Friday 5: Cup teams seek to keep crews fresh after ‘unprecedented’ offseason

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One of the longest seasons in sports reaches its longest event this weekend with the Coca-Cola 600. As NASCAR heads into Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, nearly 2/3 of the Cup season remains.

For fans, that’s great. The Cup Series will race 23 of the next 24 weekends through early November.

For team members, that can be daunting — even those accustomed to the grind of a 38-race season that includes two exhibition races.

This follows an offseason that Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, describes as “unprecedented.” The switch to the Next Gen chassis forced teams to abandon the cars run last year and build a new fleet of vehicles. Teams did that work while also testing the new cars. NASCAR had four two-day organizational tests in the offseason.

“Most people don’t understand how much work was done over the winter … this is probably the most work in 15, 18 years,” Brian Pattie, crew chief for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., told NBC Sports earlier this month.

The work continued through the start of the season. With supply chain issues, some parts for the new car were harder to acquire. That forced teams to remove some parts from their cars after races and fly those pieces with the crew back to North Carolina to put on the car for the next race.

All that work took place with little relief for teams. They lost one of their traditional weekends off when Cup raced Easter night on the dirt at Bristol. With the return of practice and qualifying this season, Cup teams also are spending at least one more day a week at the track than last year.

“Now, the trucks are loading and leaving earlier,” said Adam Stevens, crew chief for Christopher Bell. “That means we as team guys are working longer hours. On top of that, we’re gone more with the track schedule and then we don’t have the off weekends.

“That’s a lot more stress on the guys and their home lives and their families, especially contrasted with how it was during the COVID schedule (no practice and qualifying for most events), maybe not so much compared to the three-day weekends with three practices and a full qualifying session that we had a few years ago.

“On top of that, there has been a bit of a workforce reduction leading into this new car and a lot of teams — not specifically Joe Gibbs Racing — probably cut that a little shorter, a littler shorter than what they needed to based on the amount of work that they thought was going to have to get done vs. what’s having to get done with the parts availability issues. That puts a whole another level of stress.”

Kevin Harvick‘s crew unloads his car earlier this season at Daytona. (Photo: Dustin Long)

That has crew chiefs seeking ways to give crew members some time off. Bigger teams can give road crew members a weekend off at times during the season since they have others who can fill in, but smaller teams don’t always have that luxury.

Crashes added to the workload. After crossing the line seventh in the Daytona 500, the car of Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell was hit, turning it into the wall after the race ended.

“We were under the crunch with the parts and pieces and stuff that we didn’t have and we had tight turnarounds,” McDowell’s crew chief, Blake Harris, said of the beginning of the season. “The West Coast (swing after Daytona) is a challenge. You tear cars up at Daytona and (the Clash at the Coliseum). There was a lot that we were up against early in the season.

“I feel like over the last five to six weeks we’ve gotten a bit of a rhythm here. Our road crew gets a little bit of time off, Mondays. … We’ve had a few weeks here where … we fly out on Saturday mornings instead of Friday for tech, which just a couple of weeks like that really helps the guys that travel.

“From my end and the engineers’ side, we’re going to get an off weekend coming up, short of that, those guys, hopefully can help manage their own time.”

The lone off weekend for the Cup is June 18-19.

The key, Harris said, is for his team to be able to work ahead instead of repairing cars.

“If we can work a couple of weeks ahead of things, then you don’t end up burning all hours of the night every night, which was and has been a big issue at the beginning of this year,” he said. “Shop-wise we’re starting to get enough parts and pieces, chassis and components that we can get those things together.”

2. Dynamic duo

Denny Hamlin and Justin Marks are among two of NASCAR’s newest owners and seek to lead change in the sport.

Hamlin partnered with Michael Jordan to form 23XI Racing last year. Bubba Wallace scored the team’s first win last year at Talladega. Kurt Busch, who joined the team before this season, gave the organization its second win earlier this month at Kansas.

Marks is partnered with performer Pitbull in owning Trackhouse Racing. Daniel Suarez joined the team for its inaugural season last year. Ross Chastain was added to the team before this season and already has won twice.

AUTO: APR 24 NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500
Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks (right) celebrates with Ross Chastain after Chastain’s win in April at Talladega. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What Hamlin and Marks are doing off the track could have as much impact as anything they do in the sport.

