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Bump & Run: Which driver is next to score first Cup win?

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We all have opinions, and we all think we’re right. Of course, that isn’t always the case even though we don’t like to believe that.

Today debuts NBC Sports’ opinion forum, Bump & Run. Each Tuesday, our analysts and writers will give their take on the various topics of the day.

Feel free to join the discussion or vote in the polls with these throughout the year. We know you have an opinion on these subjects.

  • Who is the next driver to get their first Cup win?

Nate Ryan: Ryan Blaney. He showed last year he has the ability (top fives at Kansas, Michigan, Chicagoland). Wood Brothers Racing’s move to a shop closer to Team Penske will ensure Blaney maximizes that potential this season.

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon. He placed in the top 10 in each of the four plate races, and his 13 top-10 finishes last year came at 10 different tracks, showing a versatility. Add crew chief Slugger Labbe’s gambling ways and this team could be celebrating this season.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott is the closest to breaking through, and if he manages to do it in the Daytona 500, he’ll match Jeff Gordon in getting his first Cup win in his 42nd start.

Jerry Bonkowski: Chase Elliott has the best shot. He was impressive as a rookie, made the Chase, he just needed a win. That win — and maybe more than one — comes in 2017.

  • Who is the top team at Ford with Stewart-Haas Racing moving over there this year?

Nate Ryan: Team Penske. Stewart-Haas Racing still has more cars, but Penske has them covered pound for pound with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Expect intrasquad competition between the organizations (which won’t be sharing much information) to be fierce, though.

Dustin Long: Team Penske’s two cars trumps Stewart-Haas Racing’s one and a half (Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch). Nate’s right. It could be just as interesting to see how well these teams get along.

Daniel McFadin: Until we have a healthy sample size after a few races, Team Penske will still be the top Ford organization. In the last three seasons its two-team operation has 25 wins, while Stewart-Haas and its four teams (with Chevy) had 17. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Team Penske, without a doubt. You can’t go against 27 combined Cup wins — including a Daytona 500 triumph — in the last four seasons in a Penske Ford. SHR will have success, but there could be a development curve getting adjusted to the new manufacturer. 

  • Other than Jimmie Johnson, no other active driver has more than one Cup championship. Who will be the next to reach two series titles?

Nate Ryan: Brad Keselowski. He admittedly is obsessed with shaming the naysayers who point to his 2012 championship as a fluke. Through his smarts and sheer will, Keselowski will ensure his legacy is defined by the validation of being a multi-time champion.

Dustin Long: Joey Logano. Yes, he doesn’t have a title yet and five others have one championship each, but Logano’s time is now. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him win two of the next three or four titles.

Daniel McFadin: I see Brad Keselowski as the best chance to get another title. While it may not be this year, he tends to operate on the San Francisco Giants format of enjoying success every other season. Since his 2012 title, he’s won multiple races in 2014 and 2016.

Jerry Bonkowski: With the enhanced race format this season, strategy — and the crew chief that is best at adapting to the format (other than Chad Knaus) — will be more important than ever. I think one of the Busch brothers — Kyle (crew chief Adam Stevens) or Kurt (Tony Gibson) — will be the first to earn a second Cup crown of all drivers that currently have one title.

NASCAR America: Dale Jr.’s aggressiveness at Sonoma pays off, will need it at Daytona

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Dale Earnhardt was very aggressive in his final Cup start at Sonoma Raceway, and while it may have resulted in his Lap 14 accident in Turn 11, it also helped produce his third top 10 of the year and his second in a row.

“I think being offensive is better than being passive on a road course, nothing wrong with that,” said NASCAR America analyst Max Papis, who also broke down what caused Earnhardt’s bizarre spin early in Sunday’s race that also involved Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson.

“You’ve got to commit, usually the pass has happened before you actually arrive at the corner,” Papis said. “He thought that was a good opportunity, (then) committed. ”

NASCAR America’s analysts also discussed Earnhardt’s upcoming start at Daytona, which likely will be his final Cup start there. The track may be his best shot to earn a win and a spot in the playoffs.

