NASCAR still seeking short track improvements

NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer acknowledged on Tuesday morning the sanctioning body needs to do more to improve it short track product.

“We, as NASCAR, want our short track package to be better,” Sawyer told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We want that racing to be at the level of superspeedways and our intermediate racetracks are today.

“I promise you (that) we are working as hard as we can with Goodyear and we need to work harder. That’s the bottom line. We need to work harder to come to a place, as I said a couple of weeks ago, to figure out how to bottle up what we learned at Bristol and also what we learned the first 30 laps at Richmond last week on how that race unfolded.”

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway drew criticism for its lack of competition, and drivers again expressed frustration at the inability to pass. It has been a repeated theme in the series since the Next Gen car was introduced in 2022. There were five cautions at Martinsville and 13 lead changes, and Joey Logano led 184 laps after pitting for just two tires.

The unexpected, and still unknown, reason for tire wear at Bristol Motor Speedway received high praise from those in the industry and the fans. It resulted in plenty of passing, a track record number of lead changes, and left it up to the drivers of to manage their tires.

Richmond Raceway used the wet weather tires to start the race, which also generated more wear, but once the tire started to dry out, NASCAR made the call for teams to switch to slick tires. It turned into more of a one-groove race from there with Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson combining to lead 372 of 400 laps.

“The tires and the way they wear and the way the drivers had to manage the tire wear and fall off is really what we’re trying to achieve,” Sawyer said. “When you can go out at any track, especially short tracks and run at ten-tenths, and the equipment will take it and the tire will take it, then you’re taking all the skill set away from the driver.

“So, we are, I promise you and our fans, working daily to continue to try to come up with a tire that will give us the short track racing that we’re all looking for.

“The surface at Richmond, Martinsville, and other short tacks around the circuit are all different so it’s not a one tire fits all type solution. So, we have to continue to work and we’re not resting on anything we did yesterday. Today we’re going to be digging on this again and working on solutions and trying to get to a better place.”

NASCAR is using a different aero package at short tracks and road courses this season. It has not been a key piece of the puzzle as hoped and attention has turned more toward tire wear.

“This car is in its third year, so a lot of work has been on the aero side of the short tracks and just to be perfectly honest that doesn’t move the needle,” Sawyer said. “It really doesn’t for whatever reason. It could be the speeds in the middle of the corner. There’s a multitude of things that would go into that. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t move the needle and the drivers would tell you that. So, there is no need for us to put a lot of energy toward that type of testing.

“It really comes down to us and Goodyear and … we felt like at Bristol we were really close. Did we step over the line as a collective industry? Maybe a little. That was a type of wear that we don’t need that much. But if that was a 10, we need to back it off to somewhere like a seven-and-a-half or an eight on that scale.

“And that’s what we need. We need to have the best athletes in the world, which is our drivers, to have to go out there and use every bit of their talent and that’s not just driving at ten-tenths. That’s backing it down and being able to manage your equipment whether it’s brakes or tires or whatever that may be.”

Story originally appeared on Racer