“I think that me and Justin are aligned most of the time,” Hamlin said Thursday at a FedEx/USO event to pack 2,500 care packages for service members overseas. “We meet often. We talk a lot, often about the business side of things and the challenges that we face in the future.

“To us, it’s blatantly obvious how we can improve this sport as a whole, which will then make our business better, and we just would love to see those changes implemented.”

Hamlin noted that he and Marks recently had lunch with Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, which owns nine tracks that host 13 of the 36 points races on the Cup schedule. Among the tracks Speedway Motorsports owns is Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Hamlin and Marks took different routes to ownership. Hamlin and Jordan started a team and partnered with Joe Gibbs Racing. Marks imbedded his group with Richard Childress Racing before purchasing Chip Ganassi Racing and absorbing most of the Ganassi employees.

NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400
23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin (left) with Kurt Busch after Busch’s win this month at Kansas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Working together, Hamlin and Marks form the nucleus of new owners who are outspoken about the need to change the sport’s financial model and not rely as much on sponsorship dollars. They hope teams can get a bigger share of the TV money. Tracks get 65% of the TV money, teams gets 25% and NASCAR gets 10%.

“I think the teams have not been quiet about the fact that the more help that we can get from a revenue standpoint from the league, the more secure it’s going to make our businesses,” Marks told NBC Sports. “It’s going to give us the opportunity to grow and scale our businesses, instead of just being out there trying to get sponsorship to get to the racetrack and that’s it.

“I don’t know what that path looks like yet. I know there’s better communication and more mutual understanding than I think there probably has been in a long time, if ever, but, at the end of the day, NASCAR is going to have to be incentivized to help the teams financially. They’re going to have to feel like it’s in their best interest to grow the sport to do that.”

That’s the point Hamlin made Thursday.

“We want to make it better by collaborating with our TV partners, track partners and NASCAR,” he said. “If we start working together, we will grow this into a big, big business. Unfortunately, everyone is just kind of fighting for their own personal goals, and I think it just keeps our sport stagnated at times.”

Hamlin said he’s focused on helping lead teams to a brighter future.

“I’m working very, very hard to help promote change in the sport for the better, the greater good,” he said. “I’m doing my part. I want to leave this sport in a better place than it was when I got in here. I think I’ve invested enough and am informed enough to have an opinion on some of the topics that we talk about.”

3. Hard contact

While aspects of the new car are safer than last year’s version, Joey Logano notes that the impacts still can be hard.

Logano explained this week on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what crashes are like in the new car.

“We’ve been going through the safety of this car since it started to get designed and when we started driving it,” he said. “Now that we’re driving it, experiencing crashes firsthand. I think there’s just no doubt in my mind the intrusion piece of the car is significantly better than the old car.

“There’s also no doubt in my mind that when you hit the wall in this car, it hurts way more than the old car. There is no doubt. These things are solid. They’re tanks. You can look at the chassis, and you can figure it out pretty easily.

“It’s going to take, I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it would take a pretty serious impact for any intrusion into the car, into the cockpit area, which is great because ultimately those are the things that should have almost killed Ryan Newman (at Daytona in 2020). I got too close to it at Talladega. Those issues are real.

“I believe they are very much improved with this car, but I think the everyday hit is definitely more solid, and you feel it a lot more with this thing. We’re all learning as we go along here in what we can do to improve those things.

“The little slaps against the fence that may not look that big, (but) you feel them way more than we used to for sure.”

4. Different role  

This weekend will mark the first of four races crew chief Chris Gabehart will miss because of a wheel coming off Denny Hamlin’s car at Dover. Gabehart and two pit crew members begin this suspension this week after Joe Gibbs Racing lost an appeal.

While Gabehart will remain in communication with the team away from the track, his absence illustrates how things can change for teams when they have their crew chief suspended.

Engineer Sam McAulay will serve as Gabehart’s crew chief while Gabehart is out. That means more than just moving over a spot on the pit box. But it’s not new. McAulay filled in for Gabehart when Gabehart was suspended four races in 2020 a wheel coming off Hamlin’s car. 

One key change will come during pit stops. In his role as engineer, McAulay comes down from the pit box and holds the air hose for the right front tire changer. It’s key for the person holding the hose to ensure it does not get tangled as the tire changer moves from the right side to the left side of the car.

