Why isn’t NASCAR open to an XFINITY Series race at Eldora Speedway?
This week, Brian France made a rare public appearance when he joined SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel to answer some questions and gave his thoughts on various topics going on in the sport.
One of the topics discussed by France involved the potential inclusion of Eldora to the XFINITY or even the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedules. As reported by ESPN:
“NASCAR Chairman Brian France said don’t expect Tony Stewart to get a call on a potential XFINITY or Cup race at his Eldora Speedway. Speaking on SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel, France said: “Probably not going to have that phone call anytime soon. The schedule is pretty full. But he is doing a great job running Eldora and the other things he’s doing in the dirt-track stuff, so good for him”
France’s explanation that “the schedule is pretty full” is hogwash. While a Cup race at Eldora just isn’t feasible in the current shape of the series, an XFINITY date would definitely be so. Did Las Vegas Motor Speedway really need a second date? Iowa Speedway is reportedly having trouble filling seats, and it’s fair to say that at this point an Eldora race would make as much money at the gate as Iowa. The easiest way to do this is to move the Truck race up a week and make the one-day show a two-day doubleheader, while removing the second Iowa race.
But at the end of the day, the biggest reason why NASCAR should at least be more open to an XFINITY race at Eldora is its TV partners. It’s fairly obvious, after all of the opinion pieces and other bits of evidence published on both FOX Sports and NBC’s websites and studio shows, that TV wants to at least experiment with more weekday races. Eldora is also typically one of the highest-rated Truck Series races of the entire year in that Wednesday time slot (and will probably remain so even when it moves to Thursday next year).
Putting an XFINITY race on the next day would give NBC a piece of the action while also giving some pressing questions answers. One of the main problems with holding a Cup race on a week day is what to do about the lower series. Would people tune in for NASCAR two straight nights? Or should NASCAR run two races in one night? A great way to experiment with this would be with Eldora.
How will the domination between Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. continue to affect the playoff field?
In 20 races this year, all three of them have either 14 (Busch and Truex) or 15 (Harvick) top-five finishes. Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin have the most top fives of the rest of the field at just six apiece.
All three are currently averaging a single-digit finish. Most seasons, there isn’t a single driver that can average that. This year, so far, there have been three. The last time this happened, it was all the way back in 1999, when three future Hall-of-Famers (Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, though not yet in the Hall of Fame, and Mark Martin) were able to squeeze the feat out.
This has in turn led to a strange road to the playoffs this season. Barring a fuel-mileage or rainout victory, there’s only one viable surprise winner (AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen International) that could shake up the playoff field. If not that or a sudden rush of bad luck for a few other drivers in the early teens in points, it looks like the race to be the final spot in the playoffs will be between three drivers, currently within 30 points of one another, all the way back in 15th in points.
Alex Bowman is currently ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 28 points. Bowman, in his first full-time season with Hendrick Motorsports, has proven he deserves to be the No. 88, as he isn’t that far off from Chase Elliott or even Jimmie Johnson in points. However, the main reason he’s on the bubble has been because of speed problems with the new Camaro bodies. Stenhouse’s Roush Fenway Racing machine has also been behind on speed, although in Roush Fenway Racing’s case that’s been the situation for years now. He should have a very strong run coming up at Bristol Motor Speedway next month, which will also be his best chance to win and not have to worry about getting in on points.
And finally, there’s Paul Menard, who sits one point behind Stenhouse. Menard hasn’t exactly been Superman on the track, but he has had a bit of a career resurgence. He’s on track for his best season since 2015, and that’s with running into some bad luck that has hampered a number of weekends for him, whether it’s been getting involved in somebody else’s wreck or a mechanical issue. The No. 21 definitely has some speed; it sat on the pole at Chicagoland Speedway and finished sixth at Kansas Speedway. The team just needs to put some races together and it might steal a playoff spot.
How will things change for the No. 13 car?
It’s getting obvious that things are going to need to change at Germain Racing before next season.
Ty Dillon finished sixth a few weeks ago at Daytona, which was his first-ever Cup top-10 finish. But outside of that one bright spot, it has been a complete disaster of a season for the sophomore driver. That was only his third top-20 finish this year, his average finish has fallen four positions from last season and the team sits 30th in points.
A driver change is out of the question. Dillon has a multi-year contract, and even if Germain were to let him go following the season, that would probably mean Germain would need to find a new technical partner as it’s unlikely Richard Childress would continue supporting the team that canned his grandson.
It’s fair to say crew chief Matt Borland is going to be on the hot seat for the rest of this season. Borland returned to being a crew chief full-time in 2017, struggling to a bad season with Menard and following it up with an even worse season with Dillon. Borland was a great crew chief at one point, dominating the early 2000s with Ryan Newman. But with just one win in 13 years, it’s going to be harder to justify his staying on the pit box. Expect him to at the very least move on to a management role by the end of the season.
Who could get their first win of the season at Pocono?
Nobody has been better at Pocono Speedway the last few years than Brad Keselowski.
The 2012 Cup champion hasn’t finished outside of the top five at the 2.5-mile triangle since the June race in 2015. Granted, in that same time period, Keselowski has a big goose egg in the win column.
One driver to look at besides Keselowski is Kyle Larson. The California driver had a runner-up finish in the Pocono race last month and in nine starts at the triangle has an average finish of 10.6.
Finally, there’s Chase Elliott. Elliott has just one finish outside of the top 10 in his first five starts at Pocono. If the No. 9 is going to win before the playoffs, it might just come on Sunday.
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