Head of Toyota NASCAR program addresses challenging year with Next Gen, driver futures

Kyle Busch
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – With an engineering background rooted in problem-solving, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson enjoys tackling challenges – but few NASCAR seasons have been as tricky as 2022.

Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD’s flagship, has foundered at times, while 23XI Racing (co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan) is enduring the natural growing pains of a startup Cup team expanding to a second car in its second season.

The June 13 race at Sonoma Raceway was the nadir for TRD – not just this season, but in recent memory. Toyota’s best finish was an 18th by Kurt Busch, the first time the manufacturer failed to record a  top 15 during a Cup race since November 2007 (its first year in NASCAR’s premier series).

But Toyota also has notched four victories in the first 16 races (with wins by Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and two by Denny Hamlin), which is indicative of the erraticism in adapting to the Next Gen car — the revolutionary new model that has introduced a spec platform to the Cup Series.

NASHVILLE VIEWING INFO: How to watch as NASCAR ON NBC starts its 2022 season

With testing returning for each race weekend but remaining extremely limited, Gibbs and TRD have been on the back foot at times. Meanwhile, Chevrolets have won seven times, including victories by all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers and first-time career wins for Trackhouse Racing drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

On top of all that, the status of TRD-affiliated champions Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had been uncertain for 2023. Truex announced Friday that he will return with JGR next season after mulling a potential retirement from his full-time Cup ride.

Meanwhile, Busch and Gibbs still are working on a contract extension.

“That’s added certainly to the challenge,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “And don’t get me wrong, I’m as competitive as they come. I hated the fact that (the last off week of the 2022 season) fell after Sonoma, because we had to live with that embarrassment for two weeks vs. the normal one week. We have to hold ourselves accountable. This is the job we’ve been given, and we’ve not delivered.

“I’m not overly stressed about it because I have the confidence in our leadership and our partners that we’ll get better. I can, though, step outside my role as well and just be happy for the sport and be happy for our former (Xfinity) champion Daniel Suarez. And friends like (Trackhouse president) Ty Norris. This is a pretty cool sport where you develop relationships across the garage and across teams. That’s been cool.”

Over a Thursday, June 23 videoconference from his downtown Nashville hotel, Wilson sat down with NBC Sports for a wide-ranging interview Friday about the Next Gen’s first year, its impact on competition and the futures of Busch and Truex.

Here are some of Wilson’s views on the current state of NASCAR and TRD (the interview has been lightly edited for clarity):

Q: Even though, you love challenges, this season feels as if it’s been a character builder in particular with adapting to the Next Gen while weathering some uncertainty in your driver lineup. Has that added another dimension of difficulty in trying to figure everything out this year?

Wilson: “If you think from a driver perspective for both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., that it hasn’t been a distraction, you’d be kidding yourself. They’ve responded differently because they’re completely different personalities. Kyle wears his emotions on his sleeve. Martin is much more reserved and private, and he’s a better poker player, hands down, than Kyle Busch.

“We well and truly believe we’ll have some direction from Martin this weekend here in Nashville about his future. We hope, obviously, that he’s going to stay at least for one more year. We’d love to have him. The part that hasn’t helped is he hasn’t been having fun. His team hasn’t performed for him and has not executed. And across the board, other than the 18 team, our execution in pit lane has been all over the place. It’s been embarrassing at times, but I’m much happier that’s more of the problem then finding speed because we can fix the pit lane stuff.

“But for Martin, that just compounds his question as to what he wants to do (in the future). If he were to have won Sonoma, that couldn’t have hurt. But we’ll respect and celebrate whatever he decides to do. And in the background, we have been very busy contingency planning. And no, I can’t share what that specifically entails, but it does entail, ‘OK, if Martin’s not coming back, who are we going to put in the 19 car?’ ”

Q: When Truex has talked about the future, he seems to be wrestling with and questioning whether he still can make the full commitment to being a Cup driver. But you still believe he can be competitive, it’s just a matter of getting his team situated?

