NBC Sports Staff

Bump and Run: Should Cup race on the Indy road course?

Leave a comment

Should the Cup Series remain on the oval at Indy or should it move to the road course like Xfinity did this weekend?

Dustin Long: I’d rather see what the Next Gen car could do on the oval before abandoning that for the the road course. Stay on the oval for now.

Daniel McFadin: I’m firmly in the #MoreRoadCourses camp and Cup should give Indy’s a shot. It doesn’t need to replace the oval race, but Saturday’s Xfinity race was more memorable than any Brickyard 400 in my memory.

Jerry Bonkowski: Both. I think NASCAR should hold a weekend doubleheader at Indy next season (and beyond), with a road course race on Saturday and oval race on Sunday. For even added measure, switch them around for every other subsequent year.

Chase Briscoe said before the season started he felt he needed at least 8 Xfinity wins to move up to Cup. He now has five victories through 13 races. How many wins will he get this year?

Dustin Long: Twelve.

Daniel McFadin: I had my doubts Briscoe could get to eight wins, mostly because he’d never had more than one win in his previous two Xfinity seasons. But he arguably should be at six wins. I think he’ll at least get to nine wins.

Jerry Bonkowski: I can see him winning nine races at least … and maybe as many as 12. He is definitely on a roll and no one else is even close to him, not just in wins but overall performance.

Kyle Busch has one win in the last 38 Cup races. Does he win in any of the next four points races (Kentucky, Texas, Kansas and New Hampshire)?

Dustin Long: No. Team hasn’t shown elite level speed to contend for wins. He’s led 130 laps this season and 100 of those laps came at Bristol. Can’t lead, can’t win.

Daniel McFadin: I think he wins one of them. If he doesn’t, then his team will be on red alert when teammate Denny Hamlin is on a roll right now.

Jerry Bonkowski: I think Texas offers him the best opportunity to win at in the next four tracks. He’s won there three times there in his Cup career (he’s also won three times at New Hampshire, which would be my secondary choice for Busch). There’s just something about Texas that seems to bring out the best in Busch and the No. 18.

Power Rankings after Pocono: Denny Hamlin a unanimous No. 1

Leave a comment

Denny Hamlin not only won Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono, he also knocked Ryan Blaney off the top spot for this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Hamlin was a unanimous selection of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers for No. 1 in this week’s rankings.

Kevin Harvick, who finished 1st-2nd in the two Pocono races (while Hamlin finished 2nd-1ast), was the biggest gainer, going from unranked last week to a unanimous pick for No. 2 this week. The biggest drop was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who went from third last week to unranked this week.

Here’s how this week’s rankings look:

1. Denny Hamlin (30 points): Keeps getting stronger. First four-time winner of the season. Could this be the year he finally wins his first Cup championship? Last week: second.

2. Kevin Harvick (27 points): Came so close to making it a weekend sweep. Has 3 wins, eight top five and 12 top-10 finishes in first 15 races. Has finished outside the top 15 only once this season. Last week: unranked.

3. Aric Almirola (23 points): Four consecutive top fives – his only top fives this season and the best streak of his career – has Almirola back on track after earlier struggles. Last week: fourth (tied).

4. Chase Elliott (15 points): Has four top 10s in the last six races. Last week: seventh.

5. Brad Keselowski (14 points): Since NASCAR returned from the COVID-19 hiatus, Keselowski has two wins and just three finishes outside the top 10 in 11 races. Last week: eighth (tied).

6. Ryan Blaney (13 points): Had an off weekend (best finish was 12th on Saturday) after his win at Talladega. His Pocono finishes snapped a streak of six top-five finishes in his previous seven starts. Last week: first.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (12 points): Has four top 10s, including a win, in the last six races. Last week: unranked.

8. Chase Briscoe (9 points): Has been strong in the Xfinity Series this season, leading the way with four wins – including Sunday at Pocono. Last week: unranked.

9. Erik Jones (8 points): Sunday’s season-best third-place finish – his second top five in the last three races – was a big turnaround from wrecking out Saturday. Last week: 10th (tied).

(tie) 10. Clint Bowyer (6 points): Earned pair of top-10 finishes at Pocono, first back-to-back top 10s this season. Can he keep the momentum going at Indianapolis, where he’s had back-to-back fifth-place finishes the last two years? Last week: unranked.

(tie) 10. Alex Bowman (6 points): Earned third top 10 in last five races. Last week: 4th (tied).

Others receiving votes: Matt DiBenedetto (1 point), Brandon Jones (1 point).

Jimmie Johnson will test with Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar team July 8 at IMS

Leave a comment

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced Monday that he would test with Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team. Team owner Chip Ganassi later confirmed in a tweet that the test will take place July 8 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

A Chip Ganassi Racing spokesman said the team is allowed a test session for Johnson in one of its Dallara-Hondas under IndyCar rules that permit driver evaluation tests.

Johnson will be racing Sunday on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in The Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 (4 p.m. ET, NBC), a day after the track’s road course plays host to the NTT IndyCar Series’ IndyCar GMR Grand Prix (noon ET, NBC) and the Pennzoil 150 Xfinity Series race (3 p.m. ET, NBC) at the Brickyard.

For more on this story, go here.

Bump and Run: Should NASCAR’s future have more doubleheaders?

1 Comment

What did you think of the Cup doubleheader weekend at Pocono and is that something that should be continued in 2021?

Dustin Long: It was a nice touch but let’s not go crazy with it. Remember how exciting it was when there was a rare night race? Then many more were added and the luster faded. Don’t go crazy with doubleheaders. And it’s not needed at a short track or superspeedway.

