How would you fix qualifying?
Nate Ryan: Single-car sessions for all tracks longer than 1.5 miles. If necessary, make qualifying the last thing on Saturday or Sunday morning prerace to allow for impounding and keeping teams in race setups.
Dustin Long: What’s the purpose of qualifying? Is it about entertainment or competition? If it’s about entertainment, keep group qualifying everywhere and cut the time to maybe three minutes per round to limit how much the cars park on pit road. If it’s about competition, then eliminate group qualifying and go back to single-car runs.
Jerry Bonkowski: Simple: Depending upon whether a track is wide (i.e., Fontana) or narrow (Martinsville, Indianapolis), I think NASCAR should put only two cars (at narrow tracks) or three cars (at wider tracks) out on the track at the same time to make qualifying efforts of just one lap (after a warm-up lap). No more waiting around or playing games on pit road. Force the cars to go out and lay down their best speed/time when they’re scheduled to do so. Like I said, it’s simple.
Daniel McFadin: On tracks longer than 1.5-miles I would line cars up on pit road in single file and send them out in 15-second intervals to avoid creating a draft.
Prior to Denny Hamlin’s victory Sunday, has the Daytona 500 winner been unjustly overlooked for having the best start to a season during his 14-year Cup career?
Nate Ryan: Yes, there probably were few who realized he was second in points before Texas. Though teammate Kyle Busch has been faster, Hamlin’s consistency has been impressive, and he’s qualifying as well as at any point in his career. His best start to a Cup season deserved more recognition, but Hamlin unfairly has been overlooked often in his 14 years on the circuit.
Dustin Long: He was in the past few weeks with so much attention devoted to Team Penske and Kyle Busch. If Hamlin keeps winning, he’ll get plenty of attention.
Jerry Bonkowski: I’m not sure if I would say unjustly overlooked, but Hamlin hasn’t necessarily been in conversations about who’s the best driver in Cup thus far this season. So much focus has been on Kyle Busch and the Team Penske drivers that Hamlin kind of got lost in the shuffle. But it’s hard to ignore a guy who has two wins, six top 10s and has not finished lower than 11th in a race thus far in 2019.
Daniel McFadin: While his best start should be recognized, it hasn’t been that flashy. In the races between his wins at Daytona and Texas he never finished better than fifth and led only 15 laps.
How will Kevin Harvick’s terse comments about performance be received at Stewart-Haas Racing, where the other three drivers seemed happy with their cars Sunday?
Nate Ryan: They probably went over with a thud, but that’s also how Harvick intends them to be taken. As the team’s alpha dog, Harvick believes SHR is at peak optimization when his car is leading the way. Though his teammates were all pleased by their Texas results, it had to be jarring that the 2014 champion was bringing up the rear simply because he was the slowest. It’ll be intriguing to observe how SHR adapts if that becomes a trend as Harvick has been virtually the lead driver of every team he’s been on since his 2001 entry to Cup.
Dustin Long: Crew chief Rodney Childers also expressed his disappointment after the race on social media. This just isn’t on Harvick. Stewart-Haas Racing had all four of its drivers win races last year. Now, nearly a fifth of the way through the season, the team is winless. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be happy about that at SHR.
Jerry Bonkowski: It was merely Kevin being Kevin. He’s kind of like Kyle Busch — anything less than a win means it’s been a bad race. It also could be an indicator of the increasing frustration Harvick has had in each race, still unable to get his first win of 2019.
Daniel McFadin: While I can understand Harvick’s frustration in SHR and specifically him not winning yet, his comments are hard to accept when two teammates had their best finish of the year at Texas and all four cars have finished in the top 10 two weeks in a row.
Hendrick Motorsports had three drivers lead and two finish in the top six at Texas. What do you make of the organization’s performance?
Nate Ryan: Aside from a victory, Texas was a mission accomplished morale booster for this proud organization, which showed it still can play catch-up. After the past two weeks, it seems as if momentum is building.
Dustin Long: Nice run for the organization but there’s still more work to do, as Jeff Andrews, the team’s GM, told me after the race.
Jerry Bonkowski: It’s only one race. While it certainly seems like HMS has potentially turned a corner, I won’t be fully convinced the organization is back on the right track until it has consistent multi-finishers in the top 10, not to mention race winners.
Daniel McFadin: It’s a feel good story after the previous six races, but I’m sure no one at Hendrick is completely satisfied and won’t be until this is a regular occurrence.
Should NASCAR be using more traction compound on every track after drivers hailed its efficacy at Texas?
Nate Ryan: No. Sunday’s race conditions were as much a result of the cooler weather and minimal tire wear. Turning traction compound into a weekly crutch has its pitfalls.
Dustin Long: It hasn’t always worked as intended at some tracks, but that shouldn’t deter officials from examining where traction compound can enhance the racing.
Jerry Bonkowski: I’m torn on this one. While I understand the traction compound helps, I’m also a purist in the sense I don’t like to see artificial ways to create traction. It should come from the rubber on the tires only in my mind.
Daniel McFadin: I’m all for tracks attempting, at least once, to improve racing with traction compound. There’s no harm in that.