The analysts believe the aggressiveness that was on display at Sonoma will be necessary for Earnhardt to pull a win out at Daytona.

Earnhardt’s year got off to a rough start in the Daytona 500. He was leading the race when Kyle Busch lost a tire in Turn 3 on Lap 105, spun and collected Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones.

Earnhardt was near the front at Talladega in May late in the race when he was forced to pit for a loose tire with less than 15 laps to go.

That leaves the 14-time most popular driver with just two more chances to win a restrictor-plate race, the format he’s earned 10 of his 26 Cup Series wins.

“They’ve got to find a way to give him a car where he can be aggressive Dale Jr.,” Jeff Burton said. “What makes him so good at Daytona and Talladega is that he doesn’t hesitate. He’s the guy setting the tempo, he’s the guy forcing the issue. … He can’t drive with caution, he can’t drive worried about if ‘is my car going to stick?’ He’s got to stick it in there and know it’s going to stick. He hasn’t had that the last several plate races.”

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Daytona

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NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway this weekend with the Cup and Xfinity Series.

Cup teams will compete in the Coke Zero 400, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBC and the Xfinity Series holds the Coca-Colca Firecracker 250, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Coke Zero 400

Forty cars are entered into the 17th race of the Cup season. That would make it the sixth race this year to have the most possible cars in the field.

Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back in the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Brendan Gaughan will drive the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ryan Sieg will drive the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing in his third start for the team.

Kurt Busch won the last trip to Daytona, leading only the last lap of the Daytona 500 after multiple leaders ran out of gas in the closing laps. Brad Keselowski won last year’s Coke Zero 400.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

There are 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this race, including four full-time Cup drivers. They are Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Joey Logano.

There is no driver announced for the No. 93 Chevrolet owned by RSS racing.

Ryan Reed won the February Xfinity race at Daytona after being involved in two crashes and leading nine laps. Aric Almirola won last year’s July race after a caution on the last lap forced NASCAR to review video and loop data and determined him the winner over Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch can afford to lose interim crew chief for Daytona

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Kyle Busch may have yet another view in his ear this weekend when he races in the Coke Zero 400.

Interim crew chief Ben Beshore may be suspended for the race after two unsecured lug nuts were found on the No. 18 Toyota after the Sonoma race.

The possible loss of Beshore comes after Busch’s usual crew chief, Adam Stevens, was suspended four races for a wheel falling off Busch’s car following a pit stop at Dover.

Daytona will be the fourth race of that suspension. NASCAR America’s analysts discussed the impact of the possible suspension for Busch, who is still looking for his first win since July of last year.

“They’re not making mistakes, they’re just finding themselves in difficult positions,” Dale Jarrett said. “This is certainly another one of those, going to a race track Kyle Busch can win at. But who you have on that pit box means a lot as for performing all through a race.”

Said Jeff Burton, “The frustration level is mounting, obviously. Kyle Busch is expecting to win races. … I think if you’re going to lose your crew chief, this is probably the race you want to lose it for. Going to Daytona, you pretty much have a plan going there. The pit strategy will be interesting with the stages, but if I was going to a race track, this would be the race I’d feel most comfortable without my crew chief.”

Watch the above video for the full segment.

Eddie Pardue named crew chief for Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 car

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The Circle Sport/The Motorsports Group announced that Eddie Pardue is the new crew chief on its No. 33 Chevrolet effective immediately.

Pardue, who was the team’s head of engineering, will lead the effort on Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s car this weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. This will be his first Cup race as a crew chief since 2008, when he led Greg Biffle in one race at Auto Club Speedway. He has three wins in 338 races as crew chief in the Xfinity Series dating back to 1998.

The former competition director for Red Horse Racing in the Camping World Truck Series, Pardue replaces Pay Tryson, who has been released from the team.

Tryson directed Boris Said at Sonoma Raceway, where he finished 29th. Earnhardt has been in the No. 33 in every other race. His best result in his first 15 starts was 26th in the Daytona 500.

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