Dustin Long

Bump & Run: Biggest upsets in NASCAR

1 Comment

In light of UMBC’s upset of Virginia in the NCAA basketball tournament, what’s an upset in NASCAR that stands out to you?

Nate Ryan: David Gilliland in the Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway in 2006. That’s the closest approximation in modern-day NASCAR of what the Retrievers pulled off last Friday.

Dustin Long: David Gilliland’s Xfinity win at Kentucky in 2006 with a part-time and independent team. Remarkable upset that eventually led to a Cup ride.

Daniel McFadin: Front Row Motorsports’ two Cup wins, at Talladega in 2013 and Pocono in 2016. The first because David Ragan‘s surge to the lead on the final lap is the definition of “Where did he come from?” The second, because Chris Buescher earned his first Cup win via pit strategy and … fog.

Jerry Bonkowski: Actually, a two-part answer. First, when Trevor Bayne came out of nowhere and was pushed to the win in the 2011 Daytona 500 by Carl Edwards. And then there was the 1990 Daytona 500, when underdog Derrike Cope won.

What was something that stood out to you from the West Coast swing?

Nate Ryan: That the storylines from the end of last season (Toyotas, particularly Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, are fast; Kevin Harvick is a championship contender; Hendrick Motorsports still is searching) generally have remained intact.

Dustin Long: Overlooked was that Erik Jones was one of only three drivers (Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were the others) to score a top-10 finish in all three races.

Daniel McFadin: Joey Logano going from 16th to first in four laps in the Xfinity race on Saturday thanks to fresh tires. It’s the closest thing to a video game I’ve ever seen in real life.

Jerry Bonkowski: I thought for sure that we’d see more success from some of the young drivers. But when it came down to it, veterans won all three races. Sooner or later, the young drivers have to start making more of a name for themselves, guys like Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron and others. And by making a name for themselves, I mean winning.

What’s a special Martinsville memory you have?

Nate Ryan: John Andretti rallying from a lap down to win the first race I covered (and attended) there in April 1999. I was crossing the track in Turn 1 when Andretti drove the No. 43 right by into victory lane … with “The King” sitting on the driver’s window opening (to an enormous cheer from the crowd).

Dustin Long: John Andretti’s April 1999 win, which completed a weekend sweep for Petty Enterprises. Jimmy Hensley won the Truck race for the organization the day before Andretti’s victory. “It looked like the good old times,’’ Petty said in victory lane after riding in on the driver’s window opening of the No. 43 car.

Daniel McFadin: When I covered my first race there in the fall of 2014 as an intern for Sporting News. It turned out to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first and only win at the track and the only time I attended a race he won. He’s retired now so I can say he’s my favorite driver. I still have confetti from the celebration in a plastic bag. 

Jerry Bonkowski: This is more of a sad rather than special memory. I was at the fall race in 2004 when the Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed into nearby Bull Mountain, killing all onboard. We got word about halfway through the race that there had been an incident, and as we got closer to the end of the race, things became confirmed. I recall it as if it was yesterday, and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

Nate Ryan

Kevin Harvick. Just like Atlanta, he proves no one is better at tire management in Cup.

Dustin Long

Martin Truex Jr. swoops in and ends Kevin Harvick’s streak.

Daniel McFadin

I’m going with the hot hand. No, not Kevin Harvick. Kyle Larson, the winner of four consecutive races at 2-mile tracks.

Jerry Bonkowski

While I wanted to stay with Jimmie Johnson until he finally won a race, I’m going in a different direction and picking Kyle Larson to win this one.

Bump & Run: Is it time to eliminate inspection at R&D Center after races?


Should NASCAR inspect cars only at the track after a race and no longer do so at the R&D Center days later even though penalties can be found there?

Nate Ryan: Yes, NASCAR needs to find a way to make this happen. It’s worth the accompanying drawbacks and sacrifices.

