The news has come out in spades this week for NASCAR. If you were hoping Kurt Busch would be able to compete by the 2023 season, I am sorry, but he announced earlier this week that he was still not cleared to race, but he is still trying to get better. Jimmie Johnson and Legacy Motor Club announced this week that Dave Elenz had signed an extension with the team, Dave is the crew chief for the #43 car for Legacy, and Todd Gordon has signed on to be Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief. Todd Gordon was Joey Logano’s crew chief during his 2015 championship, so Jimmie has some championship talent on top of the pit box. Stewart-Haas have signed a multi-year extension with Chase Briscoe. With two drivers retiring at the end of the year, signing this extension could not have come at a better time.
The big news flooded social media with mixed feelings, mufflers, and minor spoilers. NASCAR held a test session at Phoenix this week, testing new additions to the current cars: mufflers and smaller spoilers. The mufflers, in all honesty, do not sound too different and they will only be used at the Clash in Las Angeles and the Chicago street course. The other item NASCAR tested was smaller spoilers. Initially, NASCAR removed some of the underbody pieces and trimmed the spoiler down from four to two and a half inches. When drivers reported very little change, NASCAR went to a two-inch high, one-inch narrower spoiler. Christopher Bell stated that “I thought this was tremendously better, and we go that direction.” Trimming the spoiler and removing some underbody prices would remove downforce from the cars making it more slippery but faster in a straight line. Hopefully, NACAR will pursue this package for the coming season. Speaking of speed, what is the fastest NASCAR race to ever be completed?
The average NASCAR race averages around 4 hours, flag to flag. Some races are faster, and some are slower. One of the driving factors as to why races can take longer to complete are cautions, red flags, etc. They can add minutes or even hours to the race time. I am sure you, the NASCAR fan have asked, could a race go caution free and, if so, how fast would it be? My answer would be yes, races used to be able to run caution-free (stages throw a guaranteed two cautions in a race), and the caution-free race would be very fast; how about 500 miles covered in roughly two and half hours? Introducing stage left, The 1997 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
It seems fitting that the fastest race in NASCAR history shares the same track as the fastest lap in NASCAR history. How did this race even happen; I mean, this is the era of restrictor plates, pack racing, and big track-blocking wrecks. Well, the 1997 Winston 500 went flag to flag perfectly, not a single caution lap was run. The cars stayed full throttle the entire time, excluding pit stops. There were 26 lead changes all day, with Dale Earnhardt leading the most laps with 76; however, Mark Martin would be the one who would take the checkered flag with an astounding average race speed of 188.354 miles per hour.
With all the changes NASCAR has made over the years and the addition to stages, it is safe to say that this record will never be broken or repeated. The stages guarantee two cautions of a race and add time to the race. To add some more insane stats to this one race, a modern NASCAR Talladega race could not beat the 1997 race. With all the modern technology and cars, the Next Gen cars are slower than the Gen 4’s in quality speed and in race speed. It is safe to say the 1997 Winston 500 will be the fastest NASCAR race for years to come.
“Race Results – Racing-Reference.” Racing-Reference, www.racing-reference.info/race-results/1997_Winston_500/W. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.