Kevin Harvick has won five of the last 12 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. Should the No. 4’s goal for the rest of the regular season to be accumulate as many playoff points as possible, or try new things (setups, strategies, etc.) for the final 10 races?
John Haverlin: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Let the No. 4 team keep doing what it’s doing. Why experiment with new ideas when things are going great the way they are? Kevin Harvick and Co. should keep doing what they’ve been doing. They’ll win a championship this year if they continue to move in the same direction.
Matt McLaughlin: It behooves Stewart-Haas Racing to stay the course. What it’s doing is working. Make the teams trying to catch up experiment. Let those other teams failures to compete on a regular basis tear them apart. “When your enemies are doing their best to destroy themselves, by all means, don’t interfere.”
Christian Koelle: Go ahead and punch that ticket for Homestead-Miami Speedway. Accumulate as many playoff points as possible and do like Martin Truex Jr. did last season and breeze by the playoffs and straight into the championship race at Homestead. That is one thing that this new format has created: the opportunity to not have a summer full of a few drivers just test out new setups. Harvick could have that advantage since he’s gained so much so far.
Wesley Coburn: Sure, why not? They say the best defense is a good offense, and if Harvick scoops up more playoff points, that keeps other drivers from earning them. Truex showed last season what a huge advantage they could be.
Vito Pugliese: It worked for Truex last year, so why not? Beyond the sick satisfaction of crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of the Chevrolets, racking up wins, points, momentum and building toward that final race in Homestead should be their focus from here on out. Truex and the No. 78 team were able to cruise care free through the playoffs last year, knowing they’d had racked up so many stage points they could dictate the strategy in nearly every race leading up to Homestead without fear of failure.
Teams experienced more inspection issues before qualifying this weekend. What does NASCAR need to do to encourage teams to show up with legal cars?
McLaughlin: If your car won’t pass pre-qualifying, you don’t get to qualify or practice. If your car fails pre-race inspection, you get one chance to get it right. If you fail again, go on home, buckaroos. Try ‘splainin to your sponsors why their brightly colored billboard won’t be participating in that week’s reindeer games.
Mark Howell: NASCAR can tighten inspection issues very easily. Three failed attempts, and you’re parked for the weekend. It’s its sport, it’s its rules. Nothing like being sent home to make you recognize the poor choices you’ve made. It’s simple: fail tech three times, and come Sunday you’re OSSed from the lineup.
Coburn: Since NASCAR can’t economically start sending everyone home if they fail inspection, how about penalizing the teams, say, five or 10 points per failed inspection? That likely wouldn’t be much of a deterrent, but it would be a start.
Pugliese: NASCAR has taken a step in the right direction regarding the rear window shenanigans by ratcheting up the L1 penalties on that infraction going forward post-race, but for pre-race it continues to drag on. Employing a move seen in other series would largely stop most of it — namely, fail inspection that many times, you start from pit road and are rewarded with the last pit stall.
Haverlin: Monetary fines and car chief ejections clearly aren’t enough to encourage teams to show up with legal cars, so let’s see NASCAR get really aggressive. I’d love to see a zero-tolerance policy instituted. If a vehicle goes through pre-qualifying inspection and doesn’t pass on the first attempt, NASCAR should impound it until the morning of the race. Don’t let the team even attempt to qualify or practice until the car passes pre-race tech. That way the team is given the disadvantage of a potentially good starting position and time to work on the car during final practice.
Koelle: Get rid of the gimmicky inspection process and just go back to the ol’ template inspection, which may fix the window deal we’re facing at the moment.
Sports gambling can no longer be regulated by the federal government in the United States, allowing states to decide for themselves if they would like to allow sports betting. How, if at all, should NASCAR take advantage of this?
Pugliese: Working with existing sites like Draft Kings and Fan Duel would be a great first step. Everybody loves playing fantasy sports (and gambling), and these two have a handle on how to do it right. I’m less concerned about the appearance of impropriety, as there are in other sports. All 40 teams are playing at once, and the financial incentive from the sponsor (i.e., sticking around) who funds all operations and makes a salary possibly outweigh what would likely be the result of any nefarious activity. At least, that’s what I would hope.