Wilson: “Absolutely. The level of effort that we’re putting into keeping him in the fold is truly remarkable. We want him to stay. We know he can get it done. I feel terrible because we haven’t given him the tools in many cases and haven’t let him exploit the handful of times he’s had a really good car. But like anything else, he also appreciates and respects the fact that if he gets to the point that he’s decided that he’s ready to do a little more fishing, then he needs to give us the courtesy of some time to regroup, because the dominoes that fall, the reality is that it’s not just the driver. It’s sponsors. It’s people on that team. That impact is far-reaching, and Martin is very respectful of that. And I trust that he’ll let us know. And we’ll respect and celebrate his decision, whatever that is.”

AUTO: FEB 17 NASCAR Cup Series - Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch have yet to be confirmed as returning with the NASCAR Cup Series team next season (Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Q: What’s your perspective on Kyle Busch?

Wilson: “With Kyle, it’s a completely different personality, but I think this has been more of a distraction for Kyle than it has been for Martin. The irony is, setting Sonoma aside, Kyle Busch has been, hands down, the hottest driver in the sport for the past six weeks. He’s been on fire. He dang near caught Chase Elliott for the regular-season (points lead) before Sonoma happened. So in spite of that distraction, it kind of looks like he’s driving for his job, which we’ve seen in the sport before. That’s not Kyle’s style. I think he’s one driver that doesn’t succumb to that. But certainly there is some pride in there he’s driving for, and we still think he can get it done. I’ve been very outspoken relative to Toyota’s view of Kyle Busch, and in spite of his polarizing personality and the heavy lifting he’s presented anybody that he’s been partnered with. We haven’t given up on him. We’re not going to give up on him. And as I said the last time I was asked this, it would really be a tragedy if he did not call his shot and decide when he wanted to retire from Joe Gibbs Racing and from Toyota. And I well and truly mean that. As a father, and as a grandfather, I can truly appreciate having his son drive a Toyota one day and drive for his father at his truck team in a Toyota. And that can only happen if Kyle keeps driving for us. I don’t see a Carl Edwards in him with the mic drop.

“So those situations obviously have been more unpleasant than the on-track stuff, because that’s engineering and mechanics. That stuff is fixable. It’s people that make this job hard.”

Q: Let’s talk about the mechanics and the first season with the Next Gen car. How would you evaluate its performance through 16 races?

Wilson: “In spite of some healthy skepticism on our part and where we were last November, the fact is the launch of this brand-new, revolutionary race car has, by and large, I think exceeded all of our realistic expectations. Yes, we hoped it would be as good as it is, and we hoped we’d see some of the things that we’re seeing, but top to bottom, it has delivered and exceeded most expectations. The parity is unlike what we’ve seen and unlike I can ever remember. We saw it right away, look at the top 10 of any given race and see six or seven or eight different organizations inside the top 10. The racing by and large has been good.

“I call it a little bit of bizarro NASCAR, like the bizarro Seinfeld episode, in that the better racing has been on the intermediates vs. the short tracks. The tracks that didn’t have the show we were used to were Martinsville and Richmond, and the road courses haven’t been as good as we’re used to, but I still think it passes the test of, by and large, the racing has been good. The eyeball test is most important, but it’s the number of passes, the number of leaders per race. NASCAR shared on a call today that the 12 winners this early in the season ties for the second most since 1972. Four first-time winners, it’s the first time it’s happened in the modern era of NASCAR.

“As an engineer, and our focus, the mechanics and durability of the car were our biggest concerns, and by and large, the car is holding up and doing the types of things it was meant to do. Yeah, there have been some wheel issues, but I think that’s more cultural than mechanical. And yes, the tolerances early on were too tight and getting wheels on and off required too much precision, but that’s not that big of a deal.

“Here’s a part that I’m really as happy about as anything else: The bets have paid off for a lot of these young organizations that were placed on the hope, on paper, that they’d be able to compete with a standardized product – provided NASCAR does their job in policing the product and the teams. And I’ve really been impressed with how NASCAR has gotten right after that. They wasted no time, and at least two or three times now, they’ve kidnapped cars and taken back to the tech center to strip them down — sometimes just to see what the teams were doing, how they were building the cars and if (NASCAR) had missed anything. They found a couple of things and reacted very quickly, very sternly, and if they continue that type of policing, I think it’s really going to be good for the sport and really change the culture of what’s acceptable and not. I give very high marks to our Next Gen cars.”

