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Cookie Cutters: So Much for Good Racing

By admin | April 22, 2013

By Richard Allen

After Sprint Cup races at the Bristol Motor Speedway and the Auto Club Speedway, many fans and bloggers alike were hopeful that a corner had been turned and the days of follow-the-leader parades among aero-sensitive race cars might be over. Then, the so called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks reared their heads. After recent races on the 1.5 mile speedways in Texas and Kansas, it appears as though the hopes of being done with parade racing were premature.

Granted, the new Gen-6 car, which began use this year in NASCAR’s top division, is very much a work in progress. But nonetheless, the follow-the-leader racing has returned full force these past two weeks. In each of those events, a very few cars have absolutely dominated the laps led statistics.

In Texas, eventual winner Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. combined to lead 313 of the 334 laps in that race. That’s a staggering 94% being controlled by two drivers. By my unofficial account, there were only two passes for the lead over the entire race that were not the result of cautions or pit stops.

This past Sunday in Kansas, the story was much the same as the previous week. Matt Kenseth dominated the laps led statistic by showing the way for 163 of the 267 circuits. Truex, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Carl Edwards combined for another 91 trips around the D-shaped track. And again, it was cautions and pit stop exchanges that brought about the majority of lead changes.

Quite simply, the leader has a tremendous advantage on these tracks. The cars are so fast and so aero-dependent that those running in his wake have very little chance of making up ground and passing. That was quite evident in the closing laps of the Kansas race. While it looked as if Kasey Kahne had the fastest car on the track, he couldn’t make a move to get around Kenseth.

I still have hope that the Gen-6 will make a difference on the ‘cookie cutters’, and it still very well might. Although I believe there are too many rules and too little allowance for experimentation, I thought the lighter weight in the new car would help. But it appears, at least early on, that such is not the case.

Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “Cookie Cutters: So Much for Good Racing”

  1. RacingFan Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 2:05 am

    On the intermediate tracks:
    *get rid of the splitter, make the cars run on springs (maybe dig out the templates from the 1975 cars and make the current car fit them?). SOMEHOW, FIX THE AERO PROBLEM.
    *Come up with a way to increase the surface roughness of a track when it is newly repaved. The races are terrible for years after a new repave.

  2. LongLiveRockingham Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Easy solution: get rid of the damn cookie cutters!

    Oh, and bring back Rockingham. And North Wilkesboro. And while you’re at it, put the Southern 500 back at Darlington on _Labor Day_.

    Even easier solution: turn off NASCAR & focus on ProCup. Better racing, better venues, cheaper tix.

  3. pb Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 8:51 am

    RacingFan’s last suggestion is the answer. I went to the CWTS and Cup race at Kansas. It’s obvious that all that’s needed there is a bit more age on the new pavement. If there was a way to put down a surface that mimics a well worn surface a lot of the issues we see with single file racing would be greatly reduced, I think.

  4. Katelyn Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Personally I love “cookie cutter” tracks. I thought the race at Vegas was great. I thought Fontana was alright. I liked Texas and I liked Kansas. Just because there aren’t a ton of passes for the lead doesn’t mean there isn’t passing. Jeff Gordon passed a lot of people at Kansas. At Texas Truex didn’t seem to have a problem passing Kyle Busch for the lead when his car was good enough to catch the 18. I don’t recall anyone being able to pass Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville when he was leading the majority of the laps there. I’d take the worst “cookie cutter” race over either road course race or any of the plate races any day of the week.

  5. midasmicah Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 10:43 am

    At California, Goodyear brought a softer tire that wore out quicker. That meant the drivers had to take care of the tires. At Texas and Kansas, they went back to the “Flintstone” tires that don’t wear out much at all. I read where Kenseth used only four left side tires the whole race. And surprise! Real crappy racing again. nas$car seems to more and more adept at shooting themselves in the foot (or head). They also seem to pushing JJ towards a sixth title, which to most fans, is not what they want to see. If this trend continues, expect a lot of the excitement that came with the new cars to dissipate rather quickly. Good article Rich.

