NASCAR ‘back to the drawing board’ to improve passing up front after Coca-Cola 600

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Executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said Martin Truex Jr.’s dominant victory in the Coca-Cola 600 has NASCAR heading “back to the drawing board” to improve its 1.5-mile racing.

O’Donnell, the chief racing development officer for NASCAR, credited Truex and Furniture Row Racing for its “blowout” victory in which the No. 78 Toyota led a record 392 of 400 laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Certainly great for Martin Truex Jr. and the race team and Furniture Row and (owner) Barney Visser,” O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR’s “The Morning Drive” in his weekly appearance. “But also certainly a challenging race for us and things we’ve already learned and going to back to the drawing board, and one of our stated goals is passing up front. That was not what we saw (Sunday) night.

“Not to take anything away from Martin. He had the car to beat, and he didn’t give it up all night long.”

The quality of racing was in contrast to the Sprint All-Star Race the previous week on the same track. NASCAR changed its rear-toe alignment rules for the All-Star Race, restricting the amount of “skew” teams can employ to improve handling and stability. As a result, there hardly were any spins in the longest race of the season as several drivers said their cars felt more comfortable on the 1.5-mile oval.

O’Donnell said NASCAR used different rules in successive weekends at Charlotte to prove out whether the changes had a significant impact. Nearly four hours of mostly lackluster racing Sunday affirmed that.

“That’s one of the reasons we ran two different things to have some comparative data,” O’Donnell said. “We saw some really good things with the skew we had for the All-Star Race. It’s something we can immediately pull the lever on.”

NASCAR already announced last week that the skew rules from the All-Star Race would be used for the June 12 race at Michigan International Speedway and the July 9 event at Kentucky Speedway.

O’Donnell also said NASCAR would look at finding ways to improve tire wear in night races, which typically have cooler track conditions.

“More so than anything, you immediately look at the partnership with Goodyear and what we need to do to really look at how we wear tires as much as possible, particularly at night races,” he said. “We can go to work on that.

“Goodyear has been a great partner this year from the rules package and matching that up. We’ve seen some really strong results, particularly in the day races. Obviously, we’ve got some things to look at as we look at some of the future night races and see what we can do with that tire combination and the rules package.”

O’Donnell also conceded when a driver has a car as good as Truex’s was, there only is so much that can be done to improve passing at the front of the pack. There were nine lead changes across 600 miles Sunday, mostly during green-flag pit sequences.

“It’s one of those things,” O’Donnell said. “(NASCAR Chairman) Brian (France) said this. We only have one race to compare against vs. 14 to 15 NFL games, or 10 NBA games. But if you do look at, and we do compare ourselves in terms of being a playoff sport each and every week, and you’ll have those blowouts from time to time.

“I don’t want to by any means take anything away from what Martin, (crew chief) Cole Pearn and that team has done because they are more deserving of that win. He is a great story. When you look at it, he’s a guy who you expect could win a championship now. That is just great to see.”