Fontana changes to a perfect 200-lap race
I am delighted to see that Fontana is now a 200-lap, 400-mile race. To me it’s the perfect length for a race. Last Sunday, Kansas was the same way and it lasted roughly three hours. I still maintain that other than a few special races like the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the 500 miles at Darlington, we need to run races that take no longer to run than three and a half hours.
Naturally, a race will run longer than an NBA or MLB game, but falls in line with an NFL game. I think that a three-and-a-half-hour window is perfect not only for the people at the track but the fans watching at home.
Even though the race will be shorter this weekend, you still think about fuel mileage from the drop of the green flag. You run the race backward. Now you are just looking at Lap 200 where in the past you were looking at Lap 250.
These crew chiefs are approaching these last seven races like an NFL head coach prepares for a game. They study the trends and patterns of when the cautions — for example — normally fall. Even with double-file restarts and the importance of track position, it’s going to be hard not to go with four tires on your pit stops.
It’s going to be the same tire combination this weekend as was run in Kansas last Sunday. We saw last Sunday with about 80 laps to go the guys who took two tires only had a short-term gain. It will work only if you have a short run. Paul Menard was one of the two-tire guys but he still had a great finish.
It will be warm out there this weekend and the track has lost a tremendous amount of grip. Even though Fontana is a half mile larger track, there are a lot of similarities to Kansas. That’s why I maintain when you hit pit road, you better go with four tires if you indeed want to go to Victory Lane.
I just have to tell you that I miss that part of being a crew chief. I really enjoyed that element of my job. For example in 1995 with Dale Jarrett as our driver, we beat Jeff Gordon using fuel mileage strategy. It is really one of the most fulfilling feelings you can have as a crew chief. When you outsmart the best minds in motorsports to take home the trophy, well there’s nothing better.
I also want to tip my hat to the fans at Kansas last weekend. We had great racing and a great crowd. It’s amazing how the area has grown up around the racetrack. It’s almost become a city within itself. There’s even more construction going on as we speak. There’s a huge soccer stadium being built outside Turns 3 and 4. In addition to that are a hotel and casino being built behind the track’s backstretch.
Folks ask me what my favorite tracks are. Honestly, I don’t have a favorite track. All the tracks we go to are my favorites. I will say though, one of my favorite places to go to is definitely Kansas Speedway. I am excited that Kansas not only got a second date starting next year, but also that one of those dates will now fall into the NASCAR on FOX portion of the broadcasts.