  6. JimB Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Matt had everyone covered and ran a flawless pit strategy and the only reason Kahne gained on him at the end was that Matt was the one finding the way for both of them through more than a dozen lap down cars. If there were no slow cars getting in the way, Kasey doesn’t even come close. I am not dissing Kasey Kahne because he is a great driver, but Matt Kenseth was the man at Kansas!

  7. Richard Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Cookie cutter tracks are just part of racing, i don’t think it is possible to design a car that will provide close racing with multiple lead changes at every track.
    The racing at Kansas wasn’t even that bad, behind the leader there was plenty of passing, Kenseth had the best car and won, it happens.

    For the 1975 comment, back then Petty won plenty of races finishing several laps in front of the field, not exactly competitive.

  8. RC Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    It was good up until that last caution.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    NASCAR needs to hire some better engineers. they’ve had all kinds of chances to get the “new” car right and they just can’t seem to do it. Goodyear is also part of the problem, with their poor tire choices. Add in new pavement at Kansas and well, yeah it was fast, but it wasn’t worth paying much attention to and neither was Texas.

    I’m not a fan of the cookie cutter tracks - there are too many where the races are just like this and I’ve stopped spending as much time as I once did paying attention to the sport.

    I agree with you on the “too many rules”, Rich. Anyone remember the IROC series? the one that went out of business? NASCAR has been going down that same road for a while with the spec car. Losing fans and interest right along with doing it “their way”.

  10. Chris Fiegler Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Who won the Most Sprint Cup Series Races on a 1 mile & 1/2 Speedways in the History Of the Sprint Cup Series Probably over 50 Years?

  11. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I almost feel aggravated about 1.5 Milers like a bad habit. I have a better idea, lets make the Big Tracks Special Again? I also would like to see Nashville Fairgrounds in Cup Again and too, if we are on that Dirt, add Knoxville with Eldora and I could like Kingsport to be an appropriate DH or TH with Volunteer and Bristol.

  12. Offkilter Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    The race was fair to midlin, but there have been much worse. To be fair, the racing has been great up until this one. Goodyear is going to err on the side of safety on a track with a new surface with grip. The very people whinning about the race being awful are the very ones that would be theatening goodyear with pitchforks and nooses had there been a tire problem causing their driver to meet the wall. And in all honesty, what racing series all the way down to your local dirt track has multiple lead changes by more than 2 drivers every race? I’m sort of suprised this article was written considering its just ONE race that happened to be mediocre.
    I was really hoping for a Kyle Busch article so we could talk about his awesome driving this past weekend. Maybe next time.

  13. RacingFan Says:
    April 23rd, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    The racing in 1975 was not always close, but they did not have the lucky dog rule and frequent cautions to keep cars on the lead lap, either.

    The point was that cars back then did not prevent passing due to aero effects. Even Matt said that on Sunday when he found himself back in the field once, it was very hard to move up.

    NASCAR has had this problem for too long. Even the “twisted sister” cars were having problems with it before they were replaced with the COT. Will it ever be addressed with more than a band-aid approach?

    NASCAR tried a modification at Talledega (yes, a different type of track) by putting a bar on the roof. They quickly abandoned it, without giving it some time to mature. I thought it might have had potential. They should try something more radical to see if that could help at an intermediate track.

    The non-points race coming up at Charlotte would be a good place to experiment. Actually, they could experiment at any intermediate track before the Chase.

    If NASCAR just sent their engineers to an intermediate track with a few cars and told them not to come back without a solution to the problem, that might be all it takes.

  14. Zackary Shawn Says:
    April 24th, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Isn’t NASCAR, statistically, at it’s most competitive point of all time? If this was 1975, Richard Petty would have won 4 out of the first 8 races. Only one of those would have had another car on the lead lap (0.6 second margin of victory), 1 would have had a margin of victory of 3+ laps, the other two were 6+ laps. That’s not exactly close, competitive racing.

    The same people who think today’s racing is boring want NASCAR to return to a time when the winner would win by multiple laps and a time when only a handful of guys had a shot to win. That’s far more boring than Kansas Speedway. This makes no sense to me. Somebody please explain it…