1. Watkins Glen International sold out for a second-straight year. Does that prove that good racing will bring fans out to the track, or is this a unique circumstance?
Mark Howell, Senior Writer: These two factors are directly connected; Watkins Glen is inherently good racing. Being from that part of the country, I can say that the Glen is near-and-dear to the hearts of many, not only for the track’s role in the history of motorsports, but also for its ongoing commitment to providing teams (and fans) with the best facility possible. Watkins Glen is truly one of the bright spots on the NASCAR calendar.
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: It proves that fans will come out to see good racing. The competitiveness of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars at Watkins Glen has been building over the last few years, and the track has been rewarded with the two sellouts.
Aaron Bearden, Assistant Editor: The great racing has certainly played a role in the Glen’s success. However, the festival-style atmosphere, affordable tickets and camping should also be noted as factors for the track’s success. Regardless, it’s good to see WGI get these numbers right now.
Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor: It’s a road course. People dig road courses — kind of always have, but that’s gotten even more prevalent in recent years as the backlash against mile-and-a-half tracks rises. It’s not at all surprising that the track is selling out its tickets, nor that people want to come. It’s a break from what can often be construed as monotony. You’d probably see the same even if the racing was subpar there every so often.
2. Should a road course be placed into the Chase? If so, which track would make the most sense?
Wolfe: A road course definitely belongs in the Chase. Drivers are accustomed to running on road courses now, so it’s not really a big adjustment for them. Some of the best action takes place there. How about instead of running on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the series runs on the road course there? Make it the opening race of the Chase to keep the prestige and importance of racing there. And it would also give attention to the drivers in Indianapolis, where people love good racing. Also, the weather there is not an issue into September. Indy could just switch dates with Chicagoland Speedway.
Rutherford: Eh, sure. I could take one or leave one in the Chase, but I can’t think of a bona fide reason not to add one, whereas there are definite pros to their addition. Stick Watkins Glen in there; it’s the better of the two.
Bearden: The Chase deserves a road course. It would add an extra layer of challenger the field and an extra layer of excitement for the fans. Most road courses would have things to work around — eating, garage requirements or otherwise — but NASCAR money could go a long way toward accomplishing that. I’d love to see a Cup race at Road America, with alternative options at Mid-Ohio, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Circuit of the Americas.
Howell: A road course should definitely be included as a Chase event. Of the two currently on the schedule, my guess is that Sonoma Raceway would, weather-wise, be the better choice. Teams are already out West to run Phoenix International Raceway, so adding a side trip to Wine Country would be a fairly easy option.
3. Kyle Larson hinted at payback for AJ Allmendinger after contact between the two sent Larson into the pit wall and well behind Jamie McMurray for what could be the Chase bubble. Were his words just empty threats, or should Allmendinger be worried?
Bearden: AJ Allmendinger’s safe for now. However, if Kyle Larson drops out of the Chase, Allmendinger might want to be on the lookout. Larson hasn’t really had this sort of scuffle before, so it’s difficult to get a read on him, but his old-school racing style makes me think he could pay Allmendinger back should proper circumstance arise.
Wolfe: Allmendinger should be worried. Larson went from within six points of the next spot in the Chase to 30 points away. He’s got good reason to be mad, whether Allmendinger did it on purpose or not. If Allmendinger sits between Larson and a spot that would help Larson’s Chase chances, then, yes, he should absolutely be worried.
Rutherford: Empty threats. I’m not saying Larson doesn’t have cojones, I just don’t think he’s going to risk anything this close to the Chase. If Allmendinger gets anything coming to him, it’ll come way later in the season or in, say, the XFINITY Series.
Howell: Larson should be leaning on the panic button right now. His chances for making the post-season seem to be slipping away, even without the debacle at Watkins Glen. Anyone threatening to keep Larson from a good finish should be worried, including Allmendinger.
4. NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell hinted on SiriusXM that excessive celebrations that tear up cars may be subject to penalty in upcoming rule changes. Is that the correct move, or should drivers be allowed to celebrate as they please?
Rutherford: I’d rather let the teams and drivers go hog wild after a race — do whatever the heck you want, as long as your owner doesn’t mind possibly paying for whatever you damage. But it’s also very hard to deny that cheating teams could benefit from broken this or that. It’s a tough call.
Howell: Victory celebrations that result in bent sheet metal or overall screwed-up aerodynamics should be policed more seriously. The same goes for the burnouts that inflict engine damage. If a driver wants to celebrate his or her win, they can think of more creative/less cliched ways to let off steam. I’m all for Big Brother NASCAR keeping it real.
Bearden: Celebration rules are necessary, solely because teams can use them to damage/alter cars before post-race inspection. The fans deserve a show, and the drivers can absolutely provide that, but they still need to be held accountable for any illegal moves they might try to cover up.
Wolfe: NASCAR needs to do something about the excessive celebrations. When Pocono Raceway’s event was red-flagged, Tony Stewart mentioned on the radio about how many drivers were swerving to reset the rear ends of their cars, saying it was “the usual suspects.” NASCAR crew chiefs and some drivers are experts at skirting the rules. Any celebration that leads to flat tires or one where the car hits the wall should be outlawed, or there will be a penalty.