Bump & Run: Is it time to run Cup race on dirt?

3 Comments

What should happen next: A second race on dirt for the Trucks, a race on dirt for Xfinity, or a race on dirt for Cup?

Nate Ryan: A midweek race on dirt for Cup at Eldora Speedway. As track general manager Roger Slack explained last year, an interim step with Xfinity doesn’t make much sense. Cup cars would work at the short track, it’s just a matter of getting the logistics worked out and settling on a solid tire compound.

Dustin Long: Cup race on dirt. Everyone talks about making bold changes to the sport. Be bold.

Daniel McFadin: Xfinity on dirt. These kind of experiments shouldn’t skip a step on their way up to the premier series. The question is where do they race in order to keep Eldora its own thing?

Dan Beaver: A combination weekend with Xfinity and Cup. And the perfect place for it would be Virginia Motor Speedway – a half-mile clay track with modern amenities, grandstands that could actually hold enough fans to make it profitable.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. won a jukebox for winning at Kentucky. This weekend, the New Hampshire winner will collect a lobster. What is a trophy in racing (past or current) that ranks high on your list?

Nate Ryan: The Harley J. Earl Trophy is a mammoth and ornate representation of the winning significance of NASCAR’s marquee race. The timeless elegance of Martinsville Speedway’s grandfather clocks would be a close second.

Dustin Long: As an Indiana native, you can’t beat the Borg-Warner Trophy for the Indianapolis 500 winner, but I always liked the surfboard given to the winner at Auto Club Speedway.

Daniel McFadin: I have an affinity for the trophy given to winners at Bristol Motor Speedway. There’s nothing flashy about it and it would feel at home in Victory Lane in any decade of NASCAR history.

Dan Beaver: It’s hard to beat the grandfather clock from Martinsville – the iconic special trophy.

Of the seven remaining races before the playoffs, which one are you most intrigued to see what happens?

Nate Ryan: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though the action (or dearth of it) won’t necessarily be different as the Brickyard moves to the cutoff slot, it will be interesting to see how the myriad points battles unfold.

Dustin Long: Pocono. Pit strategy can play a key role there. Two of the last four races there have been won by drivers scoring their first career series win (Chris Buescher in 2016 and Ryan Blaney in 2017).

Daniel McFadin: Watkins Glen. It’s the race where strategy or absolute chaos could be instrumental in a new winner. I’m hoping for chaos.

Dan Beaver: It’s gotta be Bristol, baby! Only three races will remain until the playoffs and the entire field is going to be jacked up.

Bump & Run: Time to change the yellow line rule at Daytona, Talladega?

7 Comments

Should NASCAR eliminate the rule prohibiting drivers from going below the double yellow lines to advance their position on the last lap of a race at Daytona and Talladega?

Nate Ryan: Ideally, yes, but everyone knows what that would produce. Still, Ryan Newman‘s point is well taken that a racetrack with an out-of-bounds marker seems less legitimate. Would it be too much to ask (or too difficult to incorporate) for an inside wall with a SAFER barrier where the lines are at Daytona and Talladega? 

Dustin Long: No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. 

Daniel McFadin: While tempting, the rule is there for a reason, spelled out through this exhaustive Twitter thread. It’s out of bounds and drivers need to be mindful of boundaries. 

Dan Beaver: It doesn’t seem right to have a different set of rules for the final lap. If NASCAR is going to enforce the double-yellow line at all, they should be consistent throughout the race. But, perhaps the line doesn’t need to be a perfect arc through the corner and could give a little more room in the middle of the frontstretch.

Several drivers had season- or career-best finishes at Daytona. What was the best feel-good story for you among such drivers?

Nate Ryan: The scene around Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s car was unforgettable as the driver took selfies with an endless parade of family, friends and sponsor reps. With no definitive future plans for Earnhardt’s next Cup race, it’s natural to wonder if his 11th-place finish might have been the end of an era, too. 

Dustin Long: Ty Dillon’s sixth-place finish. It has been a rough year for Dillon and the Germain team. He had not been credited with a top-10 finish in 71 career starts before last weekend. He had an average finish of 25.4 this season before his Daytona run.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going to go with Matt DiBenedetto. The No. 32 Ford was in the top five very late in the Daytona 500 before getting taken out in a wreck. So seeing DiBenedetto surviving until the end this time around and finish seventh was a pleasant sight. With GoFas Racing, you never know if you’re going to get another shot at the front of the field.

Dan Beaver: It’s difficult to not go with the winner of the race since Erik Jones was such a dramatic story. Other than Jones, Jeffrey Earnhardt’s 11th-place finish is a great story because it almost put an Earnhardt back inside the top 10 on a track that has meant so much to the family.

After Erik Jones’ win at Daytona, how soon before the next win by a driver under age 30?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Larson always is a threat at Michigan and Bristol, and he possibly could factor into Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway. But with the way this season has unfolded, it feels as if it could be a while if he doesn’t break through.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson will win in the next month. Joey Logano might win even sooner.

