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Podcast: What’s next with the Gen 7 car, splitter, overtime line, debris cautions and more


A new location for the overtime line. The elimination of the splitter within a few seasons. A visor camera for every Monster Energy Cup driver in the field.

During his guest appearance on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, senior vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell laid out what could be in store for NASCAR’s premier series in the coming years – namely a focus on adding technology to its next model.

O’Donnell said NASCAR would be meeting with team owners in the next 10 days to begin working on the long-term strategy for the Gen 7 car, which could make its debut in the next two to four years.

“Marrying up the OEMs, the race teams and that new generation of drivers and making sure that whatever we put on the track puts us in the best position to succeed,” O’Donnell said. “That’s from an economic standpoint and technology and what’s some cool stuff we can put in the car, and what do these young drivers get enthusiastic about and feel good about what they’re racing.

“That’s the biggest focus now is bringing all those parties together to talk about Gen 7 and where we want to go collectively as an industry. Maybe not so much how much are we spending on spindles, but what is the coolest technology we can put in that car to showcase to the fans is the avenue we want to go down.”

On the future of other competition topics:

–The overtime line likely would move from the backstretch to the start-finish line for overtime finishes next season. O’Donnell said there “aren’t a ton of (positives)” from the current location of the line, which was the source of controversy at Daytona and Dover. “So if we can get it back to the start-finish line and make sure fans get that one full lap, that’s a direction we want to go,” he said.

–O’Donnell acknowledged a general dissatisfaction with the splitter, which has drawn negative reactions from drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. for causing extra damage on spins through the grass.

“We know the fans hate it,” O’Donnell said. “(On the) Gen 7, you can bet we will not be idiots. If we can get rid of the splitter, we would do that.”

Driver biometrics, a digital readout visible on cars that indicates their positions on track (a la the IMSA and IndyCar Series) and real-time speeds from the pit lane also should be available with the new model.

“All those things should be a cool display we have in the car,” O’Donnell said. “Instead of teams spending money on spindles, can you shorten up the pay scale on that and put it toward digital stuff that’s fan-facing.”

–The debut of a visor camera that was used at Sonoma by Danica Patrick and at Daytona by A.J. Allmendinger should become more widespread. “You hear from teams, ‘I’m not going to wear that because of my digital dash (possibly revealing information),’ ” O’Donnell said. “For us, there’s a bigger benefit for the fans. Going forward, there are a couple of things to get through, but we’ll expect 40 drivers to have that on and have that perspective.”

–After once considering the use of RFID chips to monitor whether five lug nuts are attached on each pit stop, O’Donnell said NASCAR might use a crew’s pit guns to determine if wheels properly are secured.

— O’Donnell said NASCAR was mindful of complaints about a late debris caution at Michigan, and then praise about the long green-flag run that ended Sonoma.

“I think there was fair criticism after Michigan,” he said. “For us, it’s about putting more process in place when those cautions are called and being as transparent as we can. We’re looking at do we display whatever (the debris) was on the (NASCAR) hauler.

“That part or piece might not always be there if someone hits it, but we recognize we’re a big-time sport, a lot of eyeballs on the sport, so we’re utilizing as much technology as we can, and having people weigh in on that decision going forward. I think you saw that in Sonoma and will see that going forward as well. Being as transparent as we can and explaining why we did something and why we made a call. Or if we missed something, being open about that as well.”

–O’Donnell said NASCAR might start its second and final stages under green rather than under yellow, counting the caution that divides the segments in the previous stage.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on a host of other smartphone apps.

Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

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The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race at Martinsville has been postponed until Sunday afternoon, following the Cup race.

Ben Rhodes led the field to green 2:05 p.m. and held the lead until Mike Senica stalled on the track. Rhodes led the first 23 laps until precipitation red flagged the event at 2:17.

The Truck race will be televised on FS1.

Martin Truex Jr. sweeps Martinsville Cup practice

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After posting the fastest single lap and quickest 10-lap average in the first practice, Martin Truex. Jr. also topped the fastest lap chart in final practice for the STP 500 with a speed of 95.415 mph.

