What matters in today’s NASCAR Cup Series racing and how important is clean air? Let’s dive into the analyzes and trends that are shaping the FireKeepers Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Clean Michigan air is a plus, but no scum on worn tires keeps leaders honest
Kevin Harvick, who won the fastest car for both legs of a doubles program, swept last weekend in Michigan. And hats off – that’s a nice advantage to have, and great if you can replicate it.
But the problem with Harvick’s course is that of the 37 teams in today’s race, 36 habit have the fastest car. An alternate route to victory is a must for the majority of the field; however, there is an already forged track.
It took a race for the combination of Michigan’s negligible lap time drop on worn tires and NASCAR’s 550-horsepower package to be capitalized, as Joey Logano claimed a victory in 2019 in what was the fourth. fastest car in the race. Dominant due to his leadership position at 80% of the contest, he used the longer spoiler to aeroblock a group of faster cars based on timing and scoring data, one of which belonged to Martin Truex Jr. This showed the important advantage offered to the car. with the purest air.
“I don’t know if we could have done something with (Logano),” Truex said after the race. “We were going to need a hell of a push from behind – a push right now. I could run a little but never enough to be next to him and certainly not enough to be next to him and free him around the corner.
The car with clean air is in control of the race, but maintaining that control could prove difficult. The degradation of lap times between races, if there is any, allows a significant jump via the pit strategy, in yellow and green flag conditions. Both races in 2020 lacked green flag pit cycles, an aid to Harvick victories in which vulnerable moments were removed due to the placement of warning flags. If they had happened, his leadership position would have been firmly in the crosshairs of those deploying calculated risks with the timing of their shutdowns.
Still, Harvick faced a few other challenges, namely getting the rule of choice started on a track where the natural restart window was not equal for all competitors. As the lead car for most of the weekend, it made good use of its chosen starting points, maintaining its position on nine of 12 attempts, winning six positions in the process.
Its performance gives credit to the emphasis on short and intermediate races to establish a track position that could sustain during the duration of a fuel race, unaffected laps on worn tires. Harvick placed first in short-term sprint in the Sunday portion of last year’s doubles program, while placing seventh in long-term sprint. It was a scenario in which the position of the track – and the clean air it provided – masked a measurable disparity.
Restart dynamics are a misleading curve for competitors
Restarts on the 2 mile trail seem straightforward enough, but what is visible is misleading. The outer groove is the stronger of the two restart lines by a significant margin – with a retention difference of 56 percentage points over its last four races – but it’s a common challenge in the double-file era, good enough. for the existence of the choose rule.
But when you think about it, a driver should rather start sixth rather than Fourth and 12th as opposed to seventh, this is when things seem to get a little weird. It’s a track that asks pilots to choose their own launch points:
Cars that restart in fourth usually act as pushrods for the lead car, and it’s a coupling that can drift down to the bottom groove. Those directly behind them in sixth tend to stand in an outside line that passes reliably through the turns. Over the last four races, the sixth has averaged a better race position after two laps, 3.72 against 3.76 for the fourth.
Overall, the interior groove offers little daylight to its occupants, a manufacturing mistake for early forerunners. How the drivers and teams play in the chosen area today will have an impact on everything that follows, as the winner will surely have been a studied coach.
Fastest car or not, another brilliant performance from Larson is in the cards
Harvick isn’t the only Michigan dominator to return to their most successful circuit. Three-time MIS winner Kyle Larson while driving for Chip Ganassi Racing will have a chance to win on his first start there for Hendrick Motorsports.
It’s an assessment that doesn’t totally depend on having the fastest car. While his 18th place finish last month in Atlanta fueled a rumor that NASCAR had asked Hendrick Motorsports to make changes to the noses of their cars, it wasn’t as if Larson was slow on the 1.54 track. mile, most recently visited 550 horsepower facility.
He placed fourth in the middle lap, losing ground to winner Kurt Busch (who also had the second fastest car in the spring race in Atlanta) and Kyle Busch, the highest ranked producer on 550 horsepower tracks with the third fastest car on the track type over the entire season.
Sure, Larson would make good use of the faster car, but a speed comparable to what he had in Atlanta should prove to be fast enough to claim clean air and keep it, based on what we’ve seen. improved performance of his team on the pit cycles. .
None of Larson’s three Michigan wins came in the current 550 horsepower package, but he has proven to be a capable passer all season on tracks using the low power, high downforce rules – he ranks second in excess overrun value – and its 69.57% retention rate on restarts ranks as the fourth best rating.