When the racing stirs up the fan reaction that North Wilkesboro did on Sunday, Denny Hamlin will always be there to offer a solution. Hamlin focus primarily on two areas for where North Wilkesboro could be improved, the racing surface and the tires.
Hamlin Says North Wilkesboro Should be Repaved
One of the talking points from this weekend’s race at North Wilkesboro was the racing surface. There were issues during the preliminary events during the week as they patched up the asphalt where needed. Thankfully, all of the NASCAR events went off without a problem with the surface.
However, Hamlin argues that the racing surface was detrimental (pun intended) to the racing product. He first discussed the patches out on the race track.
Hamlin said that when talking with Tyler Reddick, Reddick said that the track changed a lot between testing and the race specifically mentioning tire fall off. Hamlin went on to discuss more about how the patchwork done to the bottom of the track made it a one-groove race track, and that was a detriment to the racing product. He even discussed how drivers were focused on racing the race track more than racing each other.
“That strip around the very bottom was so grippy that you had to be in it.” Hamlin said, “…Our cars do not race as well on single-file tracks. They don’t. Especially if it’s a short track. I encourage the staff, Marcus Smith, to repave it, but get drivers feedback on the repaving.”
When talking more about how to repave the track, Hamlin talked about ways they could construct the asphalt. He says that things such as adding more rocks to the asphalt to increase abrasiveness while also making sure the surface is good enough to handle things such as rain. He even challenged those in charge to open up their wallets if necessary.
“[Marcus Smith] even said that if they do repave [North Wilkesboro] it’s going to instantly have character. Listen, don’t make it character like Atlanta where all you did is dig up pavement and repave it with the same old bumps.” Hamlin said, “The bumps isn’t what fixes it. You gotta fix the actual asphalt. Maybe you have the opportunity to do some variable banking with it. I understand there is a little cost associated with it, but if you hace really good racing it pays for itself.”
Hamlin continued to tell Smith to reach out to the drivers to help make the best racing possible. NASCAR drivers have been talking more in recent years about their voices being heard to help out with things like repaves.
Of course, North Wilkesboro has to be repaved eventually, so this is something that is going to have to be considered regardless at some point down the line. Will it fix every issue with the next-gen cars on short tracks? Probably not, but repaving a track the same way it always has been will do nothing to change the racing product.
Hamlin Says Better Tires Will Fix the Racing Product on Short Tracks.
Denny Hamlin believes that he found the magic bullet for the competition problem on short tracks. That magic bullet is the Goodyear tires.
Goodyear tires have been a subject of scrutiny on short tracks since the Next-Gen car was introduced. Tracks that normally produced huge tire fall-off were not producing the same fall-off. With passing very difficult, some blamed the lack of tire fall-off.
This weekend at North Wilkesboro was a different story with tires falling off dramatically. This fall-off is what allowed Kyle Larson to go from last to first during segment one and ultimately win the race. Goodyear’s Greg Stucker also said that he feels Goodyear can get more aggressive with their tires now.
What did Denny Hamlin have to offer to the conversation? He pointed to how the rain tires performed and how the race was following tire fall-off for potential solutions on short tracks.
He pointed out that one of the issues with the tire fall-off at North Wilkesboro was that while there was fall-off, most drivers fell-off to the same speed meaning that there was not as much movement throughout the pack. With the rain tires, there was more variable fall-off based on who could conserve their tires more. Hamlin pointed specifically to data he found from heat race two, which was on slick tires, where there was little change in position from lap 2 until the caution at lap 25.
He even went on to talk about the concept of tire saturation, which Goodyear told him caused a lot of the issues with following other cars on tracks.
“There’s a saturation number in the tires. [Goodyear] said that that saturation number went up.” Hamlin said, “…That is the advantage that the first car has is he has all the air on the car pushing the car down into the race track and saturating the tire to give it more grip. When we get behind, air comes off the car. No longer do you lose downforce just generally in the car, but the tire loses a ton of grip because you are not saturating it.”
Hamlin felt that the rain tires performed better because of the lack of tire saturation. He theorized that if that same concept was brought to slick tires, it would not only be easier to follow someone, but it would also make tire wear more variable. This puts more emphasis on skill and produces comers and goers.
I am not an engineer, but, it seems that Hamlin has some good idea what he is discussing. Even Goodyear acknowledged that the drivers feel that the tires are going the right direction with a new compound being tested at New Hampshire.
Changing the tires is definitely the most cost effective way to help the next-gen racing product. Even if the short track product is not perfect, the increase in tire fall-off made the racing product more compelling in some ways. Might as well try it.