Last weekend, the NASCAR XFINITY Series raced at Road America and the Camping World Truck Series raced at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule gets revamped in 2021, should either of these tracks be added to the schedule?
Zach Gillispie: Canadian Tire should be at the top of the list. In the six times the Truck Series has visited the track, we have seen some amazing races and unbelievable finishes. The fans have been very vocal about adding road courses, and this one would be a perfect fit for Cup. Road America, Laguna Seca and Circuit of the Americas would also be great Cup venues.
Clayton Caldwell: How exciting a racetrack doesn’t play any role into whether or not it’s on the Cup schedule. The business behind the racetracks, like who owns them, etc., is the biggest player. CTMP has a better chance at getting on the Cup schedule because it’s in Canada and NASCAR may want to go international, but I don’t see either one happening. The schedule for 2021 will look similar to what we have today.
Mike Neff: If they’re going to add a road course or three, Road America absolutely should be on the list. Road Atlanta and COTA would be two other great choices.
Amy Henderson: Absolutely, and either one would be good for the sport. I’d like to see four road courses on the schedule, as there’s a lot of preparation that goes into road-course racing, and if teams had more opportunities to use what they build and learn, the racing would only get better — and it’s already great, so that’d be a win-win for all involved.
Noah Gragson’s move on teammate Todd Gilliland in the Truck Series race’s final lap has been talked about since Sunday. Are finishes like this good for NASCAR?
Caldwell: Anything that draws attention to the sport is good. We always talk about the lack of rivalries in NASCAR and scratch our heads as to why. I’m not saying fans have to like Noah Gragson or Todd Gilliland. They can dislike the moves they made, but that still makes it good. We need villains. We need drama. It was awesome.
Henderson: There is a big difference between what happened in the truck race and intentionally dumping another driver for the win. Gilliland opened the door a crack and Gragson stuck his foot in. Then when Gilliland tried to shut the door, Gragson was having none of it. Maybe someone should have backed out, but it’s not as though Gragson drove up looking to dump Gilliland. The former is good, hard racing, and that’s always good for the sport. What’s not good for anyone is blatant wrecking. Bump-and-run is fine if done right, because the bumper doesn’t wreck if it’s done right. Sometimes mistakes happen, as they did Sunday, the intent wasn’t to wreck Gilliland. Intentional wrecking is never cool, but hard racing always is.
Gillispie: What we saw at the finish is what NASCAR needs. The premise of racing is to win. Some of the most famous finishes in NASCAR racing have involved a wrecking-to-win scenario. Just look the 1976 Daytona 500 or the 1999 Bristol Motor Speedway night race or even the 2009 Talladega Superspeedway spring race. I’m sorry to all the team owners, but if expensive equipment is tore up, so be it. The fans want to see drivers put all their effort into winning.
Neff: The mentality of driving through people for wins is promoted through the inexpensive bumpers of the US Legends cars that are run at the SMI tracks across the country. Easily replaced body parts encourage people to wreck others to advance their position. The proliferation of drivers who don’t work on their own equipment also leads to this mentality. It is a terrible practice that needs to stop. Rubbing is racing, wrecking is weak.
With Darlington Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway being the two final races in the Cup regular season, it’s getting to crunch time for the drivers on the outside looking in of the playoff field right now. Will we see any movement, or are the 16 in now the 16 that’ll be in come Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
Henderson: The 16 currently in are pretty safe, but Indy is the bigger wild card here in that there are four drivers currently outside the playoff picture with wins there (Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne), so whoever is 15th in points going in (currently Alex Bowman) shouldn’t relax until the checkers fly over the yard of bricks. The final playoff spot is probably going to be the only thing that makes the racing at Indy somewhat interesting, so let’s hope someone at least makes a run at it.
Gillispie: The field is set. It does not look like Ricky Stenhouse Jr or Newman or anyone else outside the playoffs has the speed to win at Darlington or Indy. There may be a miracle at Indy for one driver, like Kahne last year, but I highly doubt that will happen.
Neff: The possibility of a surprise winner over the next two races is slim, but it is there. That said, the overwhelming odds are that Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will win the next two races. The final 16 is set.
Caldwell: The 16 that are in now are the 16 that will run for the playoffs. Part of the problem is that 16 is too high a number to have any drama as far as people making it into the playoffs. I know the rules package at Indianapolis adds a little drama to it, but no one is going to cause any. For example, the first four drivers in points outside the 16 current playoff drivers have a combined eight top-five finishes. It’s just not going to happen.
In honor of Darlington throwback weekend, what’s one old NASCAR rule that you’d like to see brought back for one weekend?
Caldwell: Racing back to the stripe. A lot of exciting finishes when I was a child would be affected if we froze the field immediately. I know we have the technology to do it now, but the drama of running to the stripe is something that is missing from our sport. Think what would have happened if in the 1998 Daytona 500, we froze the field as soon as Robert Pressley went spinning on the backstretch. The call, the drama coming to the line and the excitement wouldn’t be built up; it would have just happened. How about when Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed in 1979? The field would have froze and Richard Petty would have crawled to the finish line. Or in 1976 when Petty and David Pearson wrecked coming to the stripe. Would the field have been frozen? Would there have been a restart? Just think of how those races would have been ruined because of freezing the field. It would be a lot more exciting, that’s for sure.
Gillispie: The obvious answer would be to bring back the points system before the playoffs era, but aside from that, I would love to see a modern race at Talladega or Daytona International Speedway without the yellow line rule. While the potential for danger exists, that race would be amazing.
Henderson: Anything that could only be brought for one weekend would be so insignificant that there’s no real reason to bother. I’d be for losing the stages at road courses, which would be at least three weekends, but really, the only rule that needs to go is the playoff system and its one-race championship that has cheapened the title to a shell of what it used to mean. I will forever feel for Jimmie Johnson, because he did everything right to win seven titles, but they just don’t seem the same as the seven full-season titles from Petty and Dale Earnhardt. I suppose it could become a one-weekend change if that one weekend was Homestead.
Neff: The season-long points system would be ideal, but since that is probably long gone, the point for leading a lap and bonus points for leading the most laps should return. I would like to see the person who leads the most laps receive a playoff point like the drivers who win a stage.