Welcome to the Jalopnik Weekend Motorsports Roundup, where we let you know what’s going on in the world of racing, where you can see it, and where you can talk about it all in one convenient place. Where else would you want to spend your weekend?
You can’t avoid complicated with NASCAR anymore, and two of its newer rules could potentially put huge wrinkles into the sport’s title races—wrinkles that could determine or de-crown a champion on the spot.
Texas Motor Speedway pulled the equivalent of bunny ears in the class photo on nearly every NASCAR driver who walked its stage this weekend, and it was like taking 40 trips to burntown each day: When the track a driver, a snarky joke about them would pop up on its giant television screen for fans to laugh at.
It’s hard to explain how experiencing NASCAR’s infield can completely change a person’s understanding the sport. The garage and pit road transform from areas that were once shown in passing by television broadcasts and squinted at through binoculars, to privates window into the inner workings of racing.
Here are some cars, at night, deep in the heart of Texas. There’s a song in there somewhere.
NASCAR looks, feels and acts a lot differently this year. The cars, drivers and the tracks are mostly the same, but NASCAR went all “sports ball” on our beloved American motorsport. Now, the sport’s about to start its first-ever “NASCAR playoffs.” Those playoffs come with a new set of rules.
Top NASCAR drivers are great at waltzing into lower levels of the sport and beating everyone so badly they’re almost in another zip code. NASCAR made rules to cut down on that last year so the series could actually be competitive, and the sanctioning body announced Tuesday that it’s cutting down even more.
There’s a thing southern folks like to say, and surely you’ve heard it before: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s what NASCAR did by making “overtime” rules at the start of the 2016 season, and it’s gone about as well as enrolling a cat in swim lessons. And maybe, just maybe, NASCAR’s starting to realize that.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway has been kind of like a two-day marathon, but not in the Rolex 24 Hours way. Rain just keeps washing out the race, so much so that you get psychologically conditioned to think that every caution is for a damp track. But this one wasn’t, for once.
We won’t spoil it for you. Just watch the video.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, known to take little kids’ lunch money in the lower Xfinity Series, started on the pole for Saturday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. He didn’t stay up there for long, as contact with close friend Brad Keselowski sent him straight into the infield grass.
In June, things are going to get pretty weird in NASCAR broadcasting. For the first time, the entire broadcast team will be active drivers—the booth, the pit-road reporters and everyone else. Fox Sports, the broadcaster for that race, said they have free rein “as long as no one sets fire” to the booth. Uh, yikes?
Not even restrictor-plate racing can keep Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers from taking the top spots in the lower Xfinity Series—at least, not this weekend at Talladega. Four of the top five finishers are either current or former Cup regulars, with Aric Almirola taking the win. But hey! It was a fun race.
It was around 12:45 p.m. local time when Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway decided it was lunchtime, and, luckily for track and unluckily for its drivers, it didn’t have to look far. There were plenty of race cars diving into the third turn to chomp on.
When NASCAR announced its overtime line in 2016, I had hopes for it. I thought a consistent line could help avoid controversy, unlike the old rule for cautions at the end of the race, and shushing conspiracy theorists about “rigged races” is almost always a positive. But then I saw the overtime line used in a race.
If there’s one thing we know about modern NASCAR, it’s that the sanctioning body often takes the most complicated route in order to solve a problem. Look at the points system. But there was a painfully obvious way to go in its most recent “fix” to make a parade of a race more interesting, and NASCAR didn’t do it.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer has a history of being in the wrong place at the times when his fellow NASCAR competitors are feeling a bit too aggressive. But, in a rare sighting at Auto Club Speedway in California, Custer actually experienced a wreck without any greedy or petty motive behind it.
Remember the awkward coincidence of NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick being in the television booth when a driver he called a spoon-fed rich kid intentionally wrecked someone under caution? Well, that kid got no fines or penalties for it. Instead, NASCAR served up penalties to drivers whose cars failed inspection.
After being spun out late in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Austin Dillon retaliated against a driver under caution. The scene felt odd, but it wasn’t the wreck. It was the steaming awkwardness of the broadcast, because the guy commentating called Dillon a spoon-fed rich kid when they were teammates.
Since virtually every human the planet doesn’t want Atlanta Motor Speedway to repave its racing surface after the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, the track may actually reconsider its plans to destroy everything that’s good and holy in the world of cookie-cutter race tracks. This is a beautiful day.