Daniel McFadin: Either at Michigan or Bristol and it’ll probably be Kyle Larson. I just can’t imagine him going winless through the entire regular season.

Dan Beaver: Within the month, the new guard is going to start to chip away at the dominance of the Big 3. After Kentucky is in the books, look for youth to be served on the flat tracks of New Hampshire and Pocono.

Bump & Run: Our dream scenario for four-man race to Daytona checkers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you could bend time … regardless of eras, what four drivers would you like to see race for the win at Daytona?

Nate Ryan: Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. David Pearson and Richard Petty. When I think of winners in magical moments at Daytona, those are the four names that initially come to mind. The next question would be: Does the race happen with or without restrictor plates?

Dustin Long: Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mario Andretti. All Daytona 500 winners and among the greats in racing.

Daniel McFadin: Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 2004, Dale Earnhardt Sr. from 1991, Bill Elliott from 1988 and Brad Keselowski from today. Give them some IROC cars from 1999 and let them loose for 25 laps.

Dan Beaver: Richard Petty, David Pearson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. I’m not sure who would win, but it would certainly be spectacular.

What driver currently outside a playoff spot is one you think has the best chance to win Saturday’s race at Daytona (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC)?

Nate Ryan: Jamie McMurray. The two-time winner at Daytona always is a solid driver in plate races if he can avoid the wrecks and getting antsy in the draft.

Dustin Long: Ryan Newman. He’s won at Daytona before and his teammate, Austin Dillon, won the Daytona 500 in February. Richard Childress Racing could make it two in a row there.

Daniel McFadin: I think Paul Menard could be a sleeper. He’s finished in the top six in his last three Daytona starts. He and AJ Allmendinger are the only drivers who have finished in the top 10 in the last three Daytona races.

Dan Beaver: The defending winner of this race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has a knack for plate racing and could get into the playoffs this week.

What’s the wildest finish you’ve witnessed?

Nate Ryan: The Oct. 7, 2012 race at Talladega Superspeedway. Tony Stewart attempted to throw a block off Turn 4 on the last lap, and 25 cars wrecked a few hundred yards from the finish line in a massive storm of dirt, sheet metal and smoke

Dustin Long: The finish to the 2007 Daytona 500. It has Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin side-by-side to the checkered flag, cars crashing behind them, Clint Bowyer crossing the finish line on his roof and fire coming from the engine.

Daniel McFadin: In person: Last fall’s Martinsville race. Sure, the Chase Elliott/Denny Hamlin incident was all anyone remembers. But don’t forget the massive pile-up on the frontstretch coming to the checkered flag. Even though it’s a short track, that was out of character for Martinsville. From home: I already used the 2012 Watkins Glen race for an answer a few weeks ago, so I’m going with the Xfinity Series here. The bizarre finish at Iowa in 2011 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. lost his engine hundreds of feet from the checkered flag and was rammed from behind by teammate Carl Edwards, which pushed him across the finish line for the win.

Dan Beaver: I have to go with one of the greatest finishes from earlier in the week. Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch crashing as they crossed the finish line – and providing a photo finish in the process – has to be one of the best finishes ever.

Bump & Run: Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch or the field at Chicago?

2 Comments

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have combined to win all five of the races on 1.5-mile tracks this season. So who would you take this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile track: Harvick and Busch or the field?

Nate Ryan: Given that both also won at Chicagoland Speedway during the last stretch (2001-10) that this race was held in July, Busch and Harvick are the better bet.

Dustin Long: I’ll take the field. Someone has to stop Harvick and Busch at Chicago, right?

Daniel McFadin: The field. And by the field, I mean Martin Truex Jr. He finished second in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks in Kansas and Charlotte right before winning at Pocono. Momentum is on his side.

Dan Beaver: Dating back to last fall’s Texas race, Harvick has four wins, a second, and a fourth in seven races on 1.5-mile tracks. The only time he failed to finish that well was because of his blown tire at Charlotte. Go ahead and put the winner’s sticker on his car before the race begins.

Who wins first this year in Cup: Hendrick Motorsports or Chip Ganassi Racing?

Nate Ryan: Chip Ganaasi Racing, though the gap is closing. Kyle Larson still has the best chance of a breakthrough, but Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson are making gains, and they both have been good lately at Chicagoland Speedway. It still feels like Hendrick won’t make its leap until the playoffs (which has been its modus operandi the past couple of years).

Dustin Long: For all the progress Hendrick Motorsports has made, it’s still hard to think one of its cars will win before Kyle Larson does for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Daniel McFadin: My gut tells me Hendrick has a good chance to get the win in two weeks at Daytona, either with Chase Elliott or Alex Bowman. I’m waiting to see Kyle Larson produce more clean races like at Pocono. A win seems less likely for him until then. Jamie McMurray is always someone to look out for at restrictor-plate races, but he hasn’t placed better than 14th in the last nine visits to Daytona.

