Short Track Issues
Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave his own take on the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro on “The Dale Jr Download” on Tuesday. In it, he went into detail about how be enjoyed the event, but he mainly hammered out why he felt the on-track product was lackluster and how to improve short tracks including other drivers opinions. He went into detail about the All-Star format, tires, the short track package, and potential resurfacing of the track.
Earnhardt Jr. took the brunt of the responsibility for the format not producing the race he expected. He qualified that he believed North Wilkesboro would be a better on-track product than it turned out being. Therefore, he felt that a simple All-Star format would help.
He felt that a caution in the final stage would have made it better, but, that caution never came. He did note that he considered implementing a CARS Tour style caution lap clock. In that series, after 40 green flag laps, a competition caution is thrown.
Earnhardt Jr. said that he believed two cautions would have allowed for interesting tire strategy. However, he decided not to implement it because of his disdain for manufactured cautions and not wanting gimmicks.
This All-Star format was definitely simpler, however, if the on-track product was good, then the format probably is not under as much scrutiny. That being said, it is the All-Star Race after all, so gimmicks are more accepted by fans. It is meant to be a gimmicky race purely for entertainment purposes at the end of the day.
Earnhardt Jr. also said that he feels the All-Star Race will return to North Wilkesboro next year. He does not believe a Cup Series points event is what will happen at least for the moment.
Tires/Short Track Package
Earnhardt Jr. also spent some time discussing how he felt the tire situation could be improved. He mentioned how cars were able to follow better under the conditions with the rain tires because of the increased mechanical grip. With the slick tires, there was more emphasis on aerodynamic grip.
He even commended Denny Hamlin for what he said on the Goodyear tires. He went into detail on the concept of tire saturation and how aerodynamics effects a race car because of this.
Hamlin even went so far to say that Goodyear could fix all of NASCAR’s problems on short tracks. He believed that the increase of variable tire wear could help.
While Dale Jr did acknowledge that Kyle Larson in the first stage did show how tire wear can increase passing ability. However, he stopped short of saying that Goodyear alone could fix it. He believes there needs to be a change in the short track rules package.
Earnhardt Jr. mentioned that, for him, urgency is picking up to find a solution to NASCAR’s short track problem. He openly wondered about what the future of short tracks is if there is not a solution found, and he believes NASCAR should get creative.
“I hope we get a lot more aggressive on what we do to the car itself,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “They’ve been pulling downforce off the car for this short track racing, get more aggressive! Do we need an underbody for this short track racing? We’re not racing sports cars around a half-mile bullring.”
Earnhardt Jr. even openly suggested that NASCAR look at how braking works at short tracks. Increasing the braking distance at a short track could allow for drivers to “out-brake” other drivers going into a corner. This is similar to how passing happens at a road course.
He even went back to tires to talk about whether grooved tires are a solution based on the rain tire product during the heat races. With all of that being said, Jr. does not place the blame on either NASCAR or Goodyear. He believes both can work together to create a better solution.
While Denny Hamlin clamored for North Wilkesboro to be repaved, Earnhardt Jr. called the idea of a repave “take it or leave it.” However, he does agree with Hamlin on one thing: the outside lane needs to be improved.
He did offer the solution of maybe putting more sealer on in the corners of the race track. This would add more grip to the outside of the track to allow cars to race in different lines on the track.
Earnhardt Jr. also talked at times about the importance of driver input. He implored people to listen to what drivers are saying about the racing, particularly what was said about the tires at the track.
Denny Hamlin discussed the importance of Driver input as well, particularly in terms of the repave. Marcus Smith chimed in on Twitter.
Earnhardt Jr. gave some important insight into how to improve short tracks. In some ways it was similar to what was already seen, but in some ways it was a bit different. Regardless changes need to be made to the short track product, and it seems bigger swings need to be taken.