When it comes to today’s Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), Brandon Brown has one goal: keep the right side on his car.
Why? Because he wants to keep his primary car intact for Sunday’s race.
That’s right, the Xfinity Series is holding two races this weekend, the first of two doubleheaders scheduled for the series so far this year.
The Miami race weekend was originally scheduled for March before NASCAR went into its COVID-19 imposed shutdown. Now teams will be competing in much warmer June conditions.
How are smaller race teams, like Brandon Brown’s and Tommy Joe Martins‘, approaching this unique weekend?
When Brown, who starts today’s race in fifth place due to a random draw, first heard about the doubleheader, he knew that it was going to be “big” because of how hot it would be.
“Homestead is already slick and abrasive so it’s just gonna make it that much worse,” Brown told NBC Sports. “But it’s another challenge that we’ve got to tackle. So the team’s excited, I’m pretty excited. (It’s going to) be a weekend of attrition. It’s gonna be who can keep their car alive, who’s gonna be patient? You want to be as aggressive as possible to get to the front, but you’ve got to remember to stay patient because you’ve gotta race this car again the very next day and you only get three hours in-between the races to do anything.”
Brown and his team would rather not spend any of those three hours repairing their primary.
“We know that Homestead, notoriously everybody finds speed up top,” Brown said. “Our car, our biggest focus is going to be making sure that the right side stays on, body works good, crush panels are good, making sure that you know we have extra vinyl on the hauler ready to rock and roll so that as soon as we finish our race, we have everything ready to go.”
How difficult is it to prepare two cars for a race weekend when you won’t get to practice with either of them? Brown said their preparation has been aided from what they learned last year when his team ran two cars in the season finale.
“So it’s basically going there with the same setup that we did with that,” Brown said. “(With) as much pressure as people put on the drivers for (there being) no practice, when you go into Turn 1, you gotta be fast … It’s the same pressure for the guys here in the garage as to ‘I hope everything I did is right, I double and triple checked all the nuts and bolts and lines and if something breaks it’s on me.’ I think that’s the most crucial piece but now you’re just (multiplying) it by two, which is gonna be pretty big, especially if you have to end up moving to the backup car.”
As for not having practice, that’s completely fine for Martins and Martins Motorsports. They view a doubleheader weekend with no on-track preparation as a cost savings measure.
“When all of this was going down, NASCAR reached out to us, to the teams and the drivers, they were asking us about what would we prefer for a weekend schedule if they were to kind of alter it,” Martins told NBC Sports. “Where did we see the most value for us? What was the most important thing to kind of keep consistent? And honestly they kind of did exactly what I wanted to do. So this is one of those rare moments where I’m like really happy with NASCAR. I said we really don’t care about practice.”
Martins said doubleheader weekends “would be the the best thing because then all of a sudden we get two races, we would only have to travel once. You could make the races a little bit shorter, we could run the same car. … And it turns out, they’re gonna do that a few times this year with Homestead and Kentucky coming up. I think it’s really neat. I think it’s kind of the future of our sport. Honestly, I think that’s a great idea. I think it ought to be done all through the series, and I hope they continue to do that even after this year.”
Martins will be running the same No. 44 Chevrolet he had at Atlanta as his primary car. His backup car will be one that hasn’t seen the track yet this season.
“Obviously, we can go down here and have a problem in the first race and have to turn around and go to a backup car,” Martins said. “A lot of these teams are going to be running the same car week in and week out, you know, so this isn’t like a stretch for us.
“But having two races in a weekend, I think it’s really important that we go down there with a backup car that is more prepared than we normally do.”