The pace car crashed before Sunday’s IndyCar race at Detroit. What’s a bizarre scene that stands out to you that you’ve seen in NASCAR?
Nate Ryan: It’s tough to top the runaway gigantic inflatable orange during Xfinity Series qualifying in 2004 at Chicagoland Speedway, which seemed straight out of a Roald Dahl book. But even more unforgettable might have been the disconcerting prerace ceremony Feb. 23, 2003 at Rockingham Speedway. With winds gusting at more than 40 mph, eight members of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Team still attempted to land on the frontstretch before the national anthem. Only three were successful, and the results were increasingly disastrous for others. One bounced off the top of the Cup garage; another just avoided getting impaled on a wrought-iron gate near the row of parked team haulers; and another was snared by an antenna mounted from an infield trailer. The worst was a jumper who landed hard on the asphalt behind the pit wall and required airlift transport to Charlotte for a leg injury (the other injuries were minor, thankfully).
Dustin Long: I’ll go with something more recent. Last year, an ambulance caused cars to jam on pit road during a caution and the damage ended Matt Kenseth’s race at Richmond last September. Kenseth entered the race in the final cutoff spot for the playoffs. The incident didn’t keep him out of the playoffs. Kenseth later tweeted a picture of him on a golf cart being blocked by an ambulance on the way out of the track, adding to the bizarre night. At least Kenseth was smiling in the picture.
Daniel McFadin: Four words: Montoya. Jet Dryer. Daytona. On second thought, I should just say the 2012 Daytona 500. What didn’t it have? An exploding jet dryer, Brad Keselowski tweeting from his car and then Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a foot race to a porta potty.
How many of the 16 playoff drivers do you think will have to earn their way in via points?
Nate Ryan: With Martin Truex Jr. making a bid to join the Kevin Harvick–Kyle Busch world domination tour, it feels as if there could be maybe four new winners this season over the next 12 races. So, at least six spots will be determined by points, which could make the season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway quite entertaining (particularly if the new aero package is used with success).
Dustin Long: Five.
Daniel McFadin: With only six drivers currently in the playoffs via wins and 12 races left in the regular season, I see about six drivers having to get it on points. But with the stranglehold Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have on the series right now, that could be conservative.
As the series heads into the summer stretch, give us a driver to keep an eye on.
Nate Ryan: Alex Bowman. He is just outside the points cutoff for the playoffs, is trying to assert himself with veterans whom he has said don’t show him enough deference and likely is feeling the most pressure among Hendrick Motorsports drivers to excel with a new Camaro that the team still is learning. The heat turns up figuratively and literally for drivers and teams during the schedule’s June-July-August slog, and it looms as make or break for Bowman’s season.
Dustin Long: I want to see how Alex Bowman does provided the Hendrick cars continue to improve and show signs of being more competitive.
Daniel McFadin: Jimmie Johnson. Though he notably led his first laps since last October on Sunday (during green flag pit stops), his eighth-place finish was his fifth top 10 in the last seven races. The 48 team could make some big strides as the second half of the season gets underway.