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Denny Hamlin Goes Back-to-Back at Bristol

As the stars of the NASCAR Circuit headed back East from Phoenix, the big headline was Christopher Bell and Joe Gibbs Racing. Last weekend, Bell and his JGR teammates put on a clinic in Phoenix with Bell coming out on top. The four Joe Gibbs Racing teammates lead for a combined total of 230 of the 312 laps in Phoenix. As previously said, absolute domination from JGR. Now, on to this past weekend in Bristol. Bristol has been a fan favorite track for years, but not so much in recent years. Since the Next-Gen era started, Bristol hasn’t produced great racing. But this past weekend, it was a little different than the past races in Bristol. Let’s discuss what happened this past weekend in Bristol.

A Wacky but fun Race in Bristol:

Coming into Bristol, fans didn’t have expectations set high due to the poor production of racing at Bristol with the Next-Gen car. Right from the drop of the green flag, the worries of poor racing in Bristol were out the window. The chaos unfolded and it unfolded quickly. Bristol was grumpy on Sunday, and it showed. On lap 25, Daytona 500 champion, William Byron, got into the wall hard after contact with Joey Logano. As they say, cautions breed cautions. In the first stage alone, there were four caution flags, one of which became the stage caution due to Kyle Busch spinning. One thing that was very apparent throughout the first stage, that was the Tire Wear was real in this race. A fresh set of Goodyear tires would barely make a green flag run of 55 laps at Bristol. This is unheard of in modern-day NASCAR.

The drivers were concerned if they would have enough sets of tires to get through to the end of the race. Thankfully, after each team received an extra set from Goodyear, each team had enough tires to get to the end of the race. There would be a few cautions in stage two, but nothing major. The day was mostly dominated by Ty Gibbs who seemed to be en route to his first Cup Series win. He led 137 laps before having an issue in the final stage ending his day. But the race was won by Denny Hamlin, Gibbs’ teammate. Hamlin led 163 laps on the day for his fourth Bristol victory, and his first win since Bristol in September of last season. This is Hamlin’s 52nd career victory. But coming out of Bristol, Hamlin’s victory isn’t the big story. It’s the tire wear we saw on Sunday.

Should the Tire Wear be a Concern?

The question remains, with all the tire wear and issues on Sunday, should there be concern with the tires at Short Tracks from now on? Honestly, and in simple terms, no. There should not be concern for the future of Short Tracks for the season. Goodyear has stated that they brought the same tire compound as the past Bristol races, but it’s more than likely that’s not true. Part of the issue is that the track was not taking rubber like it normally does throughout a green flag run.  What we saw on Sunday, was fantastic. This was the best Bristol race of the Next-Gen era and the best short-track race in the last three years. The race this past Sunday was old-school racing. It separated the drivers from the boys.

Most of the drivers said in their post-race interviews that this reminded them of racing when they were growing up. If this racing we saw on Sunday is a preview then the rest of the short-track races throughout the seasons could be in good hands. Yes, the new short-track aero package helped with the racing, but it was thanks to tires that Goodyear brought to Bristol that made for great racing in Bristol. But this coming Sunday, it will be a true test for the new aero package. Let’s discuss what you can expect and whom you can see upfront this coming Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

What to Expect from COTA:

This coming weekend, it’s the first road course race of the season for the NASCAR Cup Series as the circuit heads south to Austin, Texas to COTA. COTA is a very unique and technical road course that has been on the schedule since 2021. This track was made for F1 cars in mind, not big and heavy stock cars. Last season, the race at COTA was great until the multiple overtime restarts. There were also no cautions for the stage breaks last time at COTA, but NASCAR has brought cautions for the stage breaks back this season. So, who can you expect to see in victory lane this coming weekend? Chase Elliott is a safe bet as he is the current Road Course king with seven wins on Road Courses.

Shane Van Gisbergen is also a safe pick as he is running a part-time Cup Series schedule with Kaluig Racing as a part of his Trackhouse Racing development deal. Last July, SVG won his first start in the Cup Series on the streets of Chicago for Trackhouse. Don’t be surprised if either Elliott or SVG comes out on top in Austin this coming weekend.

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