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Why Texas NASCAR weekend, Chase Elliott winning is good for business

The racing was better and produced a very popular end results

NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400
Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

That was a much-needed weekend for the entire NASCAR industry.

Chase Elliott is back in Victory Lane and it was the conclusion to a pretty good weekend at Texas Motor Speedway — which is still not exactly everyone’s figurative cup of tea.

Listen, the things that have plagued Texas Motor Speedway over the past eight years didn’t vanish overnight. The deeply stained racing surface still has residual traction compound in it and it still acts as black ice until heat builds into it.

The redesign was not particularly well thought out, and a weekend that featured a photo finish and a Chase Elliott win doesn’t change that, but you can start to see a viable race track starting to emerge when looking really hard.

“The track was a little bit wider and it was a little bit cooler than last year,” said Daniel Suarez leaving the track.

Tyler Reddick echoed those sentiments.

“Once that groove came in, you can kind of move around,” Reddick said. “If you have a really good car, you can manipulate the air and stuff. You can move around and make some passes. It’s slicker I guess.”

Texas Motor Speedway is starting to show age, its racing surface is widening out, and the poo poo deeply embedded in its surface is starting to fade. Maybe it won’t make out like Kansas Speedway anytime soon, but maybe it can be just fine.

Brad Keselowski thought the racing was fine but also offered kind of a caveat.

“I read where Chase Elliott said he didn’t like the track, and now he won, so I bet he has a slightly better view of it now,” he said.


“Not really,” Elliott said. “I think the tire today was an improvement. It was fun because we actually had a little falloff. Tire sets meant a little something. I think that was why the race was as good as it was, was because we did have a little bit of falloff. It promoted you to want to come down pit road and put on tires. A little more than we had.

“I’m not saying it was great, but it’s better than it has been, at least from my vantage point. I could be totally off base. When you watch something from the outside, it can look different. From where I was sitting, it seems like tires were a little more of a factor, and that’s a good thing.”

It was an enjoyable race from the outside, and certainly the timing of the cautions contributed to that, but it was going to produce a compelling finish no matter what. Either the final 30 laps stay green and we get to see if Keselowski on 20 lap fresher tires could successfully chase down Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, or the race devolves into a series of overtime crashes.

Both have their audiences.

NASCAR had such a great start to the season, across all three national tours, until that stretch of Richmond and Martinsville thrust the conversation about short track woes into a higher gear. It stalled out some of the momentum the league enjoyed and felt even worse knowing that much maligned Texas was next on the tour.

But that Xfinity Series race, as the division so often does, produced a barnburner with a photo finish and then the most popular driver in the discipline snapped a 42-race (or 49 if counting the missed races) losing drought.

The racing was compelling and the biggest star in NASCAR is going to race for a championship this autumn.

Hopefully, the directionally positive racing quality this weekend was enough to stave off any underlying interest Marcus Smith and Speedway Motorsports might have towards starting over with Texas Motor Speedway and replicating what they have done with Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The last thing NASCAR needs is one to two more drafting style races on the schedule now that there are now six of them.

The value of a competitive Chase Elliott

NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400
Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to winning a race for the first time since October 2022, Chase Elliott winning also means he will be in the Cup Series playoffs, barring some unforeseen circumstances.

That’s good for NASCAR on a variety of fronts.

For one, television ratings were down around a half million viewers for the races he did not participate in last spring. It stands to reason that a fanbase that finicky probably were less enthused about a playoff stretch that didn’t feature the No. 9 in the mix too.

His peers, like Denny Hamlin, expect him to be in the mix this time around.   

“Yeah, I feel like there are a couple of organizations dominating right now and he’s part of one of them,” Hamlin said. “This is what he has been capable of for a long time. He is certainly a threat because he’s done it for sure.”

And maybe, an Elliott in the championship mix and running competitive, will make him more receptive to opening his doors for a second season of the Netflix show. Elliott recently said that he was less inclined to participate in it, viewing it as a distraction, something that doesn’t contribute to him being competitive.

Elliott is interesting in his own way, a way that Netflix’s Full Speed, could make look compelling. Sure, he’s a private country boy at heart. But he has a pilot’s license and enjoys flying himself to functions. While he surely will not be snowboarding again anytime soon, it’s a reflection of what drives him.

It’s not uncommon to see Elliott, who still lives in Dawsonville, Georgia, down at Senoia Speedway, owned by the Pollard family, just to partake in some dirt track racing.

Having a chance to show Elliott, to the masses, as a guy that just wants to compete and do the things he most cares about in his free time is a worthwhile story to spotlight in the annual playoff documentary series too.

What did we learn?

This season, so far, still remains the story of Hendrick Motorsports versus Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s Chevrolet versus Toyota.

William Byron and Denny Hamlin are still the main characters of sorts in the NextGen era, especially with Ross Chastain becoming less and less a headline magnet for better or worse, but the main players of this season have been set.

The top six drivers in the standings are HMS or JGR drivers and all but one race, the Atlanta three-wide finish won by Daniel Suarez of Trackhouse, have been won by drivers from those mega organizations. 23XI Racing has the speed of their partners at Gibbs but not the pit crews right now.

While its mostly been a veteran laded season, Ty Gibbs is sixth in the running order and having a quietly solid season, his second full-time at the highest level.

With Talladega looming this weekend, it’s also an opportunity for the other organizations to make something happen in terms of playoff points and a possible win.

There are already a handful of drivers who are reasonably in must-win mode to make the playoffs. Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Ryan Preece, Noah Gragson and Corey Lajoie all come to mind.

There is a lot at stake this weekend and desperation breeds drama.   

Anyway, all of this isn’t to say that 2024 will always be a HMS vs JGR season. After all, Team Penske drivers have won the past two championships when it seemed like both Ford and their drivers wouldn’t factor into the final rounds in a major way.

Ford is still trying to maximize the new Mustang Dark Horse body and the odds are some combination of Penske, RFK Racing, Stewart-Haas and Front Row will. They have shown flashes of doing just that after all.

It’s early yet, but we have narratives.

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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