Next Gen At Martinsville Under The Lights

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

If there’s one thing likely about the Martinsville race this weekend, it’s that it will not be just another Saturday Night under the lights. You might be wondering why I would say that and I do have an answer for that question. It is, quite simply, because of the Next Gen car.

If any of you were watching the practices and the qualifying, you probably noticed several things stand out blatantly right from the beginning. First, some were shifting and some were not. After some that hadn’t had practice time on the track saw or heard the shifts of the drivers on the track, they realized they were also going to have to work on shifting in their practice and qualifying session and during the race. Second, many realized early they were going to have to work on saving their cars and tires for the long runs. Last weekend’s race proved that might be a complete necessity in Saturday night’s race. Third, it appeared many were locking up their left front tires. It wasn’t so bad while they were mostly running in single file or by themselves but, when it comes to race time, that could prove to be disastrous. If they want their tires to last through a tire and fuel run and maintain good track position, that can’t happen.

So, what else might be out of the ordinary from a Saturday night under the lights at Martinsville? Well, if you listen to the drivers, just about everything is a new learning experience.

It does appear that all of them are still in the steep learning curve brought about by the Next Gen car being put in play this season. One thing seems a little different to this fan though. It seems that not only are the veterans struggling to quickly learn how to drive the Next Gen car on the Martinsville “hairpin,” but the younger, less experienced drivers are also. That just might make this race even more emotional and interesting than usual and I’m willing to bet there will be some payback and heated “discussions” when all is said and done.

Personally, this fan doesn’t think this race will go at all according to usual plan. I think the crew chiefs and drivers will have to have a strategy and stick to it no matter what but, be willing to alter that strategy but if actions on the track warrant it. I kinda base that on the way things went last weekend with tire wear, pit stops and caution flags, etc. (You know, that’s the biggest reason Denny Hamlin won.) That’s also why I have spent a little time talking about the possibility of losing control in the corners when running side by side or making a move to pass. I think the corners are the place where some of the most drastic changes might be made in which of them are running up front. If there is close racing for the lead at any point, I do think the turns might be a bit precarious, especially for anyone on the outside of someone.

It was interesting to see the mixture of teams qualifying in the top ten. Of course, the Hendrick teams have three of them in the top eight. Once again, I don’t put a lot of stock in qualifying this year, especially with the Next Gen and 400 laps at Martinsville.

Martinsville is tough enough but running 400 laps offers a lot of opportunities to adjust on the car and learn what makes it go faster as the race progresses. That’s what makes it a little difficult to pick possible winners. I’m thinking the Fords look pretty fast and a quick look at the starting lineup says the Fords and Chevys could make a pretty good showing in tonight’s race. I’m not ruling out a possible Toyota victory and, judging how the Toyotas ran last weekend, they just might be the dark horses in this one.

So… here we are at Martinsville, well known for high emotions and hot tempers especially when it comes down to the end of the race. It has happened before and it could happen tonight depending on how things go. Like I said, this is short track racing under the lights on a Saturday night and anything can happen. We might just have some “heated discussions” following this one just like last night after the Xfinity race. (And please, don’t ask my opinion of Ty Gibbs and his, uh, “discussion” with Sam Mayer last night. Honestly… you don’t want to know…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 9, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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