Dustin Long: What’s the goal here? If NASCAR inspects only at the track and doesn’t do as comprehensive of an inspection as at the R&D Center, are officials all but encouraging teams to spend as much money as possible on certain things that don’t get inspected? Won’t that cause a greater difference between teams? Is that best for the sport? If that’s less a concern than announcing penalties three days later, go ahead and eliminate the R&D Center inspection.

Daniel McFadin: I’m split on this. The NASCAR community shouldn’t have to find out penalties three days after an event. But by doing the more in-depth inspections, teams learn just how far they can color outside NASCAR’s designated lines. It’s a necessary evil, but one that should be done much closer to the checkered flag.

Jerry Bonkowski: Yes. Inspections, and very thorough ones at that, should come immediately after the race. If there is an issue that needs further examination — and which could potentially lead to a penalty — only then should a vehicle be sent back to the R&D Center.

Do you believe social media influences NASCAR in terms of penalizing teams? Is that a concern?

Nate Ryan: The impact was mostly overstated after Harvick’s Las Vegas penalty; but you also can’t untether social media from the rise of technology that has changed the nature of policing races (i.e., rival teams would have ensured NASCAR sees potentially incriminating photos regardless of whether they were on Twitter). This is the 21st century world in which NASCAR finds itself. The ultimate answer is to find a way to do postrace inspection expeditiously and exclusively at track.

Dustin Long: Penalizing? No. Can social media flag potential infractions? Sure. Of course, teams are going to see what others are doing and someone is likely to make NASCAR aware of something that doesn’t seem right. In the end, NASCAR needs to penalize based on the rulebook, not on what is being said on social media. If it gets to that point, then just let the fans run the sport.

Daniel McFadin: I think it should be a concern, especially since most fans don’t know the extent to what is legal and illegal according to NASCAR’s rulebook. I honestly believe it’s possible Kevin Harvick‘s team would have been penalized following Las Vegas even if social media and Reddit hadn’t pulled out their Junior Detective kits. Harvick’s car was already going back to the R&D center. On the other hand, I don’t think Chase Elliott‘s team would have been penalized at Chicago last year if not for those same Internet sleuths.

Jerry Bonkowski: NASCAR shouldn’t and I believe doesn’t let outside influences like social media impact its decisions on whether or not to penalize teams for infractions. Let’s face it, if a team is wrong and if modifications to a car are outside of the rules, a penalty is a penalty, pure and simple. And that’s why teams are cited for infractions. It is interesting to see the reaction on social media both before and after penalties are meted out, but I believe NASCAR has enough integrity not to let fan comments, either pro or con, influence how it deals with infractions.

Other than Kevin Harvick’s dominance, what has stood out to you in the season’s first four races?

Nate Ryan: That Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing seem to have maintained last year’s pace (it’s just that Harvick has been slightly better).

Dustin Long: The relevance of the No. 10 car with Aric Almirola this season. Yes, Stewart-Haas Racing and Ford are strong, but Almirola has made an immediate impact with that team and organization. Remember, he nearly won the Daytona 500.

Daniel McFadin: Martin Truex Jr.‘s quiet consistency. He’s finished in the top five in the last three races and has placed in the top 10 in all but one stage through four races. Yet he’s only led 14 laps. Makes me wonder when the No. 78 team will start to show its muscle.

Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson‘s struggles. While he’s managed to move up to 26th place, that’s nowhere near where the seven-time champion should be. I sense that he and crew chief Chad Knaus have had difficulty adapting to the new Chevrolet Camaro, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen early-season struggles from the No. 48 team. All Johnson and Knaus need is one win, or maybe a top-five, and I believe they’ll be back on-track from that point on.

Staff picks for today’s Cup race at Phoenix

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
1 Comment

Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at ISM Raceway.

Nate Ryan

Kyle Larson holds off Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

Dustin Long

After several close calls, Chase Elliott gets his first career Cup victory.

