The Gen 7 Era Is Going To Create Wild NASCAR Races

Cup Series

Getty The race at Auto Club Speedway featured small teams fighting for the win.

The NASCAR Cup Series drivers took on Auto Club Speedway on February 27, the first race at an intermediate track featuring the Gen 7 stock cars. The 400-mile race did not disappoint as numerous “small” teams contended for the win.

NASCAR’s goal with the Gen 7 stock cars was to create parity among the teams, helping JTG Daugherty Racing, Trackhouse Racing, and Petty GMS Motorsports among others contend with the perennial championship favorites. Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson may have won the California race, but he had to overtake Daniel Suarez before holding off Austin Dillon on the final lap.

The top 10 featured a healthy mix of big and small teams. Larson took the top spot while Dillon finished second. Erik Jones finished third overall for his first top-five since the 2020 season and Suarez finished fourth. Jones’ day, in particular, featured a total of 18 laps led and crucial points in all three stages.

Joey Logano (fifth), Aric Almirola (sixth), and Kevin Harvick (seventh) all represented bigger teams while Kurt Busch (eighth) struck a balance between the organization sizes. Daniel Hemric (ninth) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10th) rounded out the top of the field.

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There were multiple other teams that turned in stronger performances in the Gen 7 stock cars. Front Row Motorsports’ Todd Gilliland finished 20th, Rick Ware Racing’s Garrett Smithley finished 21st, and Live Fast Motorsports’ BJ McLeod ended his day 22nd overall. These drivers also avoided incidents that involved drivers from Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and RFK Racing.

Blown Tires & Spinning Cars

The Gen 7 cars will potentially level the playing field for the smaller teams, but it will also create some wild moments on the track. The trip to Auto Club Speedway provided a look at this outcome as multiple drivers spun during practice, qualifying, and the race itself, occasionally leaving the track on the back of tow trucks.

The first practice session on February 26 provided the first look as Kevin Harvick, Ross Chastain, and Chris Buescher all spun. Harvick’s spin led to hours of work by the No. 4 team as they fought to put the stock car back together in time for the February 27 race. Chastain’s car was not salvageable, so he had to go to a backup.

The issues continued with Chase Elliott spinning during his qualifying lap, as well as multiple times on race day. Though two of the spins were due to something breaking on the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski both had spins of their own on February 27. Busch spun during Stage 1, continuing an afternoon of issues for the No. 18 team. Keselowski had multiple incidents, one in which he got loose and then another where Bubba Wallace lost control and spun the No. 6 into traffic.

Some of these issues — and many others — led to drivers heading back to their pits under their own power. A few others had to receive a tow back to the stall due to having no tires remaining.

Based on comments from many Cup Series veterans who called the Gen 7 cars hard to drive, it’s almost a guarantee that there will be more issues throughout the season. More cars will spin while others will deal with flat tires sending them into the wall or the infield grass. If the race at Auto Club Speedway is any indication, some of these drivers will be in contention to win when disaster strikes.

Daniel Suarez Had a Chance to Win

The driver of the No. 99 left Auto Club Speedway after a bittersweet race. He turned in a fourth-place run, his 10th top-10 finish in the Cup Series, after recovering from hitting the wall. Suarez also had the lead late, but he simply couldn’t hold on.

He and Larson lined up next to each other on the final restart after getting fresh tires. The driver of the No. 5 HMS Chevrolet took the lead initially on the outside lane while Suarez moved to the bottom of the track to potentially gain ground, and he kept fighting until he could take the lead with three laps remaining.

The driver of the No. 99 appeared to be within reach of his first career Cup Series win, but he couldn’t block a massive run by Larson after he moved back to the top of the track. The defending champion jumped back to the front of the pack and held on to secure his first win of the season.

“We’re going to win a few races very soon here,” Suarez told FOX Sports’ Jamie Little after the race. “I just can’t thank everyone enough in my team. We had a fast car, but we went through a lot of adversity. We had a few issues. We hit the wall once. We had an issue with a diffuser. My pit crew, those guys are legends; it’s unbelievable. It’s the best pit crew I’ve ever had, and it’s a lot of fun to race like that.

“Freeway Insurance, Chevrolet, everyone that helps Trackhouse out, to be able to be here and perform this way. I’m happy and I’m horror at the same time. I can tell you that I’m going to work very, very hard to go to Victory Lane very, very soon here.”

A Flat Tire Ruined Tyler Reddick’s Near-Perfect Performance

The first two stages of the Wise Power 400 did not focus on Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, or many other big names. Instead, the driver of the No. 8 sparked conversations while turning in what was initially a career-best performance.

Tyler Reddick started the Cup Series race 11th overall, but he quickly made his way to the front of the field. The Richard Childress Racing driver took the lead from Jones on Lap 11, and he held on until Lap 15 when the No. 43 jumped back to the front.

This battle was not over. Reddick and Jones continued to jockey for position at the front of the pack during the first two stages. Reddick made the most moves by taking the lead 10 times for a total of 90 laps and two stage wins. However, his day drastically changed during the final stage.

Reddick appeared to have an insurmountable lead over Jones and the rest of the field, but he blew a rear tire and had to navigate to the top of the track to avoid the rest of the stock cars. Several were able to move past Reddick, but William Byron appeared to lose control, and he slammed into the side of the No. 8, sending it into the wall.

The incident ruined Reddick’s shot at his first career Cup Series win, as well as a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. However, he and Dillon both showed that RCR will potentially be a force in the coming months.

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