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Is This Texas Motor Speedway’s Last Chance?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Texas Motor Speedway has been a race track on the bad side of the fan base for years now. Rumors have swirled around for years about whether or not Texas Motor Speedway could be up for a major reconfiguration for years now. The question is, how much longer can the current state of Texas Motor Speedway be tolerated, and can the Next-Gen car save it?

How Did We Get Here?

Texas Motor Speedway was always at least somewhat on the wrong side of the NASCAR fanbase from when it opened. First off, it was not a unique venue in the slightest as it was basically a 1 for 1 copy of Charlotte Motor Speedway down to the quad-oval shape and 24 degrees of banking. Most importantly, however, the track took a date away from the beloved North Wilkesboro Speedway.

As Texas Motor Speedway aged, it did not do much to separate itself from the other 1.5 mile tracks, and a lawsuit regarding it played a part in Rockingham Speedway leaving the schedule after the 2004 season. Texas was just not that exciting of a venue, and both of its dates were on the schedule in lieu of beloved venues that catered to NASCAR’s core fanbase.

In 2016, a rain delay that lasted nearly six hours because of the old track surface forced the track to be repaved. The track was reconfigured to have only 20 degrees of banking and a widened track surface in turn one and keeping turns three and four the same width and banking along with a repave.

The result was a single-groove track that continued to produce races that fans abhorred. The track even applied PJ-1 to the upper lanes with little success, and it even stained the track which ruined the IndyCar product for a few years. Now, some of the bad racing product could even be attributed to the Gen-6 cars’ lackluster intermediate track product, so how would the Next-Gen car fare at the track?

Can the Next-Gen Car Save It?

The Next-Gen car’s best product is its intermediate track product. Tracks that were once loathed by fans are now beloved, and maybe the same could happen to Texas Motor Speedway. So, how did the Next-Gen car fare at Texas Motor Speedway in 2022?

The All-Star Race at Texas was…not great. The racing was not very compelling, and the finish was controversial with a caution coming out as Ryan Blaney was coming to take the checkered flag. Because it was the All-Star Race, the race was not over yet, and Blaney had to finish the race with his window net barely dangling as he had dislodged it during the caution.

Now, not all of that is down to Texas the race track, so how did the fall race play out? The fall race at Texas featured a ridiculous amount of tire failures and two driver injuries in crashes including Alex Bowman and Cody Ware. The race featured 16 caution flags for 91 laps, and Tyler Reddick took home the win.

It was chaos, but not the good kind of chaos. In Jeff Gluck’s “Was it a Good Race?” poll for 2022, the bottom two races of the season were both Texas raced with 86.6% saying that the fall race was bad and 89% saying the All-Star Race was bad. Those were also the two worst races on the poll, ever. This is a poll that goes back to 2016.

As a result, NASCAR moved the All-Star Race back to, ironically enough, North Wilkesboro for 2023. For the first time since 2004, Texas Motor Speedway had only one race weekend on the Cup Series schedule.

Could the Next-Gen car redeem itself at Texas on Sunday? Maybe it can with some good officiating and better tires, but public opinion is not on the side of the track. Especially considering the massive swaths of empty bleachers at the track over the last few years.

How Much Longer Can Texas Motor Speedway Go on Like This?

It cannot go on much longer it seems, but, what can you do with Texas Motor Speedway? Some have suggested that they reconfigure it into a superspeedway similar to Atlanta, but fan sentiment toward that is not great.

Others have suggested making the track a short track. That could work, but Texas Motor Speedway would have to reconfigure the current grandstand shape in all likelihood. Add to that, a less-than-stellar short track product could make for a not-so-great race.

The easiest thing to do would be to reconfigure the existing layout with different banking. Maybe putting it back to 24 degrees on each end to make it similar to Charlotte, which is where the Next-Gen car has shined. They can also make it progressively banked similar to Kansas or Homestead-Miami.

The bottom line is that something will have to be done if the Next-Gen car continues to struggle at Texas. Sunday may be the last chance the current configuration has to show that it can work with modern NASCAR cars.

However, Texas is an important market for NASCAR, and renovations are expensive. As a result, maybe fans will just have to bite the bullet with a bad configuration. However, fan sentiment is at an all-time low, so, how much more grace will fans give it?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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