McAulay won’t do that the next four weeks. Gabehart doesn’t leave the pit box during pit stops. Instead, Gabehart stays on the pit box to call Hamlin into the pit and clear Hamlin out of the pit stall. McAulay will do those duties. That means that the team will have another crew member handling the air hose.

Another thing that will be different is that McAulay often monitors radio channels of multiple teams during the race. He says he’ll likely monitor the NASCAR radio channel during the races as interim crew chief and possibly only one team.

There’s more that will change, leading engineer Ryan Bowers to take over additional duties on the pit box. McAulay said he’ll still look at the data but that Bowers will handle more of those duties while McAulay focuses more on the race. 

One thing that is not expected to change relates to fuel mileage. Bowers will remain the main person overseeing fuel mileage. McAulay will continue to check the fuel mileage numbers.

“We’re going to miss (Gabehart), for sure,” McAulay said. “The main thing is just thinking through all of the little things that people do during the race and making sure that we have those covered when we start moving positions around.”

5. Recommended is more than a recommendation 

So states a line in this week’s Goodyear press release. With the recent issues with tires, one cause hypothesized has been that teams have their tires below the recommended tire pressure from Goodyear.

In this week’s release, Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, states: “What we’ve seen play out at recent Cup race weekends is exactly what we saw in testing in preparation for this season with the Next Gen car. The balance of the Next Gen car is definitely shifted towards the rear of the car.  

“We have been working with the teams, not only at the track over the course of race weekends, but also providing them data in advance that speaks to this, and what the tire needs to operate with regards to both camber and inflation, both of which are critical elements of the set-up.  

“Teams, as they always do, are constantly working on their cars to make them better as the season progresses. We have seen this, and worked with them as they try to maximize the use of all corners of the car. Teams will, naturally, strive to make their cars faster and many have found the edge over the past several points races. Our working in conjunction with them will help maintain guidelines on tire set-ups as the Next Gen car continues to evolve.”

2022 spotlights: The Clash, the King and Martinsville Mania

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The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season brought something new (a race inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum!) and something old (a win by the No. 43!) and a lot in-between.

In many ways, it was one of NASCAR’s best seasons. There were new winners, the Next Gen car kicked up competition a bit and there was a race finish (see the Ross Chastain file) like none other in the history of the sport.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The name game

There were downsides, too: The safety of the new car came under fire (figuratively and literally, as wheel-well flames ended more than a few rides), drivers’ seasons were interrupted or ended because of hard wrecks and some races were less than stellar.

Looking back over the February-to-November marathon, some races stand out:

Rocking the City of Angels – Despite the naysayers, the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was a roaring success. A platter of questions, including whether the purpose-built track inside the stadium would hold up under heavy stock cars and generate good racing, awaited as teams rolled into LA. The racing wasn’t sensational, but it was good, and there were no problems with the track. A huge crowd showed up, and NASCAR left town with many ideas, having proven that it could run a race on a temporary track inside a large stadium. It has escaped no one’s notice that there are many other large stadiums in the country – and, by the way, outside it.

Wiggling at Watkins Glen – The venerable New York road course produced another hot finish as teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott battled for the win. Larson forced Elliott out of the main groove and took the lead for good with five laps remaining. “I’m not proud of it, but I knew it’s what I had to do to get the win,” Larson said. Elliott didn’t publicly criticize Larson, but it was clear he wasn’t pleased with Larson’s move.

MORE: Fighting knights and pie in the sky

Six hundred miles, and then some – The long history of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 600-mile race has produced some great competition – and some races that prompted long naps. This year’s was one of the craziest and, by the way, the longest. The race went to two overtimes, finally ending after 413 laps and 619.5 miles, making it the longest race in NASCAR’s 75 years. The winner – perhaps most accurately described as the survivor – was Denny Hamlin, who outran teammate Kyle Busch over the final two laps.

The King is back…but where is he? – The Cup playoffs opened at Darlington Raceway with the storied Southern 500, but the playoffs took a back seat to other storylines. Erik Jones scored an upset win in Richard Petty’s No. 43, marking the iconic car’s first victory since 2014. Petty, however, missed the Victory Lane festivities. He and Dale Inman, the No. 43’s former crew chief, left the race early for the drive home to North Carolina. The long night held several incidents, including one involving Kevin Harvick, who criticized NASCAR after his car caught fire, uttering his now-infamous diatribe about what he called “crappy-ass parts.”

