the differences between the manufactures design. And I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

  3. Kevin Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 10:57 am

    For the most part I agree, I don’t really enjoy the 1.5 - 2 mile tracks that NASCAR races on, mostly due to a lack of action. I much prefer the short track racing. Just wanted to note however, Tony Stewart could not catch Carl Edwards because Carl stopped for two tires and Tony took 4. The difference in the pit stops was 7 seconds. It wasn’t because Tony ran into a wall of air that he couldn’t catch Carl, he had just given up a ton of time and there wasn’t enough time to make it back. Tires weren’t that much of an advantage yesterday, thats why two tires worked so well, old tires weren’t giving that much up.
    @Russ,
    Not sure what series that you are watching, but as much as you want to call it a spec series, it isn’t. Different engines, different noses as per manufacturer, and different setups makes it not a spec series. Sometimes the rear gear is mandated, and sometimes there is a selection of 2 or 3 gears to chose from. Horsepower and handling is what makes one car faster than another.
    The templates of the COT are new, but it isn’t a different concept. Prior to the COT, the Ford, Chev & Dodge cars all had to conform to brand specific ‘aero equal’ templates. You’ll have to go back to the seventies to find the type of stock car racing that you’re looking for.

  4. midasmicah Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I saw this coming when they went from a 23 gallon fuel tank to a 18 gallon fuel tank. When most of the passes are in the pits, well, that’s the pits.

  5. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    March 7th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I want every week’s race in Nationwide to be like a Late Model Race, Rich and I feel that what about My Truex Boy?

  6. Steve Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Kevin, the Cup cars do not have different noses from each other. They have a different nose than last year but they are all the same. You are thinking of the NW series with the new manufacturer nose that looks different.

    I do agree with you on one of your points but for a different reason. The racing at these tracks was the same boring follow the leader action we saw Sunday with the old car too, so I think its more the race track setup that is making the racing unwatchable. Stock cars on an Indy Car track does not work.

    I don’t care how many people you can fit in a grandstand at a mile and a half track. You can fit just as many at short tracks as well. They don’t have enough people to fill all those seats anyway.

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