Would NASCAR’s throwback weekend be better suited for another track with Darlington Raceway hosting the opening race of the Cup playoffs next year?
Nate Ryan — Darlington Raceway should keep the weekend because of the equity it’s built and the track’s historic legacy, but it will pose some interesting situations in 2020.
There will be a Playoff Media Day ahead of the race weekend, and that naturally will drive some of the storylines justifiably away from the dominant throwback themes of the past five years. While celebrating the past will remain important, it’s natural to have more focus on the now because the Southern 500 will shape the championship field more than ever.
It’s also worth pondering if playoff teams will be as heavily invested in the throwback schemes; it’s understandable if they’d want to temper their approach to avoid distractions. Conversely, this could be the best opportunity at relevance that would have been unavailable in the previous 16 openers to teams outside the title hunt. It’ll be intriguing to monitor how NASCAR and the track handle the weekend.
Dustin Long — No. Next question.
Daniel McFadin — NASCAR and Darlington have the throwback weekend down to a science, and it resulted in a sellout on Sunday. There’s no reason to fix what isn’t broke. Though if I had any real sway, I’d probably make Darlington and the throwback weekend NASCAR’s season finale.
Jerry Bonkowski — No, no, an absolute emphatic no. There is no reason to mess with this. Darlington is the perfect venue for the throwback weekend. If the other tracks are jealous because of the success Darlington has received, oh well, them’s the breaks. Kudos to Darlington for having the initiative and foresight to come up with the idea and making it the success it has become – and will continue to become even more in the future.
Which drivers take the final two Cup playoff spots this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
Dustin Long — Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez.
Daniel McFadin — I’m going with Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson.
Jerry Bonkowski — Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez. As much as I would love to see him make the playoffs, I think Jimmie Johnson will ultimately come up short – unless he can win at Indianapolis. But given how his season has gone, it would take a near miracle for Johnson to do so. And as for Ryan Newman, I predict he ends up maybe a couple of points shy of qualifying for the playoffs.
Matt DiBenedetto scored his fifth top-10 finish in the last eight races. With Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer candidates to move up to Cup next year, and Ross Chastain also a candidate for a stronger Cup ride with DiBenedetto, are there enough seats to accommodate all five of these drivers in Cup next year?
Nate Ryan — There are enough seats for all five to be in Cup, and I think it’s better than 50-50 that all five will be racing in NASCAR’s premier series. Bell, Custer and Reddick seem like locks. I think DiBenedetto and Chastain will have offers, it’ll just depend on the strength of the teams if they take them.
Dustin Long — There are seats but the question is how competitive they might be.
Daniel McFadin — Are there enough rides? Sure. Are there enough competitive rides? Given the current landscape of the Cup Series, I’m not sure. Bell, Reddick and Custer would make for an entertaining rookie class with a natural rivalry — if they’re in good equipment. Should Chastain claim the Truck championship, he’d vault himself up into the top two among these group of drivers in my eyes. DiBenedetto has done a lot over the last few weeks. But he lacks what the other four drivers have — multiple NASCAR wins.
Jerry Bonkowski — That’s the big question. However, let’s look at things from the opposite perspective. If DiBenedetto can’t get a Cup ride for 2020 because Bell, Reddick and Custer will be going up to NASCAR’s big leagues, in turn there should be several very good Xfinity rides available for next season. And also given that there will likely be several Cup drivers retiring in the next two to three years, not to mention others potentially switching teams during that same time period, the 28-year-old DiBenedetto may have to take one step back to eventually go two steps forward.