No watermelon, but a lotta juiceThe finish of the Oct. 29 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway generated international interest. Christopher Bell won in a must-win situation to advance in the playoffs, but the post-race spotlight was on Ross Chastain, who rode the outside wall through the final two turns at speeds rarely seen on the short track and finished fourth, good enough to stay in the championship hunt. Chastain’s remarkable move drew comment from observers outside NASCAR, including Formula 1 drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 5: Memorable images from 2022 NASCAR season

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The end of the season provides a chance to look back and each year I go through the photos on my phone and find those that show the highs and lows of a sport that goes from February to November. 

Here are some of the photos that stood out for me:

1. Daytona 500 

Although the time spent in Daytona Beach, Florida, has shrunk in recent years with a more compact track schedule, the intensity remains. As do the emotions. 

Cup rookie Austin Cindric accomplished “a racer’s dream” in winning the Daytona 500, accomplishing something in his second attempt that took Darrell Waltrip 17 times and Dale Earnhardt 20 times to accomplish.

Cindric blocked teammate Ryan Blaney coming to the finish line and beat Bubba Wallace by half a car length. 

It was the second time Bubba Wallace had finished runner-up in this race. Unlike 2018, when Wallace was excited with finishing second, Wallace felt no such emotion this time. 

“2018 was awesome,” Wallace said of his runner-up result in the Daytona 500. “2022 was not awesome.

“I didn’t have a fighting chance the first time in 2018. This one being that close, it’s like a gut punch.”

The photos that stand out to me are of the picture of Cindric’s car covered in red, white and blue confetti before going through post-race inspection and the disappointment Wallace wore on pit road after the race.

Austin Cindric‘s car after winning the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

 

A dejected Bubba Wallace after finishing second in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

2. Road America 

The Cup Series is not returning to the Wisconsin road course after two years there. Instead, this race will be replaced by the Chicago street course event in 2023.

This past season’s race was memorable. Tyler Reddick scored his first career Cup win on July 3. Nine days later came the announcement that he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing in 2024 (That timetable moved up to 2023 after RCR signed Kyle Busch to replace Reddick in the No. 8.).

Among the special moments from the Road America race was Austin Cindric walking the length of pit road to victory lane to congratulate Reddick.

Austin Cindric hugs Tyler Reddick in victory lane at Road America on July 3, 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Walking with Cindric, I asked him why he was making the trip to see Reddick.

“I think of anyone in the field, he probably deserves that win more than anybody else,” Cindric told me. “I think he’s put himself in position. He’s a really likable guy, and I feel like you can see how hard he works. 

“I’ve seen him mature as a driver and a person and as a friend and a father. It’s cool to see somebody you’re close to go through that.”

When Cindric arrived in victory lane, he walked up to Reddick and gave his friend a bearhug, lifting Reddick well off the ground.

In all the excitement, Reddick’s son, Beau, was not impressed. He was sound asleep in victory lane.

Tyler Reddick’s son Beau sleeps in victory lane after his father’s first Cup win in July 2022 at Road America. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Special moments

One never knows what you’ll come across in a season that stretches so long through the calendar. 

These are a few such moments that proved special for one reason or the other.

As storm clouds gathered over Daytona International Speedway in February, the sun was settling, creating a sky both ominous and spectacular. The photo captures that scene as Cole Custer walks through the garage. After this season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced it was replacing Custer with Ryan Preece in the No. 41 Cup car and that Custer would run in the Xfinity Series for the team.

Cole Custer walks under an ominous sky at Daytona in February 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Another photo that stands out to me comes from the Clash at the Coliseum. There were so many questions about the exhibition race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, such as if the specially built track would withstand the rigors of cars, what would the debut of the Next Gen car be like and would fans really be interested in such an event.

The track held up. So did most of the cars and the fans came. While not a sellout, more than 50,000 people attended the event and NASCAR noted that many had not purchased tickets to a NASCAR event before. The event was a success.

What stood out to me was the lines of people waiting to buy souvenirs the day of the race. In some places, lines stretched well away from the merchandise trailers. 

Fans stand in line for merchandise at the Clash at the Coliseum in Feb. 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Sometimes you never know what you’ll see at at event. At an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Dale Inman and Ray Evernham all stood together. That is 18 Cup championships (eight by Inman, seven by Petty and three by Evernham).

