Tires became a prominent part of the conversation after the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, which featured two Hendrick Motorsports drivers combining to lead 397 of the 403-lap event with an overtime finish. NASCAR has continued that conversation by setting a tire test at the short track.
Scott Miller, NASCAR Executive Vice President of Competition, appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on April 13 and confirmed that a test is in the works. He explained that the sanctioning body will seek feedback from the drivers about what they think will provide a better race. There will also be discussions about how to get more rubber on the track and what setup will provide varying levels of grip.
“We’ve certainly been in contact with a fairly large cross-section of the drivers, getting their take, meeting with Goodyear,” Miller said during his appearance. “We have a tire test planned for later on in the year to try some new things there. The drivers have sort of cited shifting as a potential problem, so we are just looking… we’re taking all the input and looking at what levers we may be able to actually pull to improve it and improve it the next time we go back.”
Miller continued and explained that the temperature also played a role in the type of race that took place. He said that the cold nights are “more of a challenge” than everyone understands.
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There Were Several Discussions About Martinsville’s Excitement Level
The debut of the Gen 7 car at Martinsville Speedway, which William Byron won, was an odd affair. There were only five lead changes during the short-track race, all of which took place on pit road. There were no passes for the lead during the actual race. Additionally, there were only two cautions due to incidents on the track. The other two served as the stage breaks.
The weekly Twitter poll from The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck reflected the odd feeling. Only 18.7% of the people said that the Martinsville race was good, which made the Cup Series race the third-lowest out of 233 tracked events. The 2017 All-Star Race (18.2%) and the 2016 Brickyard 400 (17%) were the only events with fewer positive responses.
With Martinsville back on the schedule as the final elimination race of the playoffs, there will be extra pressure for NASCAR to find a way to make the race more exciting. The tire test will potentially play a significant role, as will other conversations with the Cup Series drivers.
Martinsville Speedway Has Featured Big Moments
Past elimination races have featured wild moments on the track. The 2020 iteration had Chase Elliott winning to secure his first championship four berth while Kevin Harvick wrecked himself trying to spin Kyle Busch. 2021’s race featured Alex Bowman spinning Denny Hamlin and ultimately winning his fourth race of the year while Brad Keselowski tried to spin Busch before crossing the start-finish line.
The 2018 playoff race was another fitting example even though it took place at the start of the Round of Eight. Joey Logano used the bump-and-run move on Martin Truex Jr. on the final turn to win and punch his ticket to the championship four. He ultimately went on to win the first Cup Series title of his career after fending off Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Busch at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
There is an inherent excitement that surrounds Martinsville, the only track that has been on the Cup Series schedule every year since the very beginning. The first race featuring the Gen 7 car did not deliver under the lights, but the sanctioning body will continue to put in work trying to amend this before the playoffs.