Through the Gears: Four things we learned at Texas Motor Speedway.
Itâs hard to believe that last year Kyle Busch went a whole season and won just once in NASCARâs top three series: Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks. Why? Two months into 2013, heâs on pace to win 28 times across the board, lead over 2,000 laps in Cup and shatter any Nationwide Series record he hasnât already.
But itâs the average start for Busch this season, on the Cup side, thatâs making the biggest difference. Armed with a league-leading 5.4-place average start, his latest pole became the crucial difference in a tit-for-tat battle with Martin Truex Jr. at Texas. That first stall, a huge advantage on any stop, got him out first on the raceâs final caution and made the last few minutes a coronation for a man whoâs come full circle. It was at this 1.5-mile oval one and a half years ago when a wreck with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series got Busch parked, left sponsor M&Mâs questioning itâs commitment and left one of the sportâs most aggressive drivers at a crossroads with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Now? As we awaken this Monday morning, itâs Hornaday involved in the middle of a Truck Series mess, accused of deliberately wrecking another competitor while Busch is sitting on top of the NASCAR world. Funny how things come full circle, right?
Letâs go âThrough the Gearsâ on what we learned from a weekend in Fort Worth â¦
FIRST GEAR: Texas + Gen-6 = Tough Sledding
You know when the biggest story of a race weekend is a sponsorship issue that is raised before the start of the event, youâve got a problem. Texas, while giving us some decent racing back in the pack, was every bit the snoozer Fontana was not. The Gen-6 car, credited for improving racing at intermediates in 2013, seemed to take a time machine that morphed it back into the Car of Tomorrow. The second a driver claimed clean air, it was all she wrote, as Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to lead 313 of 334 laps. The aero advantage was so pronounced, Truex admitted afterwards that dropping back to second was too much to overcome.
âThe race was over when we got beat out of the pits,â Truex said. âThe bottom was so fast for a couple laps and I was really worried, honestly, that I was going to lose second because Carl (Edwards) was on the inside of me. I was just somehow able to run (turns) one and two wide open and get him cleared. Just the guy that gets clean air is hard to get. Itâs hard to catch (them) in 10 laps.â
Others, like Greg Biffle, used dreaded race-killer terms like âtrack positionâ and âaeroâ Sunday night on SPEEDâs Wind Tunnel when describing their struggles to move through the field. Even a flurry of cautions for what seemed like nothing â only three of the seven were caused by accidents â did nothing to tighten a field that, at the 450-mile mark, had only 15 cars on the lead lap. Itâs the latest reminder that the Gen-6 is not an automatic miracle worker; week-to-week, there will be some tracks where improvement takes time.
Texas is certainly one of those, which is unfortunate, considering its grandstand capacity produces a six-figure crowd. Goodyear would be prudent to hold a test there before the fall event in the Chase, to come up with a tire that has more pronounced falloff, produces slower speeds and helps reduce aero dependency. Too many drivers were running the same speed, lap after lap, with little chance of being able to gain on anyone else. That produces the single-file parade witnessed Saturday night that hopefully, fans wonât be victim to much more.