Q: Those ways that NASCAR has reacted, are those through penalties that have been widely known, or is it work that is happening behind the scenes and with rules bulletins?

Wilson: “Penalties that are broadly known for sure. Now they also are seeing things and sending out bulletins and updates. I saw one this weekend about lug nuts need to be painted. I’m not sure what that one was about, but I’m sure they saw something, and it was like ‘OK, we need to clean this up. So there have been a lot of bulletins, but really, I’m the first one to say that my statement (last fall about the Next Gen) that ‘Get ready, we’re going to be working on this airplane while we’re flying it,’ was rather dramatic. And the reality is we have an air-worthy vehicle and it’s fine tuning. My fear was with the limited reps we had on this car, we would learn things we would only learn with hundreds of thousands of laps and miles that we didn’t have the luxury of doing. I’m not suggesting we’re done. We still haven’t made it through the full season. We still haven’t made it to a number of tracks that the car has ever seen before. And it’s not unreasonable to think that we’ll still find some things through the course of the rest of the season that could be improved on the car.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500
David Wilson has been the president of Toyota Racing Development since 2013 (Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images).

Q: A couple of years ago, you described the Next Gen as a “moon shot” concept. As the car already seems on course to be a bigger game-changer than its predecessors, the Gen 6 and Car of Tomorrow, is the reason as self-evident as it’s truly been a “moon shot”?

Wilson: “For sure, this one was not an evolutionary change to the car. It was a revolutionary change to the car. Candidly, I think for some organizations that aren’t burdened with the legacy of the old car, arguably it may even be better for them. All you have to do is look at the results sheet to suggest that Hendrick Motorsports in particular is on top of their game. My supposition doesn’t hold true clearly with respect to Hendrick and hats off to them and (vice president of competition) Chad (Knaus) and what they’re doing there. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, because I always say it’s not us and them. It’s all of us. We have struggled to find consistency.

“I don’t remember being more frustrated about how we can go from some of our best races – Kansas, Charlotte, Gateway – we led the most laps and clearly had cars that could win. And then we go to Sonoma and have our worst finish in our NASCAR history since 2007. You look at what we did in COTA (the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin, Texas), and we didn’t learn a damn thing. That is beautifully frustrating to an engineer. And sometimes I just think that we’re outsmarting ourselves. I refuse to believe it can be this hard to sort out. But stepping away from it, this is healthy in a twisted way. It really is healthy. There’s never been more anticipation and anxiety going to the track next week because you haven’t been there before (with the Next Gen) and because you really don’t know what to expect.”

Q: Even as much as Toyotas struggled at Sonoma, is there some solace that this has happened to other powerhouse teams? Penske struggled mightily at Dover and won the pole and race the following week at Darlington.

Wilson: “Penske, Stewart-Haas, we’ve all struggled. And to be fair, there was a race or two where Hendrick was nowhere to be found. I was really happy to see that. And again, it’s because those setups are put underneath those cars before they leave the shop, and with basically the warmup (practice) session, it’s not enough time to gather enough data to make any material changes, so your fate is really decided before you leave the race shop most of the time, and what we’re kind of seeing is we either hit it or don’t hit it.

“I’ll say the dark side of allianced organizations is when you miss it, everyone misses it. Now most of the time, it’s the other way around that when you hit it, everyone hits it, but sometimes there’s an advantage to having a nonallianced partnership because you hedge yourself. It’s way too early and premature to suggest we’re going to change our mentality and direction. I do think the value of the alliances also will be marginalized over time in a very organic manner. What we’re talking about is fundamentally there are certain services and economies around the way these cars are built that can be commoditized, and that are areas you don’t compete in, and if done in a collaborative fashion, you can actually achieve some even greater economies. And we’re batting around this idea of that and helping teams organize in a manner to be more efficient. And at the same time, you decide which areas where we are competing here, and those are left to each party to do on their own. But there’s so much learning going on and so much of our data sets are growing from nothing to a massive level. And again, there’s a part of that that’s actually kind of fun.”

