Tensions are spiraling even before the short track race at Richmond

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - AUGUST 14: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, and Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 Moose Fraternity Chevrolet, spin after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on August 14, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Richmond Raceway is a short track and with that comes plenty of contract and short track tempers, but that’s usually after the race. Going in the race however, tempers are even shorter this week after run-ins at Circuit of The Americas last Sunday.

Saturday at Richmond plenty of drivers were critical of what they called overaggressive racing, especially on restarts.

“I thought it was dumb,” Kyle Larson said. “A lot of fans thought it was dumb.”

William Byron highlighted it as a problem that’s persisted since the Indianapolis road course race last year, which went to overtime as drivers threw wild moves on the final restart, especially into the first corner.

“I think Indy’s worse than COTA, just looking at past history,” Byron said. “We’re probably going to need to make some changes to not have that happen again.”

As for those changes, Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman both said that single-file restarts at road courses might help, but an attitude change is required.

“If you’re the super-clean guy and you’re not aggressive or anything, you’re typically going to be the guy getting used up,” Bowman said. The cars are about indestructible at this point. We hit each other so hard all the time; it’s kind of crazy how hard we run into each other.”

“I don’t like it,” he added. “I’ve always tried to race super clean and I feel like I’ve been one of the cleaner, more fair guys at times – almost to a detriment. I don’t love racing like that, but at some point if you’re not aggressive, you’re going to finish bad every week.”

Busch also said there’s an issue with the young drivers in the field.

“Some of it stems from how these younger guys are trained to race, what they do and how they are told what to do from a young age, how to be aggressive and things like that. But I feel like there are a lot of guys that just… I don’t know.”

“I guess there’s not enough payback per se,” he said, as well as agreeing that “I think it’s a little bit of the car, too.”

But even Larson had to acknowledge that “a lot of fans think it’s cool.”

Certainly, fans like a rivalry, and perhaps one has developed between Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman. Suarez objected to the way Bowman raced him at COTA and hit Bowman – and his own teammate Chastain – on pit road next to officials after the race. But Bowman says he’s over it.

“We stood there and talked,” Bowman said, “and we actually stood there and watched the video of it.” He clarified he’s moved on with Suarez, “as far as I know.”

Ryan Blaney said earlier this week that emotion is a natural byproduct, and even emotion between teammates when asked about a potential conflict between Suarez and Chastain.

“No matter,” he said, “if you’re a teammate, worst enemies, best friends; you do this enough, you’re going to get into it with everybody, intentional or not, and those things just happen.”

Owen Johnson