Dan Beaver: The question seems to boil down to whether Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott will win first. Since he has already found his way to Victory Lane and knows how to run a complete race, the nod has to go to Larson and Ganassi.

What are the odds that the Championship 4 at Miami will have Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.?

Nate Ryan: It could be close to 50-50 at this rate by the end of the regular season. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either: Playoff points are intended to justifiably reward regular-season performance.

Dustin Long: About 60 percent that those three make it to the championship race in Miami  Percentage goes up if they keep winning and collecting playoff points to insulate themselves from any issues in the postseason.

Daniel McFadin: Always in motion the future is, but it’s almost impossible for me to picture the Championship 4 without them. No one else seems to be able to mount a charge against them now. I’d put the odds at 80 percent.

Dan Beaver: 90%. They are going to continue to win races and rack up bonus points. It is unlikely that anyone else is going to emerge that is in the same ballpark, so the remainder of the field is going to have minimal bonus points. Harvick and Busch should cruise into the finale. It would take a couple of catastrophes in one round to eliminate Truex – but we’ve seen over and again that anything can happen in NASCAR.

Bump & Run: Will Kurt Busch be last driver to do Indy-Charlotte Double?

Getty Images
1 Comment

Kurt Busch was the last to do the Indy 500-Coke 600 Double in 2014. Will we see a driver run the Double again anytime soon? If so, who might that be?

Kyle Petty: For me, the bigger question is why? Why try it? It’s been done. By multiple drivers with various levels of success. John Andretti for me will always be “The Man” for being the first. Tony Stewart ranks because he truly had a shot at wins in both. Any driver now trying “The Double” could only hope to be a contender in one and a footnote in the other. Both series have upped their game, it would be tougher to win. I’m not saying someone won’t try, but once you’ve watched the same PR stunt three or four times … well, you know.

Nate Ryan: No.

Dustin Long: No. Cup car owners aren’t going to let one of their drivers run in the Indy 500 because so much is tied up in those drivers on the Cup side. Unless an IndyCar driver comes with money, they’re not going to get the chance to run the Coca-Cola 600 because of relative lack of performance from such drivers in NASCAR (Tony Stewart notwithstanding).

Daniel McFadin: Yes, and it will be Kyle Larson. Both he and owner Chip Ganassi have indicated they want it to happen. Someone just needs to cave and say “Let’s do it.”

Dan Beaver: Unless IndyCar moves the race into an earlier, less desirable slot no one is going to be able to do it. But if they do, Kyle Larson is the most obvious pick. His passion for racing in general will eventually get the best of him and get him to test those open wheelers.

Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman are among the drivers who have yet to win this season. Who is the next driver to win for the first time this season?

Kyle Petty: Erik Jones … Pocono! That’s just one of those tracks. We’ve seen it with Blaney, Hamlin when he first came into Cup and a few others. It’s so different from everything else that they run that someone with a good team (JGR) and a young driver with talent (Erik) can sneak up on the usual suspects!

Nate Ryan: Denny Hamlin. Though he hasn’t been as good at Pocono since the 2012 repave, he could break through Sunday or next weekend at Michigan given that Joe Gibbs Racing has turned the corner.

Dustin Long: Brad Keselowski. Fords will continue to dominate and Keselowski will get a win soon enough.

Daniel McFadin: Denny Hamlin. He has three top fives and one top 10 in the last five races and aside from the threat of speeding penalties, he is the only driver among those listed who has really managed to put together complete races in the last five events. 

Dan Beaver: Denny Hamlin stayed out of trouble last week at Charlotte and earned his fifth top five in the last six races there. Perhaps that means he is returning to predictability on tracks that have been kind to him in the past, so he not only gets the next win, it could happen this weekend at Pocono.

Chevrolet teams did not lead a lap in the Coca-Cola 600 but had four cars finish between fifth and 10th. How do you evaluate where Chevy is at the halfway point of the regular season?

Kyle Petty: For me at this point in the season, the Chevys have made gains but not enough to run as a group and consistently with the Fords and Toyotas. It’s a long season, and I’m sure we’ll see wins this year from Chevy drivers, but as a group, they are third best in class. 

Nate Ryan: Making steady gains but still short of being on the verge of consistently winning. There’s enough promise there to indicate the Camaro could be a factor in the playoffs.

Dustin Long: A step forward but still many steps to take to for Chevy to show it can beat the top Fords and Toyotas straight up.

Daniel McFadin: Since the 2017 regular-season finale, Chevy’s most consistent hope of winning a race has been Kyle Larson. But despite being a front-runner this year, Larson can’t seem to go from green flag to checkered flag without something going wrong. As of now, Chevrolet needs to hope its fortunes take a turn for the best in the second half of the season, like Toyota’s did last year with a new car model.

Dan Beaver: They’re not out of the woods yet, but it finally appeared that the Chevrolet drivers not only finished strong, but ran well as a group throughout the race. They will start to ease their way up the grid and challenge for victories, but it is difficult to imagine they will capture very many wins because Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will continue to dominate.