Q: Chevrolet has been ahead of the game this year, but is some of that due to the fact that Chevy was late to the game as far as collaboration between all its teams? Chevy has opened a centralized tech center this year in the Charlotte area, which Toyota Racing Development sort of pioneered in NASCAR, and then Ford followed. Did catching up put Chevy in a good spot with the timing of the new car?

Wilson: “There’s no question in my mind that is working well for them. Again, I respect the changes and the succession strategy that Mr. Hendrick has put in place. He’s done a really nice job. And that’s something that is so difficult for any organization, let alone a racing organization, to do and to do well, and I give them really high marks. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the people that have elevated and earned their spots. So yes, the 130,000 square feet (of technical center space)was a significant investment, and I applaud (Chevy) for that, and it certainly is working well for them.

“And that’s not just a NASCAR-centric enterprise, just like our facilities aren’t NASCAR-centric. It’s everything we do under the Toyota-Lexus umbrella that are serviced out of those organizations. And Chevrolet have taken more of those services in house vs. farming them out. That’s been our model since the day we entered the garage. I always like to say we like to get our hands dirty and have that type of relationship. That’s how we learn and develop our own IP. We just have to get better and innovate and embrace one of our core values of kaizen. Continuous improvement. That’s why I love sports and motorsports because you’re never ahead for long. Look what’s happening in the world of Formula One. It’s truly fascinating.”

Q: You made a trip to Japan recently to visit Toyota headquarters. With some troubling indicators for the economy and automotive sales, do you feel secure about the company’s investment in TRD?

Wilson: “I had a really good trip. My normal cadence was to go over there three to four times a year. Part of it was a reporting mission and always wanting to make sure our parent company understands why we race and understands the return we get that on that racing. I like to be very intentional about that. Obviously we haven’t been able to do that (because of the pandemic). This particular instance was a pretty specific trip around the development of some stuff we’re doing on the sports car side. But broadly, the automotive industry on a global basis is in a place it’s never been before. For the last fiscal year that ended March 31, 2022, Toyota recorded its highest global profitability in its history. It was one of the most profitable years ever of the company, and a lot of it had to do with the change in the way we sold cars the past two years, and the fact that because the demand far outstrips the supply, we don’t have to spend as much on marketing and what they call incentivizing buyers to buy your cars and trucks. We’ve found tremendous economies, and COVID itself presented a tremendous amount of savings just in how we operate. And all of those things ultimately roll up to the bottom line, and we sold every single car we could build. So it was on paper a tremendous year.

“The outlook for the current fiscal year is definitely more challenging. And now the entire industry is being burdened by raw material costs that are shockingly high. The cost of steel, aluminum, plastics. It’s not just about microchips. There is a significant strain. And that is certainly going to impact our profitability, but to the root of your question, and one of the reasons I’m so proud to work for Toyota, it’s not just the commitment that we’re going to keep racing, but the absolute belief that this isn’t just about racing. This is part of the social and cultural responsibility that we have as a business being run by Americans in this country, and it’s participating in the culture of America. I don’t believe that will ever go away. That’s a pretty impressive and fortunate place to be in if you have my job.”

Q: That would seem to be a fortunate place for NASCAR executives, too?

Wilson: “They are appreciative. Toyota just announced a few weeks ago a major reorganization prompted by a couple of very key retirements. My ultimate boss and mentor Bob Carter (head of sales for Toyota North America) announced his retirement after 44 years at the end of June. That’s creating a set of dominoes to fall, and of course Jim France, Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell want to come out to Plano (Texas) and meet some of the new players. They know most of the folks that are still part of it, but to meet them and give them a state of the union and make sure they know the partnership remains strong.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway


The NASCAR Cup Series’ first short track points race of the season is scheduled Sunday at Richmond Raceway, a presence on the NASCAR schedule since 1953.

