Even before the chaos of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, the million-dollar question was already floating around.
What in the world is next for TMS?
Texas, in its current form, is not working. Blame the configuration, the cars, the tires, the weather or Ross Chastain. OK, the last one is a joke, but if you’ve followed the circuit closely this year, you should have laughed.
Anyway, to reiterate, Texas is not good. The racing has been lacking since the reconfiguration following which Turns 1 and 2 are different from Turns 3 and 4. What started as a construction project to fix drainage issues turned into fixing something else – the configuration – that wasn’t broken.
NASCAR’s new car didn’t help matters over the weekend, and the only reason the race will be intensively discussed is because of the CVS receipt-size l ist of drives who experienced problems. Something needs to be done and has needed to be done since 2017. The question is what.
“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” reigning series champion Kyle Larson said on Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever.
“If I could build a track, it would probably be a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement, progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”
The chatter is that what’s in mind is another Atlanta Motor Speedway. No, not the good Atlanta Motor Speedway where drivers could slide around on worn-out pavement, tires would wear at a tremendous pace, and there were multiple racing lanes. Instead, Texas could become like the new Atlanta, the intermediate-turned-superspeedway hybrid.
“I think if you leave it up to the drivers, then you would have what Kyle said, a short track of some sort,” said Larson’s teammate Alex Bowman. “If you leave it up to the fans, I’ve heard that some people want another Atlanta. I don’t think any of the drivers really want another Atlanta, but we are not here for us. We are here for the fans.
“It’ll be interesting to see if anything does happen. There are a lot of rumors flying around. The racetrack that we have now has not produced what we want. So, there are a lot of smart people working on it and thinking about how to make it better. Got to do something.”
Considering that Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are never high on the list of racetracks drivers will name when asked where they love to compete, using them as a template for other venues is a gamble. But Bowman made perhaps the most important point: sometimes it’s not about what the drivers want, but rather the feedback NASCAR and its stakeholders seem to be receiving from the fans.
But Bowman is not alone in hoping Texas doesn’t become a sister to Atlanta. Joey Logano was very forthcoming with his opinion, saying some drivers get rewarded for logging laps in the back at superspeedways instead of competing.
“I think that’s the wrong move,” Logano said of turning Texas into another Atlanta. “I don’t think that would be any better than what we’ve got.”
What would Logano want to see?
“Anything but that,” he laughed. “To me, short tracks are always great. I don’t know – put a Roval in here. Keep doing what we’re doing. I don’t know. But I think adding more superspeedways isn’t a real good move.”
Logano has routinely said he likes racetracks where he and his team make a difference. Superspeedways involve luck and being at the mercy of other drivers.
“It just seems like they tried to get creative and build something different, but different is not always great,” Denny Hamlin said. “This one, the design of it doesn’t match what we do.”
Hamlin wouldn’t mind another Atlanta, though.
“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this,” he said. “Anything would be better than what we have here.”
There has been no announcement from NASCAR or Speedway Motorsports about what could be next for Texas. The expectation, at least based on how it’s become a topic of conversation, is that it won’t stay the same, and something will be done soon.
Until it’s decided what that will be, perhaps the silver lining is that Texas only has one race on the 2023 schedule.