When it comes to speed, NASCAR’s Generation 6 race car has lived up to billing.
Not only do most drivers say it’s easier to drive than last year’s Car of Tomorrow, it’s been amazingly fast.
Jimmie Johnson’s pole position last week at the Pocono Raceway was the 11th time a track record was broken. Since speed records at the Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway won’t ever be broken since those tracks require the use of a speed-reducing restrictor plate that means records have been broken at 11 of 18 races.
Johnson is one of three drivers to break two records. His other one came at the Martinsville Speedway.
“Track records are cool it makes all drivers and teams smile,” Johnson said.
Kyle Busch (Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway) and Matt Kenseth (Kansas Speedway and Richmond International Raceway) also have multiple track records this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski each have one.
Earnhardt has the distinction of adding nearly 2 mph to the Kentucky Speedway record books when he ran 183.636 mph last month.
When it comes to passing, Jeff Burton feels the fans’ pain
Jeff Burton is a race fan. And that makes him just as concerned about what many of them perceive as a lack of passing.
“Some drivers aren’t race fans,” he said. “They race because it’s about them which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. We have other drivers that are big race fans.
“If a driver is a race fan, I think he can understand what the race fans are thinking and what they are saying but not in the extent that you pay however much money as you pay to sit in your seat and you watch a raced that wasn’t satisfying to you.”
Burton knows it’s difficult to battle for every position. With increased speeds – there have been 11 track records broken this year in qualifying – comes a decrease in passing. When cars are on the edge like they are now, it takes skill just to maintain control, much less work through traffic.
“I go up in the tower a few times a year, go up on the spotters stand or whatever and watch a race, man it’s a different perspective,” Burton said. “It looks like everybody is just riding around. I’ll be honest, I’ve driven these things for a long time, there’s times I’m up there thinking man just drive it in the corner, but it’s just not that easy. It’s hard for both sides to see the other side, but I think drivers understand the fans want to see exciting racing.”
Burton said drivers would rather be racing side-by-side than following each other in a line.
“I think the fans know that the drivers want to be involved in exciting racing,” he said. “It’s way more fun to run side by side and be in the middle of a real tight battle than it is to be nose to tail trying to find your way around one guy. It just is, so we want to be part of that, too.”
Gordon would like to shake up the Chase
Count Jeff Gordon as one of the drivers who’d like to see a better mix of tracks in the Chase for the Championship.
The current lineup of speedways that will determine the Sprint Cup Series championship has just one short track and no road courses. there are five 1½-mile racetracks in the lineup, as well as three one-mile tracks.
“I’ll say what I’ve always said: I think at the beginning of the year there should be a lottery or some type of event that picks the 10 races that are in the Chase,” Gordon said. “Maybe there are some that are always part of it. Maybe it always ends in Homestead. I don’t know.
“But I’d like to see it change all the time so we don’t have the same 10 in every single year.”
Gordon said he wouldn’t object to adding the dirt-track race at Eldora Speedway into the lottery to better identify the most-diverse driver in the sport.