Mark Kristl: Was it warranted? Probably not. In the heat of the moment though, I understood Suarez’s reaction. He qualified 28th. He wanted to gain some starting positions. He was frustrated and McDowell served as a scapegoat.
Joy Tomlinson: I don’t feel it was entirely warranted; it was more likely a result of the multi-car qualifying format. All of the drivers had plenty of time to get on the track, even after waiting a few minutes for the speedy dry to spread out enough so it wouldn’t affect their run. With the uncertainty of the new package rules, tensions and passions seem heightened this year, even during qualifying.
Adam Cheek: The qualifying format has resulted in this all three weeks – cars getting held up or slowed down, failing to make a flying lap and so on. The anger was warranted and Suarez had a right to confront McDowell about something he saw as an injustice. His reaction was probably warranted, though – McDowell came at him first and tried to grab him by the throat, so Suarez defending himself was only natural and expected.
Bryan Gable: Not really, because the video which surfaced later did not suggest that McDowell tried to block Suarez on purpose, while Suarez did try to impede McDowell. But in Suarez’s defense, McDowell set off the physical altercation, and once the fight was on, Suarez got the best of him. Neither Suarez nor McDowell was completely in the right, but I do not want to place significant blame with either for showing a little emotion. This is professional stock car racing and the stakes are high. It is okay if tempers flare every now and then.
Amy Henderson: His reaction? Not warranted. His anger? Definitely warranted. He got screwed. In the long run, it’s NASCAR’s fault. I will keep saying it: qualifying needs to go back to one round of singe-car runs, whether by random draw or practice speed. It’s qualifying. It doesn’t need to be gimmicked up to be entertaining. The sole reason for it it to set the field fairly so that the race can be entertaining.
Mike Neff: Suarez’s reaction? He about killed McDowell by stopping in the middle of the track when McDowell was on a flier. Qualifying has been tricky this year and people were getting in each other’s way in Phoenix. In the end it was some fun theater but both guys were probably right to be pissed.
Not only has Chevrolet not won in 2019 but Kurt Busch is their lone top-five finisher through 4 events. What’s wrong with the program in year two of the Camaro? And who is most likely to break the drought?
Neff: Not sure what is wrong with Chevrolet teams this season, but they will get it figured out. As for who breaks the drought, we are going to a two mile track this weekend. Smart money is on Kyle Larson.
Gable: This is not a Camaro problem anymore. The trouble with Chevy is a combination of Hendrick Motorsports going through a rebuild and Kyle Larson and the No. 42 team making too many mistakes. I never thought I would see the day where Kurt Busch, of all people, acted as the stabilizing force for a race team or manufacturer, yet that is exactly what he’s done since taking over the No. 1 car. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won at Bristol or Richmond next month. Otherwise, look for Chase Elliott to break the Chevy drought, or Larson if he can put a full race together.
Henderson: Easy: look at the resources Ford and Toyota are offering their factory teams. Ford’s R&D center is so impressive, and the results of having that facility are showing on track. Toyota teams have the best the make can offer. Chevrolet seems to be lagging in support, but beyond that, its teams aren’t unified in any way. The Fords all run the same engines, so they have to work together, to a degree, to make them better. Toyota only really has Gibbs and by affiliation, Leavine Family Racing as factory teams, so they’re cohesive. The Chevy teams? They don’t play well with others, and the manufacturer apparently has given them no real incentive to do so. It’s less the car design and more the lack of unity in making it faster.
Tomlinson: Chevrolet had three cars in the top 10 last week. I would say, “relax.” Last year it seemed as though the Chevy teams struggled to find their bearings. This year they are dealing with a new package like every other team. They will get a win, once they figure out how to get in clean air (and stay there). Based on what I’ve seen so far this year, I think Kyle Larson or Jimmie Johnson will be the first Chevy winner.
Cheek: The car itself still seems to be the struggle, but we’ve seen a few drivers do well in the car – namely Kurt, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson. It might take another year for the Camaro to really get on track, but I think we see either Chip Ganassi Racing driver end the drought.
Kristl: I don’t know what’s wrong with the program, as it’s seemingly manufacturer-related problem. Especially when you consider the success of Chevrolet teams in Xfinity Series and Truck Series. As for who is most likely to break the drought, I believe it’ll be a Ganassi driver. Kurt Busch has shown speed and Kyle Larson led laps at Atlanta before a pit road penalty cost him a chance at the win.
Ryan Sieg has finished in the top 10 in three of the first four Xfinity races. Is Sieg capable of winning a race this year?