NASCAR Hall of Famers Ray Evernham, Richard Petty and Dale Inman at the NASCAR Hall in April 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

4. New winners 

This season saw five first-time Cup winners: Austin Cindric (Daytona 500 in February), Chase Briscoe (Phoenix in March), Ross Chastain (Circuit of the Americas in April), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma in June) and Tyler Reddick (Road America in July).

I caught this scene of Suarez alone in his thoughts in the garage at Nashville Superspeedway in his first race since that Sonoma victory.

Daniel Suarez at Nashville Superspeedway in June 2022. (Photo: Dustin Long)

5. Martinsville

Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the playoff race was stunning. Needing two positions to advance to the championship race, Chastain put his car into fifth gear, planted his car against the wall in Turn 3, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his Chevrolet around the final two turns while he floored the throttle.

Amazingly, it worked. He passed five cars and earned a spot in the championship. Although he didn’t win the Cup title, Chastain provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2022 season.

As I was leaving the infield late that Sunday night. I stopped to take a picture of the wall and the marks Chastain’s car had left on its remarkable charge.

Turn 4 wall after Ross Chastain’s video game move on the last lap of the October 2022 race. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Dr. Diandra: 2022 accidents steady, spins up 200%

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Cautions were up in 2022 despite fewer stage-end and competition cautions of any year since stage racing began. The third installment of 2022 by the numbers focuses on the causes (and causers) of cautions.

Cautions

I divide cautions into those that are planned — like competition and stage-end breaks — and so-called ‘natural’ cautions. Natural cautions include accidents, spins, stalled cars, debris or liquid on track and weather.

My first graph shows that this year’s 302 cautions are the most total cautions since 2014. That’s despite only 73 planned cautions, the fewest since stage racing started.

A stacked bar chart showing the planned and natural cautions from 2013 to 2022

The 2022 season had 43 more total cautions relative to 2021, and 57 more natural cautions than last year. That’s the most natural cautions since 2016.

Causes

Caution classification is subjective. Obviously, a car spinning is a spin and cars colliding is an accident. But if a car spins and then hits another car, is it a spin or an accident? If an accident happens at a stage break, do you record the caution as an accident or a stage break?

This year presented an even thornier problem.

The 2022 season had more blown tires and wheels coming off cars than any season I can remember. NASCAR classified some incidents arising from blown tires as debris cautions, others as accidents.

To me, a blown tire seems fundamentally different from a stray car part on the track.

The myriad tire and wheel problems prompted me to review all 302 cautions. I added three additional caution categories: wheel issues, fire and tire issues.

Tire issues were so labeled only if a blown tire preceded a crash or spin. Tires that blow because of contact with the wall or flat spotting aren’t included. If I couldn’t tell for sure that the blown tire came first, I left the caution in its original category.

My re-categorization complicates comparing cautions by category to previous years. That concern is offset by the need to set a benchmark against which to measure next year’s data.

The table below compares my breakdown of cautions with NASCAR’s for the 2022 season. I admit that I’m not totally objective, either. But I believe my categorization better reflects the overall nature of the 2022 season.

A table comparing breakdowns of cautions

The most surprising statistic is the extraordinarily large number of spins. Cup Series drivers spun between 20 and 27 times per season between 2016 and 2021. Drivers in 2022 spun 60 times.

There haven’t been that many spins since 2007, when the series recorded 66 spins. That was the first year of the Gen-5 car; however, the number of spins this year is similar to the numbers for the Gen-4 car. Fans wanted a car that was harder to drive. The spin statistics are a good argument that they’ve gotten their wish.

Drivers in accidents, spins and stalls

I treat accidents, spins, and stalls as a single category because of the questions about differentiating between them. ‘Incidents’ combines all the spins, all the accidents and all the stalls.

And remember: being involved in an incident doesn’t imply that driver caused the incident.

The graph below shows all drivers with 12 or more incidents during the 2022 season.

A stacked bar graph showing the drivers involved in the most accidents, spins and/or stalls

Remember also that this count doesn’t include wheel or tire issues. A driver crashing because a tire blew is fundamentally different from an accident or spin.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ross Chastain were involved in the most incidents in 2022. Both drivers had 15 accidents. Stenhouse also had two spins and a stall, while Chastain had three spins. Stenhouse led in caution-causing incidents in 2021 with 17 accidents.