Tyler Reddick is coming off his first win of the season last Sunday at Circuit of the Americas. He gave Toyota its first victory of the year.

MORE: William Byron is No. 1 in NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

The Richmond race is the first of three consecutive events on short tracks. The series will race on the dirt surface at Bristol Motor Speedway April 9 and the Martinsville Speedway half-mile April 16.

A look at drivers to watch Sunday at Richmond:


Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 10th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: No finish better than 11th in five career starts

Reddick showed the promise of what could be a strong season by dominating Sunday’s race at COTA. His victory boosted him five spots in points to 10th. Richmond, a track where he has never led a lap, will be a test.

William Byron

  • Points position: 22nd
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas 1, Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Led 122 laps in April race last year

Byron had a top car in this race last season but was passed by Denny Hamlin for the win with five laps remaining. Byron finished third, his career-best run at Richmond.

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Auto Club, Atlanta 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Four consecutive top-four runs, including a win

Hamlin can be counted on to challenge for the win every time the tour rolls into Richmond. He has won there in 2009, ’10, ’16 and ’22.


Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 14th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past at Richmond: Best career finish is 7th

After opening the season with top-10 runs at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas, Saurez has plummeted into the 20s in three consecutive races. Richmond will present another big challenge. Suarez has five consecutive finishes of 16th or worse there.

Ryan Preece

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best seasonal finish: 12th (Phoenix 1)
  • Past at Richmond: Top finish of 20th in five career starts

Preece’s first full-time season in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 has started poorly. He has been sidelined by accidents in three races and was more upset than most after being parked by a multi-car crash Sunday at COTA.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 16th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas 1, COTA)
  • Past at Richmond: Three top 10s, including a win, in past five races

Bowman seems poised to score his first victory of the season. He has been among the tour’s most consistent drivers to date, with five top-10 finishes in six races.




What takes place in a NASCAR appeal hearing? Here’s a look


Hendrick Motorsports is scheduled to have its appeal hearing at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday.

So what will happen in the appeal hearing? Here is a look at the process, based on the NASCAR Cup Rule Book.

NASCAR penalized Hendrick Motorsports for modifications to hood louvers. Those penalties were:

  • Docked Alex BowmanKyle Larson and William Byron 100 points and 10 playoff points each.
  • Suspended crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugle and Blake Harris four races each and fined each $100,000.
  • Penalized each of the four Hendrick teams 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Before the appeal hearing starts, both sides — in this case, Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR — must file a written summary presenting their case before the hearing.

The summary must not be longer than two single-spaced pages. Any attachments or appendices either side intends to present during the hearing must be included. Such attachments or appendices may include, but are not limited to, video, written statements, diagrams, photographs and charts.

The summary is to be filed by 5 p.m. ET two days before the beginning of the hearing. The summary shall be confidential and not released to the public. The Cup Rule Book says that releasing the summary to the public “may result in a penalty.”

The appeal will be heard by three members. They will come from a pool of panelists. The Cup Rule Book lists 19 panelists. That group includes former drivers Mike Skinner, Lake Speed, Bill Lester, Shawna Robinson and Lyn St. James, along with others in various roles in motorsports.

The Cup Rule Book states that “in seating an Appeals Panel, the Administrator shall take into consideration the panelists’ availability, background, professional experience and knowledge.”

The Cup Rule Book states “the burden rests on NASCAR to show that it is more likely than not that a violation … has occurred, and that the Penalty Notice issued is within the guidelines of the NASCAR Rules.”

Both parties are allowed in the hearing room while each side presents evidence. NASCAR goes first.

After both sides finish, there is a break before an optional rebuttal period. NASCAR has the chance to go first, followed by those appealing.

Once that is complete, NASCAR is permitted one last opportunity to “argue, explain, or present rebuttal on the facts and violation” to the appeal panel since NASCAR carries the burden of proof.

The appeal panelists may ask questions to either group or any witnesses at any time during the hearing.

