Friday 5th: Is more practice a way to reduce cup racing precautions?

Brad Keselowski says he’d rather expand NASCAR practices every weekend with what RFK Racing spends on simulations.

Keselowski also notes that additional training would help teams learn the nuances of the next-gen car. The more track time, the more teams could adapt and potentially reduce the risk of accidents.

The Cup Series has seen a 72.7% increase in warnings for accidents and spins in races in the first 15 events this season compared to last year.

There were so many warnings this year that the winner did not have to make a green flag pit stop in six races (40%). That includes the Coca-Cola 600, which had 18 bookings — 14 for crashes and spins — after having four bookings (one for an incident) last year.

“I think cup racing had really matured to the point where we would go to circuits and not have warnings and nothing would happen,” said Keselowski, who is in his first year as co-owner of RFK Racing. “Now we can’t do more than 20 or 30 laps wherever we go. There has to be a happy spot in the middle.

“A full tire ride is good every now and then. … I think a lot of these things come from not having the practice to get the cars right and relying so much on all these other engineering tools that, honestly, are never going to be 100% accurate. “

NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman, who ran his first race in the next-gen car at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend, noted how different the new car is for a driver compared to last year’s model.

“This is completely different,” Kligerman said on MotorMouths on Peacock this week. “Throw away everything I’ve known about driving stock cars for the last ten years and just reset everything, start over, and now I have to figure out, ‘How do you drive this thing?’

“It just changed everything. It has a very different feel. There are times when there is a total lack of feelings to contend with. The aero effects are fully unlike anything we’ve experienced.

“The number of shifts you do varies The brakes are different. The way you feel the tire and actually how you feel speed and generate speed and where the grip is is completely different.

“Someone asked me last weekend to sort of tell it. I thought it would be like the NFL suddenly decided that instead of playing football in the form of a football, which they had last time, they would start playing with a soccer ball. It’s that different.”

That’s why Keselowski said it’s better to have more practice.

The training was reduced for cost reasons for the teams. With so little practice most weekends, teams don’t need to have a fully prepared back-up car. Some multi-car organizations do not bring a reserve car for each of their teams.

This has resulted in teams relying on simulation tools to be fast out of the box.

Only six of the 36 points races last longer than 20 minutes this season. These tracks with 50 minute practice sessions: Daytona (500), Atlanta (in March), Bristol Dirt, Gateway, Nashville and Phoenix (championship weekend).

“I think we’ve probably saved a million or two in travel and put it all back into simulation and engineering to try to unload on the circuits and not blow out tires and still be fast and I guess that doesn’t work for anyone,” Keselowski said, noting the money saved traveling with shorter weekends for the Cup and less training.

“It’s definitely time for a deep dive and a look back at the weekend schedules and the training and qualification formats.”

Corey LaJoie, who crashed in practice before the Coca-Cola 600 and crashed a backup in the race after a left rear tire failure, said he doesn’t think more practice time is the best thing.

“If we had had more practice, I could have done another one in practice,” he said last weekend. “Obviously what we had at Charlotte wasn’t the hottest lot.

“I think whether it’s 50 minutes of practice like we’ve seen here at Gateway or a 20 minute session like we’ve seen in Charlotte, you’re going to have the same issues. What you come up with (at Gateway) with the setup is what you are essentially married to, whether you practice for five minutes, no practice, or for an hour.”

2. Search for change

Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric will participate in a Goodyear tire test June 21-22 at Martinsville Speedway.

After a lackluster race at Martinsville in the spring, this will be an important test. It will give NASCAR and Goodyear a chance to try out a few things with the car ahead of an organizational test there in August.

“This car is worse in traffic than the previous car,” Busch said at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend. “I feel like all the underbody material is not what we expected at all. The cars drive fun. you are good The nice thing about them is that they ride well when they’re alone and they have full air.

“If we were striving to be better in traffic with cars, we didn’t do it. This is nice, which I think has been the biggest struggle in myself and my team, so what are you doing to fix that? I do not know.

