Elton Sawyer says NASCAR needs to “work harder” to improve its short-track racing package


Elton Sawyer, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the sanctioning body needs to “work harder” to improve short-track racing.

Sawyer's comments follow last Sunday's Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway, where drivers struggled to make passes and the race lacked excitement for most of the 400 laps and overtime period.

“We’re not naive about this,” Sawyer said. “We as NASCAR want our short track package to be better. We want the racing to be at the level that superspeedways and our intermediate race tracks are today. I promise you that at Goodyear we are working as hard as we can, and we need to work even harder. This is the end result. We have to work harder to get there, whereas I said a few weeks ago that we have to figure out how to take what we learned at Bristol and also what we learned in the first 30 laps at Richmond last week have learned to put into words the race unfolded. The tires and the way they wear and the way the drivers have to deal with tire wear and tire drop is really what we want to achieve.

“If you can drive at 10/10 on any track, especially short tracks, and the equipment and tires can handle it, then you are depriving the driver of all the skills they need. I promise you, I promise our fans, that we work every day to develop a tire that will give us the short distance racing we are all looking for. … It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, so we have to keep working,” Sawyer said. “We are not resting on what we did yesterday. Today we’re going to revisit it, work on solutions and try to get to a better place.”

Denny Hamlin Frustrated Over Failing to Overtake in NASCAR Next Gen Car: 'We Can't Even Reach the Bumper'

NASCAR introduced a new aero package for short and road courses in the Cup Series this season. The new package includes a simplified diffuser for the next-gen car, elimination of engine trim moldings, simplified diffuser moldings and a 3-inch spoiler. To date, three racetracks have used the package: Phoenix Raceway, Richmond Raceway and Martinsville.

The only short track race this season that did not feature the new short track package was the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Tire wear was extreme in this race, which drew positive reviews from drivers and fans.

Denny Hamlin, who finished 11th at Martinsville, criticized the lack of overtaking maneuvers during the race.

“So now you've created not only the next generation of cars, but also a next generation of drivers that all drive the same,” Hamlin said. “Because it is clear how to drive it optimally. So how do you manage passing plays? You will not. At the end of the race I tried my best to get Austin Cindric out of the way. He held me up poorly. I don't know how many laps he was behind, maybe one, maybe two. Whatever the case, he was laps behind in the middle of the boys' fight for the race win. I couldn't reach him to push him out of the way. I'm trying to get this guy on the track. I can't do it. Can not reach him. Instead, I just have to sit behind him and let the laps pass.

“And that is a problem. That's why we don't have the warnings, the wrecks, anything that we used to have. We can't even reach the bumpers of the cars. The race needs to be repaired. … When we sit back and do nothing, we feel ashamed. We deserve everything that comes our way in the long run.”