Instead of going faster, Martin Truex Jr. wants to see speeds decrease at Michigan

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Race car drivers are supposed to like to go fast. In most instances, the faster, the better.

But NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. isn’t of that mindset – at least when it comes to Michigan International Speedway.

He’s hoping that NASCAR’s fastest non-restrictor plate oval starts to wear down and ultimately slow down in the process.

“I am not sure about Michigan,” Truex said in a team media release. “Since the track was repaved (prior to the 2012 season) it changed the style of racing there. The track is just too fast right now.”

Indeed, in the first Cup event after the repaving, Marcos Ambrose didn’t just break the former track record (194.232 mph by Ryan Newman in 2005), he shattered it by more than 9 mph (203.241 mph) during qualifying in June 2012.

Ambrose’s mark at the two-mile oval stood for a little over a year until Joey Logano eclipsed it with a qualifying run last August of 203.949 mph.

At the same time, drivers are also coming close to 220 mph on the front and back straightaways.

“I am hoping the new pavement is wearing out a little to slow us down,” Truex said. “I enjoyed the old asphalt at Michigan where you could run all over the place.”

Truex’s hopes may come true. The area around MIS went through a brutal winter and it’s likely the track did experience some weathering that potentially will slow cars down there this weekend. To what extent they’ll slow down remains to be seen.

“But give credit to the track for making improvements with the repave,” Truex said. “We’re professionals and it’s our job to deal with the track conditions.”

Truex has struggled this season, his first with Furniture Row Racing after being forced out at Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of last season because there wasn’t enough sponsorship for 2014.

But despite some of the gloom he’s had to endure thus far this season, Truex is seeing some light: he has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last two starts (sixth at Dover and ninth at Pocono).

“I feel our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet will be good at Michigan due to our recent gain in speed,” Truex said. “We have some momentum right now and need to build on that. Things are much brighter with our Furniture Row team than they were earlier in the season.”

Truex has just two wins in his Sprint Cup career, but MIS has afforded him several opportunities to take another checkered flag. He had back-to-back runner-up finishes in spring and summer of 2007, and was third in this weekend’s race last season.

If and when he earns his third Cup win, Truex wouldn’t mind if it was at MIS.

“We had top-10 cars all year but we were not able to finish races,” Truex said. “The last two weeks we finished the races and got some decent results. We’re gaining but still have a ways to get to where we want to be.

“We still need to get that victory to make the Chase. And the progress we’ve made lately gives us more optimism to nail down that win.”

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NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”