NASCAR addresses Martinsville race, RFK infraction, Ty Gibbs penalty

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NASCAR will look to make changes before the Cup Series returns to Martinsville Speedway in October, a series official told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The moves will be made after last weekend’s lackluster Cup race there. 

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, addressed that issue, RFK Racing’s infraction and the penalty to Ty Gibbs on “The Morning Drive” Wednesday morning.

A variety of factors combined to lead to the dull Cup race, including temperatures that dipped to 39 degrees during the event and made it more difficult for tires to put down rubber on the concrete in the corners. When rubber is laid on a track, it forces drivers to change lanes. That didn’t happen. 

With drivers stuck in one lane, they ran behind each other more often and experienced aero tight conditions. Also, the constant shifting lessened the difference between good cars and bad cars and that also contributed to the difficulty in passing.

TIRE TEST TO TAKE PLACE

Miller said that series officials had talked to a “fairly large cross-section of the drivers” and others, including Goodyear about potential changes. 

He said that there will be a tire test added for Martinsville later this year. No date was given. There is an organizational test at Martinsville Aug. 23-24 for Cup teams. The Cup race there is Oct. 30.

“It’s awesome having an event at night, there’s a certain flair to that, but I think the cold temperatures, like a cold night is definitely more of a challenge than everyone understands,” Miller said. “I think that played into some of it over the weekend. We’ll just keep getting all the input and make some decisions on next time going back.”

SHIFTING AT MARTINSVILLE

Miller also addressed the issue of shifting in the race after drivers said that the gear ratio needed to be changed. 

“It would take a different (gear) ratio to effectively eliminate the shifting,” Miller said. “Even if we got that top gear exactly at the RPM that everybody desired, it was certainly a little bit low, there would possibly still be the desire — if we got some tires that the pace slowed down — to kind of maybe shift later in the run, but it wouldn’t be every lap. We’re looking at all those things.”

AERO ISSUES

Miller was asked if he was surprised to hear drivers talk about aero issues at the half-mile track.

“I don’t know that we were surprised to hear that, really,” Miller said. “I think that’s been a common theme no matter which race car we’ve had. 

“This car acts different in traffic than the other ones did. Some things about the way it acts are better, other things, I think the teams and drivers are adjusting to. 

“Really part of the design process was to make the wake smaller behind the cars and we have certainly accomplished that. All of the drivers think that either being offset to the left or offset to the right from the car in front of them is much, much better than the old generation of car. 

“Where they are struggling right now is directly behind the other car and trying to figure out how all that works. That was some feedback I got from one of the top drivers that I rely on for feedback, and I think that’s a common thread. 

“It’s just one of those deals where we’re not surprised. There’s always an aero impact. It doesn’t matter what kind of car. Maybe it was a little bit more than they thought. Martinsville is one of those places where there’s a whole lot of following directly behind the car in front of you, which seems to be the area kind of most concern with the wake.”

RFK RACING PENALTY 

With the deadline passed for RFK Racing to seek an additional appeal to the penalties imposed for a modification to a single source item on the car, Miller spoke about the matter. 

At Martinsville, RFK co-owner Brad Keselowski said the penalty was for a repair to a tail panel that was not done to NASCAR’s satisfaction.

“The repair policy is very straightforward, any repair that is done is to bring the part back to the original specification,” Miller said. “On this part, that was not adhered to. There were body mounting landings that are a part of the rear fascia that weren’t brought back to the original specifications. That’s a key design feature of the part. The repair policy was not followed. That’s really what it comes down to, a critical dimension of the part was altered.

“As we worked through what the Next Gen car was going to be over that long journey with the teams, one of the things was that the single source parts have to be strictly enforced or we’ll get right back to the place where we were with the other car with constant development. 

“A strict deterrence model was asked for by the folks in the garage. It’s our job to do that. We said we would. A key design element was not returned to its original specification and that’s what led to the penalty.” 

TY GIBBS PENALTY 

Miller addressed the $15,000 fine to Ty Gibbs for hitting another car on pit road. Gibbs and Sam Mayer were not penalized for their fight on pit road.

“It’s certainly not a situation that we like or they want to deal with after,” Miller said of the fight. “One thing about our sport, I think one of the things that I think is appealing about it is that it’s emotion-filled, it’s high adrenaline, high emotion. 

“A lot of things happened there at the end of the race and some feathers got ruffled. One thing that we have definitely been firm on in the past is not running into people after the race is over — and especially not running into cars on pit road when there are bystanders around. 

“That was really the thing that most put us on high alert with the goings on after the race. We spoke to both drivers in the trailer afterwards, got them both together and kind of felt good about those conversations — this wasn’t going to be something that would kind of manifesting itself between those two along the way. That’s just how we viewed the situation there.”