Cup Races Nationwide Will Be Won In Charlotte

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 9 2022

Cup races are held coast to coast but their outcomes are often decided in team shops. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Race shop preparation for a NASCAR Cup Series event has always been important, but Martin Truex Jr. says it is critical now with the Next Gen car. 

“These races are won Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. They’re not won at the race track,” Truex said Friday after qualifying 20th for Saturday night’s Blue-Emu 400 at Martinsville Speedway. “I would love to go change a couple of springs right now and I can’t. 

“I think that’s the hardest part. We have no experience with these. We have no notes. We have no past history. You just go to a race track and throw some stuff in it and hope it works. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

This year the teams have 15-minute practice sessions on ovals, 20 minutes on road courses to determine if the decisions made at the shop regarding car setup were correct.

For the first time at Martinsville, the drivers find themselves downshifting entering a turn and upshifting on the exit. Truex said not shifting at Martinsville makes one the slowest car in the field. Kevin Harvick notes the constant shifting and the car’s larger brakes are two items that contribute to the different feel of the car at the paperclip-shaped track. That makes simulator work critical this year for the crews and the drivers.

Ross Chastain, who claimed his first NASCAR Cup victory last month at Circuit of the Americas, spends five to seven hours a week in the simulator. Harvick previously ignored the simulator, but believes it’s more relevant for the Next Gen car. 

“It was just so far off in a lot of places on the other car there was really no reason to waste your time (with it),” Harvick said. “I think each week (now) we have a little more faith in it and have a little more comfort with it. We fix the problems that we had the week before. That is going to evolve. That is something we talked about early last year about how that needs to be a really big part of what we do.” 

While most drivers spend as much time as possible in the simulators, Martinsville Speedway pole position winner Chase Elliott has taken a different approach. He spends less time in the simulator than he did with the other car. 

“It’s a great tool for some areas of what we do … but we’re just so new with this car that I don’t want to develop any bad habits,” Elliott explained. “I want to develop raw, real feelings of the car. I think the only way to really extract that is to be in the race car at the race track.

“I’m still trying to learn it. I think once you learn a baseline of what it should feel like, then going into the SIM and being able to dive in and help that side of things out is probably more realistic. When I don’t know 100 percent what’s right, what’s wrong, I think you’re pretty vulnerable to developing bad habits driving something that’s not the real thing.”

Elliott also likes the short practice sessions, describing them as “fun.”

“Short tracks across the country guys have five laps of hot laps,” Elliott said. “We’re supposed to be at the top level of our sport here. So why do we need to practice for three hours a weekend?” 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 9 2022
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