Dustin Long

Bump and Run: Hamlin or Harvick at New Hampshire?

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Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have combined to win four of the last five Cup races at New Hampshire. Which one would you take for Sunday’s race there?

Dustin Long: Denny Hamlin. He will gain his revenge for coming up just short in his battle with Kevin Harvick for the win last year at New Hampshire

Daniel McFadin: I’ll take Harvick. He’s been more consistent over the last few weeks and he’s won the last two races at NHMS.

Dustin: True but I’m looking for Hamlin to buck a trend. Three times he’s followed a win by finishing outside the top 10. I think he breaks that trend this weekend.

Daniel: Kevin Harvick’s never heard of a non-top 10 finish.

 

More: Cup races fan will be able to attend

 

The races at the Daytona road course and the Daytona oval are among the final seven races in the regular season for the Cup series. Which Daytona race will be more of a wild card?

Daniel: The one that takes place on a track NASCAR’s never competed on, the road course. Remember all the concern over Turn 1 on the Charlotte Roval two years ago? Well, at least they got to practice then.

Dustin: That’s what simulators are for. The wild card race will be the Daytona oval event. Regular-season finale. Last chance for some to make the playoffs. Desperation. Yes, it has all the ingredients for a wild card race.

Daniel: Everybody in the field and their mother has had their fair share of superspeedway races. While some drivers have tried out the road course before, they never have in a Cup/Xfinity/Truck vehicle. That first lap at speed will be wild.

Dustin: Just as wild as those final laps on the oval.

 

NASCAR sets the starting lineup by a random draw. A series official recently said that there could be some change once the playoffs begin. How should the starting lineup be set for the playoffs?

Dustin: Inversion from the previous race. Invert the top 20, maybe even the top 25. You don’t perform the race before, you don’t get a good starting spot. Simple. No reliance on the luck of a random draw. Adds a performance element. That should be a part of the playoffs. Don’t give playoff teams the right to the best starting spots. Let them earn it.

Daniel: This is reasonable to me. Almost too reasonable.

Bump and Run: Practice at Daytona road course, driver graduations

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NASCAR does not plan to have any practice before next month’s Cup race on the Daytona road course. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are lobbying for some practice time. Is it needed? (Note: NASCAR announced Tuesday afternoon there would be no qualifying or practice the rest of the season in any of its national series)

Dustin Long: This is a case of what’s best for the fans and what’s best for the teams. Denny Hamlin raises a valid point by questioning what the race might be like since it is a new course — and could possibly have an added chicane to slow the cars — and most drivers have not run on the configuration. However, the cost to prepare a second car for this event in case the primary car is wrecked in practice or qualifying is not something teams want. They voted against having a practice session. Still, this seems like a time when practice would be good. I like Hamlin’s idea of practice without a backup car and if you wreck in a short practice session, you finish last in the race. 

Daniel McFadin: I feel it’s needed. This is a course that no NASCAR vehicle, Cup, Xfinity or Truck has been on. Holding the Cup race without any sort of on-track prep makes the race more dangerous. This isn’t like lining up at Darlington or other tracks and dropping the green. NASCAR should want to send its top drivers into the safest possible scenario. You don’t want a historic race to be a fiasco because team owners didn’t want to spend the money on one-time costs. If anything, Hamlin’s idea about a team being scored as finishing last if they wreck in practice has merit to it. 

Dustin: For a different viewpoint, check out what Brian Murphy, a fabricator at Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about building backup cars and the impact on teams and crews …  

 

 

Brad Keselowski advocates a system where drivers could graduate to Cup and be removed from Cup if they’re involved in too many on-track issues. What are your thoughts on this concept?

Dustin: Clint Bowyer had a good take on this. He said if a sanctioning body does well with preparing drivers up the series ladder, then it shouldn’t have to worry about removing them because of numerous on-track issues. Is that realistic when money can buy rides? Maybe not but it’s a goal for any top motorsports sanctioning body.

