Since the implementation of the new chassis in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the amount of abuse the body of the car can take has increased. Long gone are the days when a simple fender rub means the end of a good day, and as a result the aggressiveness of the guys behind the wheel has picked up.
Perhaps there is no better example of an increased aggressiveness throughout the day than at Infineon Raceway. The increased beating and banging has also led to an even higher premium on qualifying and track position.
Which raises the question, is road course racing now the new short track racing?
Here is what some of the drivers had to say about the increased aggression:
Juan Pablo Montoya:
I think it’s worse than a short track. A short track you can still spin around a lot easier. Here you can lean on people and people will lean on you a lot more and use you a lot more. So you’ve got to be prepared for that.
I think some of that is this car. I think the biggest thing is two-wide restarts. It used to be on road courses that there were only two passing zone and nobody would dare try, I don’t know why, you just didn’t. There wasn’t room. That pretty much all went out the window with the two-wide restarts. Everyone is fighting for spots and you run side by side on corners you would never dream of doing that a couple of years ago. It has really changed a lot. It is like going to Martinsville, only worse. There is a lot of beating and banging.
There tends to be a little bit of a problem sometimes with us on restarts and everything -- with the double-file restarts and everything for as tight as the racing gets here. Certainly, there will be some bumping and banging on restarts and what have you. I would say qualifying will definitely be a bigger help. In helping you stay away from some of those instances. If you can start up top-four or top-six, you tend to have a pretty clean day. But, if you’re any farther back than that, it seems like it gets a little hairy. Especially towards the end of the race -- everybody is trying to get everything they can. They don’t give any room, they don’t care who they’re racing with and they’ll push you off course and do whatever they have to do for themselves and it can really hurt your day. You just have to be conscientious of all of that.
When you’re in the center of the pack, it’s just an energy that exists when somebody makes a questionable move on you and your excitement level goes up and now you make a move on a guy and it just kind of breeds this style of racing and we’re going to see it. Anymore, the passing zones, drivers are so aggressive in defending the passing zones and braking zones that you have to find a different way by or just bomb it in there and ‘eight tires are better than four’ mentality and hope that you make it. I think there’s a very good chance of a lot of action taking place.
You have your moments of beating and banging. It’s one of those things where the lines keep getting drawn further and further towards the aggressive side here at Sonoma You don’t see it so much at Watkins Glen, but here, everybody seems to get more and more aggressive at the end of the races.
I think the aggression has ratcheted up across the board. I think in these road courses it has gone through the roof. If you leave anything open, guys dive in and door slam you and they are really going for it. If we don’t get that long green flag run at the end. If we get caution after caution with like two laps to go on the race, it is going to be insane. We could wear out the green-white-checker here for sure.