Daniel McFadin

Alex Bowman wins his first career Cup race at his home track after coming close two years ago.

Jerry Bonkowski

I may sound like a broken record, but I’m going to stay with Jimmie Johnson. He has to win one of these days, and Sunday is as good a day as any, given the way his season has started out so disappointingly (29th in points)

Bump & Run: Who should give command to start engines?

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Who is one person you’d like to see give the command for a race?

Nate Ryan: Cale Yarborough

Dustin Long: Dave Marcis. Ranks fourth in all-time Cup starts with 883 and won five times. He embodies the spirit of a racer. Let him get those engines fired one time. #BringBackDave 

Jerry Bonkowski: Tony Stewart in his own inimitable way.

Daniel McFadin: Since 2007, I’ve firmly believed actor Kevin James should be NASCAR’s designated command to start engines person. 

Who is someone not in the NASCAR Hall of Fame that should be in it?

Nate Ryan: Smokey Yunick. Mechanics and crew chiefs were underrepresented in the first few years of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That mostly has been addressed since then (notably with Ray Evernham’s recent induction), but Yunick’s name has yet to appear on the ballot. He certainly is worthy of candidacy and should be enshrined some day

Dustin Long: Harold Brasington, founder of Darlington Raceway. He was a visionary who created NASCAR’s first big paved track nearly a decade before Daytona emerged and helped change the sport. That’s worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Jerry Bonkowski: Ricky Rudd. He was the longtime iron man of NASCAR, not to mention a winner of 23 races. He’s long overdue to be inducted.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with two men that deserve to go into the Hall of Fame together: Bob Jenkins and Dr. Jerry Punch. The election of Ken Squier has set the precedent for media members being selected. While Squier was the voice and narrator for a certain generation of NASCAR fans, Jenkins and Punch were more active and omnipresent with their ESPN and ABC coverage from the early ’80s to 2000. Outside the Daytona 500, Coke 600 and races on TNN, if you’re watching a highlight of a NASCAR race from that period, it’s likely being announced and reported on by Jenkins and Punch. Jenkins was even present in NASCAR video games in the late ’90s. For my generation, he was the voice of NASCAR in our formative years.

Who are you most worried about three races into the season?

Nate Ryan: Driving on a one-year deal and needing to produce results quickly, two crashes in three races is a tough start for Kurt Busch. Even though his teammate finished 15th at Las Vegas, AJ Allmendinger’s JTG Daugherty Racing ride has seemed well off the pace since a 10th in the Daytona 500.

Dustin Long: Clint Bowyer. Although it’s early and he’s 11th in points, he’s talked about he and the team needing to be consistent. Haven’t seen it yet. For him to match the success of teammate Kevin Harvick and be a contender to win races, that consistency needs to start happening.

Jerry Bonkowski: How can you not be worried about Jimmie Johnson, who is sitting in 29th place? Sure, he finished 12th at Las Vegas, but he needs a win — or at least a top-five — in the worst way.

Daniel McFadin: Any Chevrolet driver not named Kyle Larson. He was the only Chevy driver to finish in the top 10 in Las Vegas and one of three to finish in the top 15 at Atlanta. Like Toyota teams early last year, Chevy teams seem to be struggling to figure out the new Camaro body so far. Unless you’re the No. 42 team, which is keeping the same pace it had in Homestead in November.

Kyle Larson finished no worse than second in each race of last year’s West Coast swing and he started this tour with a third-place finish. How likely is he to score another top-five finish on West Coast swing.

Nate Ryan: The odds are good. He qualifies so well at Phoenix, and Fontana suits his style superbly.

Dustin Long: Count on it.

Jerry Bonkowski: He loves Phoenix and Fontana. Not only do I see him getting top fives at both places, he’s a good candidate to win both races, as well.

Daniel McFadin: Larson has won the last four races at 2-mile speedways and should be the favorite to win next week at Auto Club Speedway.