“I think there’s a test in Martinsville in the next week or two and I’ve been very political about taking the whole underbody off and letting us do a couple of runs with it and see what we can find out with it. It would also save team owners a ton of money if we threw away those components and went from here without them. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”

3. Security work

Brad Keselowski says he’s worried about how quickly security officials got RFK Racing teammate Chris Buescher’s car back on its wheels after it landed upside down at the Coca-Cola 600 last month. Buescher was not injured after his car rolled over more than four times.

From the moment Buescher’s car came to a stop upside down until it was put back on its wheels and Buescher got out of the car, 6 minutes and 30 seconds elapsed. Safety trucks arrived at the scene of the accident 10 seconds after the car came to a standstill. A security guard reached the driver’s side of Buescher’s car 20 seconds after the car came to a halt.

“I definitely have concerns,” Keselowski said. “If there was something wrong with the car, they might have gone faster, they might not. I can’t say I was there to know all the contacts that had with Chris (from security forces).

“Either way, I’d definitely like to have it a lot quicker when it comes to that.”

Safety teams attend to Chris Buescher after his car landed upside down during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller addressed Keselowski’s concerns on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week.

“Everyone always thinks things should go faster,” Miller said. “There are definitely protocols. When the doctor arrives at the scene, the doctor is in control of the scene, and everyone else on the scene — like the railroad workers who flipped the car back over and all the others — are put on hold until they get instructions from the doctor Floor.

“This is a new car and certainly some different protocols and methods of turning it around. We certainly practiced it and knew where the straps needed to be and knew how to do that.

“This is the first time we’ve flipped a next-gen car in the heat of the moment. I think they did a really good job of doing that safely.

“Again, we don’t want to rush and make a situation worse. We always learn from all of this and I think everyone will think that if we get there in 30 seconds it’s too slow. If we get there in 20 seconds, that’s too slow. If we’re there in 10 seconds… We’re always trying to make it faster. We’re going to get these response time questions on every single accident and we know it.”

4. Plenty of time

Kevin Harvick goes into Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway (4:00 p.m. ET on FS1) outside of a playoff spot. He’s two points behind Tyler Reddick for last place. Aric Almirola is eight points ahead of Harvick.

Harvick had been in a playoff spot at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend until he crashed in the final laps of the race and finished 33rd. Shortly before his incident he was in 13th place.

He was asked if he was in contention for the last playoff spot before the event last weekend and if he had started talking to crew chief Rodney Childers about strategies to get as many points as possible.

“Just tell me where I am at the end of 26[races],” Harvick said. “If we’re in, we’re in. When we’re out, we’re out. We are either good enough or not good enough. I have so many other things to think about to try and help with the cars and going to different places each week that you can’t really count points.”

There are 10 races left before the playoffs begin after Sonoma.

5. Busier schedules

Recent promotions from Hendrick Motorsports to senior positions include Jeff Andrews as President and General Manager. He was executive vice president and general manager.

His responsibilities will expand with his new role. Andrews and Competition Vice President Chad Knaus usually swap weekends at the track. While Andrews was at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend, Knaus was in France as part of Hendrick’s involvement in the next-gen car for next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

A specially modified next-gen car will be the “Garage 56”, which competes in its own group at Le Mans. It will be NASCAR’s most notable presence at Le Mans since 1976.

With the additional responsibilities for Andrews and the Le Mans project for Knaus, will someone else have to take over their Cup operations responsibilities?

“Chad and I discussed this briefly,” Andrews said. “…Some of what I’ve done I’ll have to blame on him.

“Likewise, I hope I can do the same. I hope I can take on some things that are high on his list of priorities that he needs to make some decisions about to guide and direct the competitive side of our business that I can do to make room for him that is his role improved.

“He’s been in this role for almost two years and … he’s done an amazing job. Our crew chiefs and race teams work better and more closely together than ever before. I think the hard part for Chad, who’s grown into this role, is figuring out and understanding how to step back a little bit and watch and run those race teams and not be someone who’s directly involved with that one car.

“He did a great job. I can tell you the quality of our racing cars, what’s coming out of our workshops right now is unparalleled and that’s a testament to Chad and his attention to detail.”

Hendrick Motorsports has won five of the first 15 cup races this season. William Byron has two wins. Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott each have a win.

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