Decisions by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel do not need to be unanimous.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel can affirm the penalty or adjust it. The panel can rescind some or all of the penalties or increase any or all penalties.

When NASCAR penalized William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Hamlin during a caution in last year’s playoff race at Texas, Hendrick Motorsports appealed. The National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded the 25-point penalty but increased his fine to $100,000. NASCAR amended its rule book after the panel’s decision.

NASCAR does not have the option to appeal the panel’s decision. Those who filed the appeal can further appeal the panel’s decision to the Final Appeal Officer. That decision can’t be appealed.

Kaulig Racing and Denny Hamlin each will go through this process when their appeals are heard. Kaulig Racing’s appeal is April 5 for modifications to a hood louver. Hamlin’s appeal is April 6 for intentionally wrecking Ross Chastain on the last lap of the Phoenix race.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron returns to No. 1


After last Sunday’s crashfest at Circuit of the Americas, the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings experienced another jumble, and William Byron returns to the top spot.

Byron took fifth place in the chaos of the triple-overtime finish. He and winner Tyler Reddick were the top dogs in the Cup Series’ first road race of the year, Byron leading 28 laps and Reddick 41. No one else led more than two laps.

MORE: COTA finish — Entertaining and messy

Christopher Bell, last week’s No. 1, fell to fifth place after a 31st-place finish at COTA.

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. William Byron (second last week) — Byron, the season’s only multiple winner with two, finished fifth Sunday, marking his career first top five on a road course. He won the pole and the first stage.

2. Kyle Busch (third last week) — Busch continues to make his new partnership at Richard Childress Racing look good. His second-place run Sunday is his fourth top-10 finish in the season’s first six races.

3. Ross Chastain (sixth last week) — Despite being pushed around in the late going Sunday, Chastain persisted, re-emerging at the front to challenge the leaders and finish fourth. He has finished in the top four in all three COTA races and leads the points standings.

4. Alex Bowman (fifth last week) — Bowman continued his seasonal consistency, finishing third at COTA. He has finished in the top 10 in five of six races.

5. Christopher Bell (first last week) — Bell falls from the top spot in the rankings after being booted from Sunday’s race in a late-race accident. He dropped three spots in the Cup points standings to fifth.

6. Joey Logano (fourth last week) — Logano was mostly absent from Sunday’s front-of-the-pack jousting. He limped home in 28th and drops two spots in the rankings.

7. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick bursts into the rankings in a big way, easily outclassing the rest of the field on the way to victory at COTA. Challenged repeatedly by cautions that extended the race into three overtimes, he refused to give up the shot at his first win of the year.

8. Denny Hamlin (seventh last week) — Winless this year, Hamlin nevertheless keeps popping up around the front. Sunday’s late-race mess dropped him to 16th at the checkered flag.

9. Kyle Larson (eighth last week) — Larson seemed to be the race’s pingpong ball Sunday as he was bounced around during some of the tightest racing. He rallied to reach 14th.

10. Kevin Harvick (ninth last week) — Harvick’s final season has been a mix of the good and the bad, with two top-five runs, challenges for wins and a 33rd-place finish at Atlanta. He was 13th Sunday.

Dropped out: Brad Keselowski (10th last week).


Ross Chastain after COTA race: ‘Are you not entertained?’


One driver evoked the movie “Gladiator” after Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas. Another could be penalized for his actions after the checkered flag. Others expressed dismay at what the end of the event became.

A race that had been a thrilling duel devolved into a demolition derby over the final laps, leaving feelings as bruised as some of the cars.

While Tyler Reddick celebrated his first win of the season, other drivers stewed at what the racing became. Three overtimes were needed to finish the event due to incidents in the Turn 1 hairpin. Then again, it should not have been surprising, coming a week after Kyle Busch said: “We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers”.

“Are you not entertained?” Ross Chastain exclaimed, evoking Russell Crowe’s famous movie line. “This is what we love. I don’t love doing it, but … as a sport we’re not boring.”

Chastain is correct, the sport is not boring. But it’s fair to ask if the sport has crossed a line. Is it OK for races to end this way? If not, how to change it is a more difficult notion.

