Bump & Run: Will youth or experience be served on West Coast Swing?

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Youth was served in the Daytona 500 with Austin Dillon’s win and experience was rewarded in Atlanta with Kevin Harvick’s victory. Who you going with at Las Vegas? Youth or experience?

Nate Ryan: A mix of both. Last season, Martin Truex Jr. won ahead of Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Expect a similar blend of the generations Sunday.

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.

Jerry Bonkowski: Experience. I look for guys like Jimmie Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Atlanta winner Kevin Harvick as being the most likely drivers to win in Sin City.

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.

NASCAR America: Better equipment, skilled drivers changed road racing

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The Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is the first of three road course races on the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and the preparation involved in setting up these cars is much greater today than it has been in the past, according to NASCAR America analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett.

“I think the same emphasis is put in those two road course races and the cars that will be in those races,” Earnhardt said. “And now the Roval that will be at Charlotte – being a very important race in the playoffs – these road course racers are even more important.”

Man and machine need to be equal to the challenge.

“Not only is the emphasis more on the drivers to prepare and learn how to become road course racers, but there is a lot more emphasis on the cars too,” Earnhardt said. “All the cars are so much more similar and there is a lot more dedication to preparing the cars for these particular races. It’s almost like there is as much effort into putting a good road course car on the track as there is speedway cars – like Daytona and Talladega cars.”

Even the best driver cannot compete in equipment that is not up to the challenge and it took some outside expertise to raise NASCAR to the level of other marquee road racing series mechanically. Car owners like Jack Roush and road ringers like Boris Said contributed to the evolution of the racing discipline.

“The cars are so much better now than when we started,” Dale Jarrett said. “Whenever I got started in the Cup series fulltime in ’87, there were a couple of good road racers – and I think of Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace … but Jack Roush brought something totally new into the sport a little later in the 80s and early 90s. … Their equipment was a little bit better because they understood road racing a little more. Now everybody has all that.”

Jarrett recalled what he believes might be one of the biggest upsets of his career. He won the pole for the 2001 Global Crossing at the Glen because he received a tip from Said, who told him he was not getting deep enough into the corners because his brakes were not good enough.

“You talk about road course ringers: Boris Said and Ron Fellows and some other guys coming in,” Jarrett said. “One of the things that helped them, they were better because they did it all the time, but they also would tell the teams they were going to drive for, ‘hey, there’s a lot better braking and other things out there that you can do.’ They came in and they had better equipment, which made them look even that much better than what we were.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett preview upcoming races

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Dale Earnhardt Jr. making his weekly appearance on the show.

Krista Voda hosts with Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett from the Big Oak Table in Charlotte.

On today’s show:

· Not long ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. bragged about his ability to remember who he’s beaten for wins in past races. In this episode, we’ll test his memory in a trivia game called “Who Did Junior Pass For The Win?” We’ll be taking your questions for Junior throughout the show. Just send it on social media with the hashtag #Wednesdale.

· Sonoma begins a critical summer stretch for the Monster Energy Cup Series. With Chicagoland, Daytona, Kentucky and New Hampshire on the horizon, teams will be challenged and playoff hopes will rise and fall. Dale Jr. & Dale Jarrett preview the upcoming races.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones at Sonoma

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Three Cup drivers will reach career start milestones when the series visits Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

Ryan Newman leads the way with his 600th Cup start.

The Richard Childress Racing driver will become the 28th driver to reach the mark. His first start came on Nov. 5, 2000 at ISM Raceway with Team Penske.

Newman is one of four remaining active Cup drivers, including Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Derrike Cope, who competed against Dale Earnhardt in a Cup points race. Only Newman and Busch compete full-time.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will make his 450th start. He will become the 52nd driver to reach that mark.

Hamlin’s first start came on Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway. All of his starts have been with JGR.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will make his 200th career start. He will be the 132nd driver to reach that mark.

Stenhouse’s first start came in the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 with Wood Brothers Racing when he substituted for Trevor Bayne, who was out due to illness. Every other start has been with Roush Fenway Racing.

The last race at Michigan International Speedway saw AJ Allmendinger make his 350th Cup start. 71 drivers have reached that mark.

How much does starting position matter at Sonoma?

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Do you need to qualify on the pole, the front row or the even the top five to better your chances of winning a NASCAR race?

On a typical race weekend one would think that’s the case. Through 15 races this season, the winner has started in the top five eight times. Only four winners started 10th or worse.

But this isn’t a typical race weekend as the Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for its first road course race of the season.

The series has held 29 races at the road course since 1989. In those 29 races, the winner started from the pole five times (17.2 percent).

That makes it the most prolific starting position at the track in terms of wins.

But a winner hasn’t come from the pole since 2004 when Jeff Gordon did it for a track-best third time.

The driver starting second has won three times, the last occurring in 2010 with Jimmie Johnson. Since that race, only one Sonoma winner – Carl Edwards (fourth) in 2014 – has started in the top five.

In the 13 races since Gordon last won from the pole, the race winner started in the top five three times.

The last three races saw the winner start 11th (Kyle Busch), 10th (Tony Stewart) and 12th (Kevin Harvick).

In contrast, the 14 races from 1992-2005 saw every race winner came from inside the top 10 and 11 from the top five.

What’s changed? Road course racing became much more aggressive with the transition to double fire restarts in 2009. The introduction of stage racing last year added another wrinkle to a type of racing that already saw aggressive pit strategy.

But Sonoma isn’t too kind to drivers starting in the back half of the field.

The deepest in the field that a race winner has started is 32nd, when Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2007. Only one other time has the winner come from outside the top 15, when Kyle Busch started 30th and won in 2008.