Next on the schedule is Dover, a place Jimmie Johnson has 11 wins and is the site of his last Cup victory (33 races ago). What does this weekend mean for Johnson?
Parker Kligerman: Personally, I feel he is as motivated as ever and that a win would be great for the entire HMS organization. But to be solid championship contenders, there will still be a lot of work to be done – no matter what happens at Dover.
Nate Ryan: It’s another opportunity for his team to find its footing. It represents a better than average chance than he’s had at winning in 2018, but it would be uncharacteristic for Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to enter one of their best tracks with outsized confidence or expectations based on past results.
Dustin Long: This is a chance to take a step forward, to build on what they’ve been doing this season. This is merely part of the process. This won’t solve every issue but has the potential to provide some momentum.
Daniel McFadin: It’s obviously his best shot at a win. Since his win there last June, Johnson has two top fives, in the fall Dover race and earlier this month at Bristol, where he also won last year. Late cautions at Richmond helped him finish sixth and Talladega is its own thing. Even if he does perform well at Dover, there’s no way of knowing if it’ll be a sign of things to come.
Dan Beaver: The No. 48 team is still a long way from contending for a win, but if Johnson can get a top five – only his second of the season – this should be counted as a step in the right direction. That would be his seventh top-15 in the last eight races.
This weekend is the final Dash 4 Cash event in the Xfinity Series. Cup drivers have not been allowed to compete in those races. Cup drivers also can’t compete in the Xfinity regular-season finale and playoff races. Should there be further reductions on Cup drivers in Xfinity races?
Parker Kligerman: At this point, how much more can we limit them without entirely banning them? That’s the real question here. I will say it has been more of an incentive to watch, and I enjoy the races more knowing we may see a winner like Ryan Preece, but I don’t know if there is any more room to limit them without saying they simply can’t.
Nate Ryan: It seems as if the reductions will happen naturally given the current trends, so it seems unnecessary to implement more restrictions.
Dustin Long: I’m leery of running Cup drivers out of all races because teams say it helps with acquiring sponsorship. I’m all for limiting the total number of Cup drivers in some Xfinity races as a further reduction down the road but not ready to ban them for every race.
Daniel McFadin: I’m for any restrictions that go toward an environment in which it’s not a big deal when a full-time Xfinity regular wins a race. Three through nine races is one better than this point last year, when the third full-timer didn’t win until the 14th race (William Byron at Iowa). I applaud NASCAR’s efforts, but there’s more that could be done.
Dan Beaver: It has been very refreshing to see the Xfinity only drivers compete. Giving them a chance to actually win races and stage bonus points makes their playoff more meaningful. Reducing the number of Cup drivers in a given race is not going to help with that, but it would be nice if NASCAR would make other “Free Zones” throughout the season – three or four races at a time, free from Cup drivers. That would also help with the developmental process for up-and-coming drivers.
Parker Kligerman: Brad Keselowski. The Penske cars are looking great and I think Brad is operating at a high level with a lot of motivation right now.
Nate Ryan: Denny Hamlin has yet to win at Dover or Charlotte, but he could break through at either this month — possibly even Sunday at the track he once dreaded. If not there, Kansas and Charlotte will present major opportunities.
Dustin Long: Kyle Larson is the one I’m keeping my eye on in the next few weeks.
Daniel McFadin: If Bristol was any indication, if Kyle Larson can finally put together a clean race, he’ll be the person to watch out for at Dover.
Dan Beaver: Team Penske has been on the cusp of winning all season and now that Joey Logano has shown the way, Brad Keselowski will soon follow. His second-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway made him best in class after Kevin Harvick’s dominance. The No. 2 team was only about one adjustment away from winning at Auto Club Speedway.