Howell: The idea of gambling in NASCAR is nothing new. Part of Bill France Sr.’s anger over a drivers’ union linked to the Teamsters back in 1961 was his fear that stock car racing would wind up like horse racing. France’s legendary pistol-waving incident at Bowman Gray Stadium was supposedly tied to his distrust of Jimmy Hoffa, Curtis Turner and the Teamsters turning NASCAR into a crooked OTB spectacle. Lucky for us, that crooked spectacle thing never materialized.
McLaughlin: Some tracks, like Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Nevada) and Dover International Speedway (Delaware), will likely have sports betting before the end of the year (Dover is also a horse track and casino). I think this is something the tracks will handle, not NASCAR. There’s a clear conflict of interest where NASCAR could black flag a getting favorite for an alleged violation (pit crew sneakers not laced adequately tight?) to give betting underdog a win so NASCAR officials could cash in. Let the games start. What’s the over/under on this week’s race sucking hind teat?
Kyle Larson’s rear window was dented following the conclusion of Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway, similar to what happened to Harvick and Chase Elliott earlier this season. Is this becoming a trend, and if so, how should NASCAR police it?
Koelle: It’s time to drop the hammer on the next person who fails this part of the inspection process. Put out such a huge punishment that teams will have to do something to fix it. Maybe it’s time NASCAR starts mandating window braces too.
Howell: Since bent rear windows are apparently more the norm than the exception, NASCAR has to either outlaw them completely or police them within a set of parameters. If the latter is the case, NASCAR will need to break out more HD cameras, calipers and PR/damage-control spokespeople. It’s got to be all or nothing.
Haverlin: It appears the rear window dents are becoming a trend, but it doesn’t make sense as to why. If Harvick and Chase Elliott got penalized for it, why would anyone try to emulate it? I don’t know if there’s anything different NASCAR should do to police it, because as long as it catches teams doing it, they’ll face the consequences.
McLaughlin: It’s a clear attempt to get more air on the rear spoiler to produce more downforce. Either NASCAR isn’t sending the message clearly enough that this isn’t OK or the teams just aren’t listening. If they get to spend a few weekends at home while everyone else is racing, perhaps this failure to communicate can be addressed.
Coburn: Maybe increase the points fines? I think this is the fourth time this window thing has been a problem this season, and teams are getting penalized 20 points for it, Increasing that to 35-40 points might be a good start.
What are your expectations for this weekend’s All-Star Race with the implementation of the package that the XFINITY Series ran at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season?
Coburn: Yawn. I doubt it will help passing much, and even if it did, the All-Star Race either needs to be moved around or scrapped entirely. Teams could probably use an extra week of rest, anyway.
Haverlin: My expectations seem to get lower and lower every year. But if this weekend’s aero package produces close racing and more passing opportunities, then I’ll call the race a success, regardless of what transpires on-track.
Howell: The All-Star Race will be dull, with shades of boring thrown in for good measure. This event has been circumspect since its inaugural running when Darrell Waltrip purposely puked his over-sized motor between the checkered flag and Turn 1. There’s never been anything remotely fair nor balanced about this marketing show. You can run the XFINITY Indy package, you can spin a wheel-of-fortune to alter lineups, you can even dress drivers up like Old West gunfighters. Just remember what they say about putting lipstick on a pig.
Koelle: I am on the fence about restrictor plates. It made for an exciting race at Indianapolis in the XFINITY Series, but it could either be really good or really bad for Cup, because then I go back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000 and think, man, this may flop. Still, I applaud NASCAR for trying to find a solution.
Pugliese: It will look like recent all-star races, just at a slower pace with the restrictor plate in place. My hope is that it would look like the final stage of the 2009 All-Star Race. For all the carping and moaning about the Car of Tomorrow back then, there was some great racing in that final stage. The air ducts and plates seem a little (a lot) gimmicky, but something different needs to be tried, because what was one of the most anticipated races all year has become tired and trite, with the most exciting part of the weekend being qualifying with no pit road speed limit.