Kyle Larson had another miserable day while his teammate Kurt Busch finished second. What’s wrong in the No. 42 camp?
Neff: Racing is cyclical. The No. 42 team is struggling right now. They will be fine and Larson will win at Michigan if not before.
Gable: It was pretty surprising that Larson was a non-factor at Bristol. The greatest strength of Busch and the No. 1 team this season has been in closing out races, often finishing better than where Busch ran for most of the afternoon. The No. 42 team, on the other hand, seems to shoot itself in the foot almost every week. They need to eliminate the mistakes. For Larson, that means trying not to overcompensate if the car is handling poorly. For the crew, it means cleaning up the pit road miscues.
Koelle: I think they are asking themselves this same question. The last time we saw the No. 42 in victory lane, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was still driving, Martin Truex Jr. still had never won a championship, and well, that’s been a while. I don’t say Larson is overhyped, I just feel like if he was in better equipment and would actually close the deal he’d be winning races left and right.
Caldwell: Larson’s struggles are noticeable and I believe Chad Johnston’s (Larson’s crew chief) seat is hotter than ever. It’s hard to find a good crew chief in the middle of a season. However, they can’t keep running the way they are and stay status quo. We know the driver has the ability. So what is the problem?
Should Bristol follow the lead of other tracks and remove seats–and what would be the best way to get more fans to attend?
Bryan Gable: I would hate to see seats get removed at Bristol because it would mess with the stadium atmosphere. In terms of getting more fans to attend, lowering travel costs would probably help, but I doubt that the track and SMI have much control over what hotels charge on race weekends. The longer that Bristol’s attendance issues continue, the more it looks like the only way to fill all those seats would be to restore the one lane, bottom groove racing that helped to popularize the track in the 1990s and early 2000s. It would be a shame to see that happen, because multi-groove Bristol puts on the best racing in NASCAR. But the track built its reputation on drivers fighting for a dominant, bottom groove, which often led them to fighting each other. Unfortunately, without that high-contact style of racing, Bristol will not live up to a lot of fans’ expectations, no matter how great the current racing is.
Mike Neff: The night race will be sold out or close to it. Bristol has a couple of choices, give up the spring date, which has always been a struggle to sell out and plagued by weather, or do what they do and just not sell whole sections. You’re never going to get back to old Bristol because you not only don’t have to wreck cars to pass them, you really can’t.
Christian Koelle: No, they should not remove seats. The spring race has been hindered every year for as long as I have gone. I have been going to Bristol since 2006 and I have noticed that during that time, not just Bristol has been facing the downhill stride but a majority of the tracks have. Bristol removing seats would be the worst decisions for the track being as it is growing to be not just for NASCAR but for football and other sports. Taking out seats would draw this attention away and could result in worse reproductions. I personally would like to see Bristol in the discussion for things like Monster Energy Supercross, a WrestleMania, and many other big things that could draw the attention away from the empty stands and more towards the spectacle that we used to see Bristol as.
Clayton Caldwell: I think Bristol tearing down seats would be a good thing but the more significant improvement would be to tear up the modifications made to that track in 2007. Ever since SMI added banking and created a high lane at Bristol, the seats began to empty. It’s not terrible racing, but it’s nowhere near as exciting as the old school Bristol.
Was the restart penalty on Brad Keselowski warranted or did the No. 2 team get hosed? Is there a need to adjust the policy?
Caldwell: The restart penalty on Keselowski was the right call and I was glad to see it but it’s the inconsistency that caused me to scratch my head. Chase Elliott did the same thing in the Daytona 500 and NASCAR deemed that a “clean restart.” Some consistency on those calls, would be nice.
Koelle: One of the reasons the stands are empty was on display Sunday and that was too many dumb rules. This deal on Sunday should’ve been fixed before the restart even if we would’ve had to red flag it and set the lineup that way. It’s a rarity for things like this to happen so I don’t think it needs to be adjusted, I just think it needs to review important rules and ones that don’t affect anything (uncontrolled tire penalty especially).
Gable: The policy is fine. The problem on Sunday was with its execution. Because Keselowski took only two tires during the last caution, he got off pit road so fast that he blended into the restart lineup ahead of Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer, who didn’t pit at all. By rule, Newman and Bowyer should have been placed ahead of Keselowski for the restart, but for some reason NASCAR did not pick up on the error right away, resulting in confusion between race control and the No. 2 team. I don’t have a problem with NASCAR penalizing Keselowski, because race control did eventually give him orders about where to line up that were not obeyed. Keselowski even admitted after the race that his team failed to communicate properly and that NASCAR made the right call. What I do have a problem with is NASCAR restarting the race without having the lineup settled in the correct double-file fashion. It’s like the folks in race control threw up their hands and just gave up. That’s not acceptable for a professional motorsports organization, especially at the end of a race when hasty decisions can greatly impact drivers’ finishes. Ultimately, both the No. 2 team and NASCAR need to shoulder the blame, but better communication should fix those issues going forward.
Neff: Hell yes it was. The tower told him to get in line and where to line up for multiple laps. They should have held him a lap when he came down for the penalty. The team was in a bad spot because not enough cars took two so they were trying to use up laps and minimize the number of green flag laps that would be run. Kudos to NASCAR for going green and black flagging him.
The spring race at Richmond has been both a day race and a nighttime event over the past few years. Should it be Saturday night or Sunday afternoon going forward?
Koelle: This one has been funny over the years, I don’t think anyone knows what they want because it’s seemingly changed every year lately. I have been one of those people who believe if a track has lights and two dates, they should get one day and one night just to keep the schedule fresh. There is no reason to have two-day races at a track with lights. There is also no reason to have two-night races at a track because that just oversaturates the night races at a track.
Gable: I would like to see Richmond’s spring event be a day race again. It would help to differentiate between the track’s two Cup Series races. The fans in Richmond seemingly disagreed with me on that, because the track cited fan feedback as the primary reason for returning the race to Saturday night. But when NASCAR released the 2020 schedule for the Cup Series, it had Richmond’s April race slated for a Sunday, which suggests that it will be a day race again. I’m not sure what the reason for this latest switch is, but obviously someone changed their mind.
Neff: Sunday afternoon. All races should be day races except for the All-Star race and the Bristol night race. Racing is better during the day and we need better racing.
Caldwell: It doesn’t really matter to me, to be honest. I like Richmond a lot. I think the day race would make it a bit more slick and make it warmer for the fans to enjoy the race but I don’t think it would make a difference either way.