The action has been getting more aggressive this season. It was evident in the Clash at the Coliseum when drivers charged into the corners and slammed into the back of cars as a way to slow down to make the tight turns.

Sunday marked the third time in the last four road course races that the event went to overtime. In the previous 28 road course races — dating back to 2012 — only three went to overtime.

It makes one wonder what could happen this weekend when the Cup series races at Richmond Raceway, beginning a three-week stretch at short tracks that includes the Bristol dirt race and Martinsville.

“These cars are so tough,” Chastain said. “We can run into each other. There are just lines of cars all pushing each other (on the restarts) on the brakes. Nobody is going in there saying, ‘I’m going to hit somebody,’ but it’s just the leader has to check up and it just magnifies itself.”

Chastain’s teammate, Daniel Suarez, was not happy after the race. He ran into the back of Chastain’s car, knocking him out of the way as they entered pit road and then hit the back of Bowman’s car on pit road.

Section 4.4.B of the Cup Rule Book states that drivers can be penalized for “Intentionally damaging another vehicle on pit road.” Such a penalty could result in the loss of 25-50 driver and/or team owner points and/or $50,000-$100,000 fine. Violations may also result in a suspension.

Suarez restarted fifth in the second overtime restart but left the inside lane open. Alex Bowman, with Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe aligned behind, charged and got beside Suarez as they approached Turn 1.

As Bowman slowed to make the tight turn, he was hit from behind and that sent him into Suarez, who clipped the left rear of Martin Truex Jr.’s car. Truex spun in front of Suarez and blocked his path, allowing the rest of the field to drive by and costing Suarez a top-five finish. Suarez finished 27th.

Suarez spoke briefly with Bowman before having a discussion with Chastain.

“The problem is if you don’t peek out and bomb the guy in front of you, the guy behind you does it to you,” Bowman said. “So what do you do there? It’s not right. The way we race is embarrassing, and if 12-year-olds were doing it, we’d be yelling at them, but here we are saying it’s the best thing in the world on TV.”

Chris Buescher simply called Sunday’s race “our first bumper car race of the year.”

Austin Dillon said: “The end of the race became a typical NASCAR road course race. It was just a mess. We drove up into the hill on a restart and everyone just pile drove into each other.”

Jordan Taylor, making his first Cup start as he filled in for an injured Chase Elliott, was struck by what the restarts were like.

“Every restart, you just get smashed in the front, rear, side,” he said. “So yeah, it was pretty much just survival.”


Sunday’s race was scheduled to go 68 laps but was extended to 75 laps by the late cautions.

Here is a look at the drivers who gained the most and lost the most positions from where they were running on Lap 68 to where they were running on Lap 75:

Most positions gained

18 – Kyle Larson (finished 14th)

17 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (finished 7th)

16 – Kevin Harvick (finished 13th)

12 – Todd Gilliland (finished 10th)

9 – Ryan Blaney (finished 21st)

8 – Noah Gragson (finished 20th)

7 – Austin Cindric (finished 6th)

6 – Corey LaJoie (finished 11th)

Most positions lost

23 – Daniel Suarez (finished 27th)

20 – Joey Logano (finished 28th)

15 – Kimi Raikkonen (finished 29th)

12 – Christopher Bell (finished 31st)

12 – Martin Truex Jr. (finished 17th)

10 – Aric Almirola (finished 30th)

9 – Jordan Taylor (finished 24th)

6 – Michael McDowell (finished 12th)


Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch, who switched rides before this season, have both won in the first six races.

This marks the third year in a row that two drivers with new Cup rides have won so early in the year.

Last year, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain each won in the first six races of the year. Cindric had driven a few Cup races previously for Team Penske but last year was his first year in the No. 2 car. Chastain did have the same crew chief and other crew members at Trackhouse Racing after it purchased Chip Ganassi Racing.

In 2021, Kyle Larson, in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, and Christopher Bell, in his rookie Cup season with Joe Gibbs Racing, each won within the first four races of that year.