Dustin Long: Youth. The kids are coming.
Daniel McFadin: I expect the young guns to play more of a factor this weekend fighting for the win but with a veteran still coming out on top.
After making it another year — and getting through rain without weepers — is it time for Atlanta Motor Speedway to be repaved before next year?
Nate Ryan: A repaving should be considered, but the reasons is apart from the surface’s age or condition. While it’s rewarding to appreciate the strategic dance of a 500-mile race where every pit stop is critical, Atlanta has lacked for memorable finishes since Carl Edwards slammed past Jimmie Johnson in 2005. A repave might not be the full answer but maybe a reconfiguration also should be considered?
Dustin Long: The bottom line is what is best for the sport. Is it worth the risk of having track issues in the future by not repaving it? Is it better to wait to see if technology improves to make a repaved surface one that is racier than seen at many tracks?
Daniel McFadin: Go ahead and repave it. Atlanta’s first memorable photo finish between Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte came in 2000, three years after the reconfiguration/repave in 1997. If we want a return to those kind of races, it might be prudent to bite the bullet.
Jerry Bonkowski: This is a Catch-22 situation. Drivers like the “character” of AMS’ aging racing surface, which hasn’t been resurfaced for 21 years. At the same time, the track is in serious need of a resurfacing. A new surface would likely make the racing faster and obviously much smoother. It’s time.
What will you be watching for during the West Coast Swing?
Nate Ryan: If Hendrick Motorsports can shake off the malaise from Atlanta, and if the younger set can shine in races that don’t demand as much tire management.
Dustin Long: How well Stewart-Haas Racing runs. Aric Almirola nearly won the Daytona 500, and Kevin Harvick won at Atlanta. Will the SHR Fords be as strong in the next three weeks?
Daniel McFadin: I’m interested to see if Martin Truex Jr.’s dominance on 1.5-mile tracks can continue. He won this race last year and he finished fifth Sunday at Atlanta after starting from the back.
Jerry Bonkowski: To see drivers like Jimmie Johnson (35th place), Ty Dillon (34th) and Kasey Kahne (29th), who are off to a rough start after the first two races, bounce back, particularly Johnson, who does well at all three of the West Coast swing tracks (Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana).
How much of a concern is the air gun situation that took place at Atlanta?
Nate Ryan: It bears watching, but it’s reasonable to expect it’ll take several races to get the new equipment fully sorted. If this is still a discussion by the midpoint of the regular season, NASCAR has a major problem. And as Martin Truex Jr. alluded to Sunday, if it somehow were to impact a playoff race, then it’s a debacle.
Dustin Long: Anything new is going to have issues. That doesn’t placate teams impacted by the situation. If air gun issues continue, teams will be in an uproar. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks.
Daniel McFadin: I’m willing to wait it out a few more races, but teams should expect NASCAR-provided equipment to hold up longer.
Jerry Bonkowski: Four teams out of 36 that started Sunday’s race were impacted. Let’s give it another three to four races to see if the problems continue — and then leave it to NASCAR to fix any issues. It could be something simple as teams having difficulty adapting to the new air guns. Time will tell.