Joey Logano dominated Monday evening’s FireKeeper’s Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, but didn’t walk away from the field in the process. That fact, for some, is enough to proclaim success for 2019 NASCAR rules package. However, for the second week in a row with the 550 horsepower package, some drivers have grown frustrated with the lack of ability to make a difference from the driver’s seat.
For as close as the racing was, there was very little passing, especially up front. Logano led a staggering 163 laps, miles ahead of any recent winner dating back to Matt Kenseth in 2015.
Much of the day was spent single file at the front. Cars were spaced out 2-3 car lengths apart — just far enough away to where they couldn’t make anything happen. If you pulled out to pass, you better have completed the pass. If you didn’t, there was a freight train of hungry hounds ready to pounce and make you pay. It was almost reminiscent of the old Bristol days where guys would get hung out on the outside and simply wait for an opportunity to duck back in.
Clint Bowyer spoke on that after the race at Michigan.
“I mean, it is not racing,” Clint Bowyer said after the race. “I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life. You get a run on somebody and you can’t make a complete pass and by the time you get to the next corner you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.”
Martin Truex Jr. had similar comments, though he was one of a few to start deeper in the field and still run up front for the majority of the day, finishing 3rd.
“Early in the race I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner,” 2018 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. said. “If you can’t clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time.”
Most thought that this would be one of the best Michigan races that we had ever seen. Denny Hamlin even hinted at that last week after Pocono. We just didn’t see the runs needed in the draft to see the lead change hands.
Brad Keselowski tried to explain why after the race.
“The cars when they get behind each other they make the car in front of them faster,” Brad Keselowski said. “If you go back 20-30 years ago that was not the case. You would draft but you wouldn’t make the car in front of you faster. Now it seems like when you get up behind somebody you make them faster, too.”
Keselowski’s words make sense as no driver could really make up ground down Michigan’s long, opportunistic straightaways. Couple that with the dirty air in Michigan’s two-groove corners and you’ve got a recipe for no passing.
NASCAR’s current package seems to be too fast in the corners to offer passing opportunities, while the draft down the straightaways isn’t offering a big enough advantage for the car running behind.
While a segment of the fanbase is enjoying the closer racing, another segment feels like the drivers are being minimized. It’s becoming clear that most of the drivers agree with the latter and have begun to consistently speak out.
NASCAR’s next move will be fascinating. For now though, their lack of a response to the criticism speaks volumes.