Craig Murto: The Kyle and Kyle show
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway, now known as the Kyle and Kyle show, was just what NASCAR needed.
The race was good throughout, partly because of the worn pavement, which leaves cars fighting for grip and utilizing different lines in search for speed. But it was the final lap that has the racing world talking.
Kyle Busch had a sizeable lead with 20 laps to go, but lapped traffic held him up as Kyle Larson closed the gap using the extreme high side of the track as if he were driving a dirt car on the cushion. After taking the white flag to start the final lap, Larson dove deep into Turn 1 hoping to achieve a “slide job” and place his car in front of Busch’s as the two exited Turn 2.
But the slide job didn’t work, and instead of sliding in front of Busch, Larson slid into the side of Busch’s car, which then hit the outside wall as Busch regained control.
From that point it was clear that anything goes. Busch followed Larson into Turn 3 and drove it in deep, using Larson’s car as a brake and punting him out of the way. Larson did a masterful piece of driving to regain control after his car slid sideways through Turns 3 and 4, grabbing a gear and continuing to finish second.
On the cool-down lap, Larson gave Busch a thumb’s up signal. He knew all that occurred on the track was fair. After all, he’s the one who initiated contact on the final lap.
Of course, fans pick and choose their favorites and react accordingly. Busch was met with a lot of boos as he climbed from his car following the race. But even those booing had to admit that the finish was one of the most entertaining finishes of a NASCAR Cup race in a long time.
And there surely will be plenty of action as the series rolls into Daytona for Saturday’s 400-mile event under the lights. The challenge for NASCAR is to keep the excitement going for the rest of the season.
Every race can’t be a barn-burner, just as every football game doesn’t end with a field goal as the clock runs out. But even if Chicago didn’t have the incredible finish, the racing was good throughout. How can NASCAR capture that and replicate it elsewhere?
I think they are headed the wrong way when they put the high-downforce package on the car. Chicagoland Speedway provides good racing because the cars are searching for grip, not because they’re planted firmly into the track.
If NASCAR wants the best chance of having a good race at every facility, make the cars harder to drive. Get them a minimum of 4 inches off the ground, get rid of the splitter in the front, get rid of the side skirts, and make the rear spoiler smaller. Essentially get rid of aerodynamics so the cars must rely on mechanical grip.
While they’re at it, NASCAR should outlaw wind tunnel testing. If wind tunnels are not used, a lot of high-dollar engineers employed by the big-money teams may be looking for employment. There will always be a gap between the high- and low-dollar teams. But ridding the sport of wind tunnels will help close that gap.
It’s true that it’s hard to turn back the clock. It’s hard to unlearn things we’ve learned in this sport. But stock car racing needs to get back to what made it popular. The cars were difficult to drive, they weren’t planted on the ground like a Formula One car.
Chicago was a good race because drivers searched for grip all day. Let’s have more of that.
Peyton Sellers beat Philip M orris in the first leg of the Virginia Triple Crown, held at South Boston Speedway. The second leg, the Hampton Heat 200, is July 21 at Langley Speedway in Hampton and it should prove to be a race worth attending.
In fact, the Hampton area is worth visiting for more than just the Hampton Heat 200. Go to VisitHampton.com to discover other activities in the region. Make the Hampton Heat 200 part of a vacation; you won’t regret it.
Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.