Daniel McFadin: Except for the weather delays, I thought it was great. It puts more pressure on teams and with the invert for the second race, creates the possibility for more chaos. Doubleheaders should definitely be a staple of the schedule next year.

Jerry Bonkowski: Can you just imagine a twinbill weekend at places like Bristol or Daytona? Plus, there’s one other benefit that many may not have considered: Given complaints over the years about the length of the NASCAR Cup schedule, this would be a great way to shorten the length of a season, or at the very least, allow for more off-weekends in the season than there are now. I’d love to see 3-4 doubleheader weekends in 2021

 

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin each won a Pocono race this past weekend and finished second in the other race. Since Pocono has some similarities to Indianapolis, site of this weekend’s Cup race, will you take Harvick and Hamlin or the field at Indy?

Dustin Long: I’ll take the field.

Daniel McFadin: With Kevin Harvick being the defending winner, I think he’s the favorite. But Denny Hamlin has finished in the top six in five of the last six visits to Indy, so he’s a clear threat to get his first Brickyard win.

Jerry Bonkowski: Denny Hamlin is having a great year, perhaps headed to his best season. If he is to finally win that elusive first Cup championship, a strong run at Indy will help. It seems he and his team are hitting on all cylinders more than any other team right now, which makes him the favorite Sunday at the Brickyard.

 

 

The Xfinity Series races Saturday on the road course at Indy. Austin Cindric won two road course races last year, finished second in another and third in the other. Will you take Cindric or the field, which includes AJ Allmendinger, at Indy?

Dustin Long: You can have the field. I’m taking Austin Cindric. Team Penske driver will win the first Xfinity race on the road course at the track Roger Penske now owns.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll take the field, namely AJ Allmendinger, just because of his experience. While Xfinity teams will get practice, it’s still everyone’s first time on the road course. In this kind of scenario, I put more value on a veteran.

Jerry Bonkowski: There’s no denying Austin Cindric’s success and talent on road courses. But in a head-to-head battle with AJ Allmendinger – or the rest of the Xfinity field, for that matter – I’ve still got to go with the Dinger. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see an Allmendinger-Cindric 1-2 finish at Indy.

 

Chevrolet is winless in the last seven Cup races. How much of a concern should that be?

Dustin Long: Chevy’s lack of wins lately is unsettling. Also worrisome is that Chevy is not leading many laps. Since 2015, Chevy has one win each at Indy and Kentucky, the next two tracks on the circuit. This drought could last longer.

Daniel McFadin: Chevrolet should be concerned. A Chevy driver wasn’t part of the conversation at the end of either Pocono race, Atlanta, or Martinsville. Chevy takes its winless streak to Indy, where its only win in the last five races, in 2017, was the product of chaotic overtime restarts. Chevy needs a convincing win soon.

Jerry Bonkowski: It’s just in a little downturn currently. Chevy will be back soon enough. I’m not concerned at all.

Power Rankings after Talladega: Ryan Blaney unanimous No. 1

3 Comments

After a weekend of racing at Talladega Superspeedway, NBC Sports’ NASCAR Power Rankings look like it went through the spin cycle.

While Ryan Blaney is the unanimous No. 1 following his win in Monday’s Cup race, 18 drivers received votes this week and there were four ties.

Drivers who received votes last week who didn’t this week include: Kyle Busch, Harrison Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon.

Here is this week’s power rankings:

1. Ryan Blaney (30 points): Blaney is no longer the winless outsider at Team Penske this year. He edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the victory and his seventh top-five finish in the last eight races. Last week: Tied for first

2). Denny Hamlin (27 points): Hamlin followed up his Miami win with a fourth-place finish after he had to rebound from going a lap down early due to a cut tire. Has three top fives in the last four races. Last week: Fourth

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (14 points): Earned a stage win and scored his third top-five finish of the season. He already has three times as many top-five finishes this season as he did last year. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 4. Alex Bowman (12 points): Finished second in Stage 1, led 12 laps and placed seventh for his second top 10 in three races. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 4. Aric Almirola: (12 points): His rear bumper crossed the finish line first, but that didn’t keep him from finishing third for his second consecutive top five. He is also tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the most consecutive top 10s at Talladega with eight. Last week: Unranked

6. Kurt Busch (10 points): Wasn’t a frontrunner Monday, but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished ninth for his ninth top-10 finish in the last 11 races. Last week: Unranked

7. Chase Elliott (8 points): A poor finish on a superspeedway can’t take away that he’s had five top 10s, including a win, in the last seven races. Last week: Tied for first

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (7 points): Led 33 laps as part of the Team Penske convoy Monday and finished in the top 10 in the opening two stages. Has led 393 laps over the last nine races, but he has only four top 10s in that time. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 8. Brad Keselowski (7 points): Placed in the top 10 in the first two stages before finishing 19th, which snapped a top-10 streak of seven races. Last week: Third

(tie) 10. AJ Allmendinger (6 points): He finished seventh Saturday in the Xfinity race after being part of the Kaulig Racing effort on the last lap that pushed Justin Haley to his first series win. Over his last three races he’s started in the rear each time and won at Atlanta, finished fourth at Miami to claim the Dash 4 Cash bonus and earned a top 10 at Talladega. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 10. Chris Buescher (6 points): Placed sixth for his third top-10 finish of the season. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 10. Erik Jones (6 points): Earned his third top-five finish of the year, all of which have come since NASCAR’s return on May 17. Last week: Unranked

Also receiving votes: Martin Truex Jr. (5 points), Tyler Reddick (4 points), Kevin Harvick (4 points), Justin Haley (4 points), William Byron (2 points) and John Hunter Nemechek (1 point)