Cheek: If he does pull off a win, it’ll likely be at Talladega this spring or Daytona this summer. That team’s proven to be able to run well despite its size, but I don’t think Sieg can sneak past the normal Xfinity elite and contenders without a huge crash or circumstances beyond normality.
Henderson: I think Sieg can win (lots of drivers can win), but that doesn’t mean he will win. He has better cars, but still lacks the experience of having a competitive car week in and week out, and the experience of knowing how to race at the front is important to driver development. Also, unless the deal came with factory support, he’s still a step behind.
Kristl: Ryan Sieg has never had a better opportunity to win a race than this year. He has Shane Wilson as his crew chief and RSS Racing purchased some cars and equipment from RCR. With the Dash 4 Cash, the playoffs, and the reduction in the Xfinity Series participation from several Cup Series teams, RSS Racing gained ground on the top teams. Sieg has the talent to win a race this season.
Neff: In the equipment he’s running it would still be a stretch. It would be great to see him get a race or two in that No. 8 car that Ryan Truex ran so well this weekend. Seig is one of the best talents in the garage, similar to Ross Chastain, and deserves a shot in some quality equipment.
Gable: Sieg has been capable of winning races for a while. However, he and his family operation are taking on the well-heeled teams of the Xfinity Series with a significantly smaller budget. His best chances of winning are probably Talladega and Daytona later this year. If Sieg ever got an opportunity like Ross Chastain or Ryan Preece did, running top equipment even in a limited capacity, I am sure we would see him competing for wins.
Tomlinson: Ryan Sieg is fully capable of winning a race this year; his team found speed that helped to increase their average running position tremendously from this time last season. The extra speed possibly came from acquiring better equipment (Rod Seig’s team purchased some RCR cars recently). Jeffrey Earnhardt’s average running position for his first two races of 2019, for example, is sixth. Both drivers have the equipment (when they’re in the race car) to finish ahead of the pack; it’s just a matter of time and ability (and maybe a little bit of luck).
NASCAR’s Hall of Fame nominees were announced for the 2020 class. Who is the most deserving of those not yet inducted?
Henderson: Mike Stefanik. Not as well known, but the numbers speak for themselves. He’s got nine NASCAR titles (seven in Modifieds, two in what’s now K&N East back when it was a really good series) and the other nominees don’t touch his numbers in their respective chosen series. He’s also won Most Popular Driver seven times between two series, so he obviously resonates with fans as well. He should already be in the Hall of Fame.
Gable: Tony Stewart has the credentials to be a first ballot hall of famer. Joe Gibbs would be an excellent pick as well, especially since the Hall has already set a precedent for inducting active team owners. Ray Fox deserves induction as an outstanding engine builder, mechanical mastermind, and longtime competitor who helped build NASCAR during the Grand National Era. I agree wholeheartedly with Amy that Mike Stefanik should be in the Hall of Fame. As a final pick, how about Larry Phillips? He was a dominant force in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing division during the 1990s. As an outstanding racer who has been on the ballot for years, hopefully he gets in as a member of the class of 2020.
Cheek: If I had to pick a few from this year’s prospective ballot, I’d go with Tony Stewart, Joe Gibbs and Smokey Yunick. Yunick is an icon in the sport’s history; Stewart is one of the best drivers of this century so far; and Joe Gibbs built one of the premier organizations in NASCAR and JGR has remained a constant threat for wins and championships since its inception.
Tomlinson: Ernie Irvan deserves to be in the Hall of Fame especially because of his comeback from terrible head and lung injuries. He’s won 15 Cup races and had 124 top 10s out of 313 races. For someone to come back from an extensive recovery process is remarkable in itself; to return to racing and perform as well as Irvan did is Hall of Fame worthy.
Neff: The streak is unbroken, 11 years of nominations and the Frances have still successfully blocked Smokey Yunick from being nominated. While he didn’t deserve to be in the first class, he should have been in the first three. Prior to the Car of Tomorrow, Yunick and Junior Johnson were responsible for 3/4 of the rulebook. He was the epitome of finding the gray area and innovated more than anyone else, especially with only a sixth grade education. Just because he called Brian France an idiot in his book he should not be banned from the Hall. Pretty sure BZF has done a decent job of validating that assessment over the last few years.
Kristl: With Tony Stewart’s 2019 nomination, it’s a tough question. Frankly, I’d nominate Kirk Shelmerdine. He was a championship Cup Series winning crew chief for Dale Earnhardt and he moonlighted as a driver later on. The process for nomination and election into the NASCAR Hall of Fame is flawed, but that’s a conversation for another day.