Daniel: I think a graduation/demotion system would be too complicated and unrealistic given the business structure of the sport. But NASCAR needs to take a hard look at how it approves drivers for the Cup Series. When testing is basically banned, the minimum needs to be bolstered. Should someone with 10 Xfinity starts and only two lead-lap finishes, like Quin Houff at the end of 2018, be given the OK to go Cup racing? I wouldn’t be in a rush to give my stamp of approval if I were NASCAR.

Dustin: If there ever was a graduation format, what track should host the “ceremony” and what would it be like?

Daniel: Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage already has a graduation outfit tucked away in his closet for the occasion from his many high school graduation ceremonies for young drivers. I’d expect plenty of pyro and an embarrassing montage on Big Hoss.

Dustin: Who would be the special guest? Got to have a special guest for this event, right?

Daniel: Actor Jim Rash, who portrayed the … eccentric Dean Craig Pelton on the cult classic NBC sitcom “Community,” about a wacky community college and the misfit students who attended it. 

 

The past two weeks have seen drivers who were outside a playoff spot win to secure a postseason position. If the streak continues Thursday at Kansas, who would you think is the best candidate to shake things up?

Daniel: Tyler Reddick is the easy pick for me here. He’s coming off a second-place finish at Texas which is his second career top five, tying him with Cole Custer. One of Reddick’s two Cup starts last year was at Kansas, where he placed ninth after benefitting from pit strategy.

Dustin: You took the easy pick Daniel. I’ll take the best pick. Erik Jones. Yes, this hasn’t been a memorable season for him but he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four Kansas races. 

Daniel: Hopefully Jones’ sixth-place showing at Texas is a sign of things to come. It’s been his only top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track this season.

Dustin: No better time than now to turn things around for Jones.

Bump and Run: All-Star Race picks, surprising wins, and more

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Who will have a more wrecked winning car — Erik Jones, who was listed as being involved in three accidents on the way to winning the non-points Busch Clash in February, or the winner of Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol?

Dustin Long: Erik Jones’ car. Might not be by much.

Daniel McFadin: Erik Jones. It would take a lot for someone to make it to the end of the All-Star Race with more damage than that and win … unless that damage came on the last lap.

Jerry Bonkowski: The winner of the All-Star Race. With $1 million on the line, it’s unlikely any car will get through the race without some damage. The driver with the least damage wins, period.

 

Who is your pick to win the All-Star Race?

Dustin Long: Joey Logano. He isn’t afraid to beat and bang. This could be his race.

Daniel McFadin: Jimmie Johnson. He’s pissed off, has been fast and was a frontrunner at Bristol back in May.

Jerry Bonkowski: Kurt Busch. I’m going to go with a guy who knows his way around Bristol quite well and who has had a great deal of success there.

 

What do you put the chances that Jimmie Johnson makes the playoffs?

Dustin Long: 85%. He’s already been disqualified from one race, losing all but one point from that event, and missed Indy, and is still in a playoff spot. It might not be comfortable for his fans, but I don’t think they should sweat it too much.

Daniel McFadin: 90%. He’s been too fast to not make the playoffs in some form.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’m convinced Johnson will make the playoffs, but his success and consistency needs a big jump upward, lest JJ is eliminated at the end of the first round.

 

Cole Custer’s win was surprising. So what’s the most surprising NASCAR win since you’ve seen since following the sport?

Dustin Long: The one that comes to mind immediately is James Buescher’s 2012 Xfinity Series win at Daytona. He was 11th entering the final corner. He won when the top 10 cars wrecked. It was his first NASCAR win and only Xfinity Series victory.

Daniel McFadin: If not Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win, it would be Chase Elliott‘s Roval win last year. He drove nose first into a tire barrier, came back and won. It was shocking to say the least.

Jerry Bonkowski: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win in the summer race at Daytona in July 2001, less than five months after his father was killed in the Daytona 500. That was one of the most surprising and emotional wins in any sport I’ve covered in my career.

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

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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.

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

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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.