Kyle Busch comes in third in total incidents, and first in spins with seven. For comparison, no other driver had more than four spins.

No full-time driver evaded incidents entirely. Justin Haley was involved in the fewest: four. William Byron tallied six while Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell came in at eight each.

Cautions by race

The Coca-Cola 600 was the longest Cup Series race in history in terms of mileage. Its 18 cautions helped make it long in terms of time, too.

But longer races offer more opportunities to crash. A better metric is the number of crashes per 100 miles of racing. I removed stage and competition cautions because planned cautions don’t depend on race length.

The Bristol dirt race’s 14 cautions were the third highest total after the Coca-Cola 600 and Texas’s 16 cautions. But the dirt race was the shortest race of the season at 133.25 miles.

A vertical bar graph showing the races with the most cautions per 100 miles of racing

That gives the Bristol dirt race a whopping 9.0 natural cautions per 100 miles of racing. Last year, the Bristol dirt race was also at the top of the list with 7.4 total cautions per 100 miles of racing.

Bristol’s asphalt race had the second-most cautions per 100 miles at 3.4  The two Bristol races are followed by COTA (3.0) and Texas (2.8).

What about superspeedways?

The only superspeedway race in the top-10 cautions-per-100-miles graph is the second Atlanta race. The fall Talladega race had the fewest cautions per 100 miles this year of any oval at 0.80.

But superspeedways claim more cars per accident. The summer Daytona race featured 46 cars involved in five accidents for an average of 9.2 cars per accident. Some cars were involved in multiple accidents, which is why the total number of cars in accidents is larger than the number of cars racing.

The fall Talladega race comes in second in terms of wreckage per accident with an average of 8.0 cars. The spring Talladega race ties with the Bristol asphalt race. Both had an average of 7.0 cars per accident.

Road America had the fewest cautions of any race in 2022. With only two stage-break cautions, Road America had 0.0 natural cautions per 100 miles. Sonoma had 0.72 natural cautions per 100 miles and the Charlotte Roval 0.78.

We normally use cautions as a proxy to count accidents and spins. The problem is that not every incident causes a caution — especially at road courses. There were seven cautions for wheels coming off cars, some wheels came off on pit road. Some drivers limped their cars back to the pits after losing wheels.

And there were a lot more spins that didn’t bring out cautions.

Next week, I’ll tell you all about those.

Front Row Motorsports Cup teams to have new crew chiefs in 2023

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Both Front Row Motorsports Cup teams will have new crew chiefs in 2023, the team announced Wednesay.

Travis Peterson will be the crew chief for the No. 34 car that has been driven by Michael McDowell. Peterson replaces Blake Harris, who will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman in 2023 at Hendrick Motorsports.

Peterson, 31, has been a race engineer. He spent the past five seasons at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. He worked with drivers Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth during that time. Peterson previously served as a race engineer at Hendrick Motorsports for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and also at JR Motorsports.

“I think there are a lot of people in the NASCAR garage who are noticing what Front Row Motorsports has accomplished with the new car and their truck program,” Peterson said in a statement from the team.

“This is an opportunity to come into a winning and championship organization and help take that next step of getting more wins in the Cup Series and be in the playoffs. I’m ready to get to work. I’ve always had the goal of becoming a crew chief, and now I’m ready to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Front Row Motorsports also announced Wednesday that Seth Barbour, who had been the crew chief for the No. 38 driven by Todd Gilliland, has been named as the organization’s technical director. Barbour will oversee all track engineering and car preparation processes for the Front Row Motorsports Cup cars.

A new crew chief for the No. 38 team will be announced later.

Also, Ryan Bergenty, car chief for the No. 34 team, has been promoted to performance director and will oversee all body and chassis assembly for all Front Row Motorsports entries.

“The past two seasons Front Row Motorsports has seen success and we’re taking the next steps forward,” said Jerry Freeze, general manager of Front Row Motorsports, in a statement.

“We know that Travis is a person that can immediately come in, take the baton, and continue to move the No. 34 team to the front. We also made several changes internally to help with car preparation and engineering for all our race cars and trucks. Our final piece is finding a new leader for the No. 38 team. We’re confident that with these changes that we’ll be even better next season.”

Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup for next season. Both McDowell and Gilliland have said they plan to be back with the organization.