Edwards: NASCAR should change product, not formats

Leave a comment

Carl Edwards isn’t in charge of NASCAR, nor will be anytime soon. Still, doesn’t mean the Roush Fenway Racing driver can’t offer opinions on potential technical or format changes for the Sprint Cup Series.

“I’d like much softer tires and less downforce, but the process for new changes was really impressive, the way it was tested,” he said during his first media availability of 2014 during the NASCAR Preseason Thunder test at Daytona. “Of the three things tested, they chose the best one in my opinion.”

Edwards is referring to the raised rear spoiler for 2014, which should actually increase downforce. He joked, “I’d be all for chopping the spoilers off and wetting down the track.”

But, in all seriousness, Edwards praised the unified and increased competition committee involving Brian France, Mike Helton, John Darby, Gene Stefanyshyn and now, Darby’s replacement as managing director of the Sprint Cup Series, Richard Buck. The committee is seeking to improve NASCAR’s racing product, particularly on the 1.5-mile ovals where passing wasn’t particularly easy during the first season with the new Generation-6 car.

“I’m not a very patient person, so it’s very difficult for me to go down this road,” Edwards said. “The coolest part of the test (last year) was, Brian France, Mike Helton, Darby, Stefanyshyn, all saying ‘We can make things better. We’ll work with Goodyear, they’re committed.’ Say what you like about NASCAR or directions, but they’re very committed to changing whatever it takes to be the best we can be. It makes me excited.”

When it came to format changes rather than competition ones, Edwards guarded against change simply for the sake of change.

“It would be like the police changing the speed limit every day when you go down the same road. At some point you’d be like, ‘C’mon, man,’” Edwards admitted.

“There’s something to be said about the history of the sport, not moving things too far away, and I also think we have to be careful … we don’t want take away the credibility of a format by changing it all the time. We need the same measure year-to-year. You don’t want to change all the time just to change.”

Because Edwards’ team has traditionally run consistently stronger over a longer stretch of races rather than the 10 Chase races, he wouldn’t mind seeing the Chase add more races, but didn’t estimate it would happen.

After losing the 2011 Cup title on a tiebreaker, Edwards missed the Chase in 2012 and finished 13th and last in this year’s Chase. Edwards won twice, though, marking only his second season with more than one win in the last five years.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”