1. Danica Patrick ended her racing career in less than stellar fashion at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Given her combined open wheel and NASCAR results, would you say that her career was a success?
Michael Massie: Danica Patrick will go down as the most overrated NASCAR driver of all time. Sure, she accomplished some firsts as a woman driver, but there were women before her who had as much success in equipment inferior to what Patrick had. Look no further than how well Aric Almirola is already doing in the No. 10. Now, on the open-wheel side, Patrick’s career has some merit. She was much more competitive in IndyCar and actually won a race. Had she not abandoned that form of racing, she would have been remembered well in that circle.
Wesley Coburn: It depends on how you define success. By results and statistics, not really, but in terms of marketing and inspiration, without a doubt. Her tenacity to last so long brought a lot of interest from non-racing fans to both IndyCar and NASCAR, and her example will likely inspire the next female driver (whenever she comes along) who has decent stats.
Clayton Caldwell: If you look at her equally compared to the driver’s she raced against, it’s hard not to say she wasn’t a big disappointment. She was much better in open wheel competition; early in her career I think she cared more about performance and racing than she did in her NASCAR days. Her NASCAR stats are some of the worst over a five-year period, considering the stuff she was in. That’s not the legacy we thought she was going to have, that’s for sure.
2. The last Sunday of May always hosts a trio of big races, but this year’s events seemed to lack a great deal of drama. Which of the three put on the best show, and why?
Amy Henderson: Indy put on a good show, though the current aero kit don’t do the race any favors. There was still some drama and some nail-biting moments. The Coca-Cola 600 featured some very good racing, but when it was happening several seconds behind the leader, it’s a little harder to sell. Still, both were solid races outside the fairly predictable outcomes, and both produced some very notable storylines. Monaco was… Monaco. The course is not particularly compatible with today’s Formula 1 cars, and passing just doesn’t happen much. The big storyline was Lewis Hamilton calling for changes. Maybe it’s just me, but if it had been anyone other than Hamilton, it would be a bit easier to take seriously, and he’s not even necessarily wrong.
Coburn: Coke 600. There was a lot of passing in the field, and Kevin Harvick running into trouble shook things up. Then Kyle Busch showcased why he’s maybe the top driver in the sport today, and you had Chevy teams running fairly well.
Caldwell: Indy was really compelling because it at least had storylines throughout, but I wouldn’t call any other of the races barnburners. The Indy 500 and the prestige that goes with that race is hard to top. The new aero package hurt competition a bit this year. Teams had a lot to learn, and in turn it reflected in the race. Maybe next year with a year under the new package, teams and drivers would put on a great show.
3. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have claimed nine of the first 13 races in 2018. Which driver stands a better shot at winning the championship?
Henderson: Tough call, but Harvick. He absolutely looked like he had a car to challenge Busch on Sunday night, and the race might well have played out differently if Harvick hadn’t cut his tire and bowed out early. If it comes down to the two of them in the last laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Harvick is less likely to be his own worst enemy, and that gives him an edge with everything else equal.
Christian Koelle: These two will make the final four, but they won’t win the championship. Kyle Larson is beginning to brew better and better finishes, and we are coming up to Michigan International Speedway, where you can’t overlook him. Of the two, though, Harvick by far. Harvick has shown he can take the pressure; look at ISM Raceway earlier this year after the window deal.
Mark Howell: While Busch has the edge in points, Harvick has a handle on the most momentum. If the Big-Mo turns his way, Harvick has the goods to snag the title. He’s apparently thinking playoffs already, but Harvick’s not going to rest on his laurels.
4. NASCAR heads back to Pocono Raceway this weekend. After New Hampshire Motor Speedway lost a race date, some think Pocono is next on the chopping block. Should one of the Pocono races be moved elsewhere?
Koelle: Where can we go? Most of those tracks the XFINITY Series races at will need tons of work to accompany a Cup race. I would like to see an off-weekend after the Coca-Cola 600 to give fans, drivers and everyone a chance to rest for a weekend and then get back and focus on a run to the playoffs. If the race does get moved somewhere else, Iowa Speedway would be my pick. We head to Iowa in three weeks, so why not just move it back to start off the month of June?
Howell: As a Pennsylvania native who grew up about 30 miles from the track, I’d hate to see Pocono dropped from the schedule. It’s a challenging layout and features many unique particulars, so seeing the Tricky Triangle replaced by another track would be difficult to accept. Having Pocono swapped out for another 1.5-mile oval would make me rethink my affinity for NASCAR.
Massie: Yes. I’ve never understood why there are two Pocono races almost back-to-back. It’s a cool and unique track, but it either needs to lose a date or get the two more spread out. I’ve always thought that the Camping World Truck Series has no business racing at Pocono. That date should be moved to the other track that Mattco Inc. owns, South Boston Speedway. Of course, with the New Hampshire deal, NASCAR proved that when it takes from one track, it will give to another mile-and-a-half, regardless of fans growing weary of those types of tracks. So I would rather keep Pocono on the schedule twice than move one of its dates to an intermediate track.
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