Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rating the Lenox Industrial Tools 301: 2 Stars **

One of the shortest races of the year kicked off the second half of the 2011 season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but it took plenty of time to get through those 301 laps. The first New Hampshire race of the year gets a 2 Star Rating.

This race continued many of the themes of the season, and one annoying difference. Throughout the afternoon, there were several lead changes, although only a few were actual passes for position on the track. The race also came down to fuel mileage, and it was incredibly difficult to pass.

Maybe that old, ugly nose of the COT cars wasn’t that bad. As the season drags on, it has become incredibly difficult to pass, and the only major change to the cars this year is the new nose. Sure, the numbers say there have been more passes and lead changes as ever, but that certainly hasn’t been the case lately. Aerodynamics look to be as big a problem now as they have been since NASCAR introduced the new car style.

Granted, it’s always tough to pass at New Hampshire, but this was nearly a restrictor-plate type race because if a driver had track position and a decent car, he could hold on to his spot.

Also, once the field sorted out after a restart, the racing was pretty much single file. In the past, drivers have been able to have really good, clean battles with each other and race side-by-side at New Hampshire, but that wasn’t the case Sunday. Only five or six drivers had cars that were capable of winning, and they were the only ones to pass anybody all day. The Stewart-Haas cars, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch could run up front, but everybody else was pretty much stuck.

Ryan Newman also became the 13th different winner In 2011. Of all years to implement a wild-card system, this was a good one to do it. It’s possible that every driver in this year’s Chase could have a win. That is remarkable. But, aside from coincidence, the reason for so many different winners could be because it is so difficult to pass. Once a team plays its cards right to be in position on the final restart, it becomes pretty hard for somebody to make a late pass for the lead.

Finally, those ugly debris cautions became an issue again Sunday. Overall, this season has been better in the debris caution department. However, three of the 10 cautions at New Hampshire were for debris, and they chopped up the race. In general, the cautions were a large contributor to the pace of the race, and how the teams’ strategies played out. Every time there was a caution, a different group of cars came to the front. Thankfully, the best cars in the field ended up at the front anyway.

This current run of races with pit strategy that doesn’t rely on tires hurts the quality of the race. In New Hampshire’s case, it didn’t matter too much how good of a car somebody had, but rather what pit strategy they used.

In any case, now it’s time for that horrible week in the middle of the summer without a race. The drivers and teams surely need a break, but this week always becomes the bleak mid-summer. Thankfully, it’s the last off week of the season. Have a good one, everybody.


  1. Got to agree with everything you said. Only a few cars were capable of passing guys in the top 10. Lapped cars had no trouble being passed.

    I've got to add a half star for Ryan Newman. He needed that win as bad as his boss. Guess Tony has another chance at the Brickyard. He might wind up in panic mode if he doesn't get a win soon.

  2. 2 stars at best - that was another snoozer and Indy wont be any better.

    Racing seemed MUCH better beginning of the year, so I think a lot of it has to do with the tracks of late more than the nose.

    Enjoy your week off Mayer!

  3. Ever have a 1 star or no star race? Just wonderin'...

    They need to send the track course out into the surrounding hills for a couple of miles beginning at turn two... Sacrilege!

    The least they could do is widen the track out and put 28 degree banking in the turns... That would help!

    It's been quite awhile since the first and second qualifiers finished in that order and I think that says volumes about the quality of racing...

    So now we head off to another basically flat track with two long and two short straightaways... And oh yes... Mustn't forget the holy grail strip of bricks... I still say it looks like NASCAR is bowing to IndyCar when they make such a big deal out of Indianapolis... NASCAR doesn't need to take a back seat to any other form of auto racing!

    Thanks jmayer!

  4. Two stars is being very generous.

    Last week at Kentucky there were 6 cautions.... one "competition", and three for debris.

    NASCAR sure saddles TNT with bum tracks for 5 of their 6 races (Daytona).

  5. CR_Racing - It was a great win for Newman. I think Stewart is in pretty good shape. He has some good tracks ahead. Now Dale Jr. is another story.

    klvalus - I sure hope so. It's still going to be a few weeks before we get back to a track that usually has pretty good racing.

    Dwindy1 - We do have 1 Star races occasionally. They have to be really bad. Click on "2 Star Rating" for the rating system page.
    I think money and ESPN have more to do with the Indy hype than Indycar. NASCAR is still miles ahead of that series.

    Gene - TNT does get some of the most boring races of the year. Half of them end with fuel mileage (or rain in past years) finishes.

  6. Looks like I didn't miss a whole lot by going to the slo-pitch finals instead last weekend ;)

    Side-by-side racing at Loudon in the past? I've only ever seen one decent race there and that was last year in the Chase...the rest (Indycar included since the mid 90's) that I've watched have all been snoozers, lol

  7. tezgm99 - Sounds like you had a good day! I'm not saying by any stretch that New Hampshire consistently has good racing. But, there have been times in the past where there have certainly been better battles than what we saw Sunday.