Dustin Long: Based on performance at Auto Club Speedway, which had high tire wear, Jimmie Johnson wins this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has high tire wear. Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman dominated the weekend, so Hendrick Motorsports may have found something on tracks with high tire wear. Remember, Johnson was strong early in the first Darlington race before crashing less than a lap from winning the first stage.
Daniel McFadin: My gut says Kyle Busch, but I can’t help but think Jimmie Johnson is on the verge of his first victory since 2017. He’s fast, Kyle Busch is getting faster. Whoever can have a flawless race first will be in Victory Lane.
Jerry Bonkowski: I’m most surprised that defending Cup champ Kyle Busch has yet to win this season, with Truex another anomaly. I also thought Jimmie Johnson would finally break his winless streak by now — albeit he has shown some good signs — so I believe it will only be a period of time for that to happen.
NASCAR has had two midweek Cup races and has another scheduled June 10 at Martinsville, what are your thoughts on the concept?
Dustin Long: I liked the previous midweek races because of the shorter distances. That put a greater emphasis on running a mistake-free race. Last Sunday’s Bristol race featured some drivers recovering from penalties or issues to score top-10 finishes in a full-length race and that’s fine, but I also like to see a race where you can’t afford a mistake because there’s little time for recovery. I think the midweek races provide a change of pace that is good for the sport.
Daniel McFadin: Can it please not rain on June 10? For the most part I think the midweek races have been successful. Had rain and lightning not impacted both races, I can’t help but feel they’d have had bigger impacts. While the Martinsville race will be of normal length, shorter races ramp up tension and results in more exciting competition. I’m looking forward to June 10 … if it doesn’t rain.
Jerry Bonkowski: I’ve long advocated midweek, primetime races. I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. The key is to have midweek races only in major markets to minimize the losses that invariably would come from races in smaller markets. If the NFL can have Monday Night Football, why can’t we have Wednesday (or Thursday) Night NASCAR?
The Cup series has run nine of 36 races, meaning a quarter of the season is gone. What do you make of the season’s first quarter?
Dustin Long: The return of Hendrick Motorsports. Aided by the new Camaro, Hendrick cars have been fast and been in position to win a majority of the races this season. Other Chevy teams also are benefitting. Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing also have had some top-10 finishes. Chevy teams have bypassed the Toyota brigade, which dominated last year. But this is only the first quarter. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks.
Daniel McFadin: It’s been wildly unpredictable, especially the five Cup races since the break. While drivers have dominated individual races, Kevin Harvick‘s win at Darlington is the only one that seemed like a relatively runaway victory. The others have essentially seen each winner have the victory fall into their lap. It’s had a chaotic feel and given the world we’ve been living in since March, that’s appropriate.
Jerry Bonkowski: It has been a most unusual first quarter, for sure, what with the pandemic, the hiatus and return among other things. I’m surprised that Toyota has struggled, with only two wins to date (as has Chevrolet), while Ford has dominated with five wins, including two wins each from Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Defending champ Kyle Busch has also uncharacteristically struggled at times.