Also repeating his performance from the first practice, Brad Keselowski was second on the leaderboard. Keselowski was fast on long runs with the quickest 10-lap average of 94.579 mph.

Sophomore Daniel Suarez was notably fast. His lap of 95.588 mph was third on the chart.

Kyle Busch (95.122) and Ryan Newman (94.756) rounded out the top five.

Jimmie Johnson (93.831) was hoping to carry over momentum from last week’s top 1o at Auto Club, but struggled to find single lap speed. He landed 28th on the speed chart.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel hopped entering turn three with 33 minutes remaining. He rolled out a backup car and will start at the back regardless of where he qualifies.

Click here for the full final practice times.

History looms for the Wood Brothers

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Glen Wood first came to Martinsville, Virgina in November 1953, making the short 30-minute drive from Stuart for his NASCAR debut in a family owned car. Nearly 65 years later, the famed Woods Brothers are still racing the iconic No. 21 on the half-mile bullring.

The torch has since been passed to Glen’s sons, but the history remains.

“Our dad came here and raced,” Eddie Wood said in a press release before the STP 500. “He raced here in the fifties and it’s just a special, special place and knowing that the Ford Fusions ran really well last year here that gives you a lot of confidence. I’m sure it gives Paul (Menard) a lot of confidence, but it’s just a special, special place.”

Last fall, Ryan Blaney returned the 21 to the top 10 on the team’s home track for the first time in 12 years. He finished eighth in the First Data 400. This year, Blaney turned the car over to Menard and as the series comes to Martinsville for the first of two races this year, the legacy continues.

“The pressure is all what you make of it,” Menard said. “I know a couple things – I’ve got a great team behind me. We’re gonna have a fast Ford and we’re gonna have a lot of fans cheering on the 21 car, so you can think about that every waking second you’re up here, or you can go to work and do your business. It’s obviously an honor to drive this car and to be a part of the Wood family driving the 21 at Martinsville, and I’m really gonna think about that when I put my firesuit on, but once you get the helmet on it’s all business.”

The gravity of protecting the Wood Brothers’ legend at Martinsville is increased by the fact that this week marks NASCAR’s first short track race of the season and a return to its grassroots. It is easy to feel the history of racing on this little track nestled in rural Virginia—not only for the iconic team, but the entire field.

“It’s getting back to grassroots,” Menard said. “Over half the guys, probably more than that, started racing at short tracks with late models somewhere. We were running 25 laps back then versus 500 now, but the stage racing is kind of like a couple of heat races before the A Main, so you try to get your points when you can and be smart about things when you can and let it rip when you can.”

“You can race here year after year, race after race and there’s no way anybody can mess this race up,” Eddie Wood said. “This is just always a great race because it’s tight and it’s grassroots, it’s NASCAR roots.”

The STP 500 is not just another race for the Wood Brothers. On a track that puts a premium on mechanical grip and driver ability, as opposed to flat out horsepower, Menard has greater control over his fate. That is both good and bad news, because a milestone has been within reach for the past 27 races –  the team’s 100th win.

“It would be huge,” Menard said of the 100th win. “I’ll take it anywhere. We started at Daytona and didn’t get it there, and we’ll keep working until we get it. Martinsville would be a huge one for us, obviously, and if we do that, we’ll have another one for the museum down the road.”

Ben Rhodes grabs Martinsville Truck pole

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Ben Rhodes laid down a lap of 95.942 mph in the final round of qualification for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck series at Martinsville to win his third career pole.

Teammate Matt Crafton will line up beside him on the outside of the front row with a lap of 95.704 mph.

Grant Enfinger qualified third to give ThorSports a clean sweep of the top spots.

Round two: Kyle Benjamin was fastest 95.830 mph. With time running off the clock, Myatt Snider (94.984) bumped Harrison Burton (94.770) out of the top 12.

Round one: Todd Gilliland topped the chart with a speed of 95.213 mph. He will have to drop to the back to start the race because of an engine change, so he did not attempt to post a time in the second round.

Click here for the race lineup.

Weather permitting, the green flag will wave over the field at 2 p.m.