Dover International Speedway is known as the Monster Mile, but races there of late have been relatively tame. What do you attribute that to, and is the nickname still appropriate?
Mike Neff: If you look at the drivers getting out of the cars after 400 laps at Dover, it absolutely deserves its nickname. Racing there has been less chaotic the past few years, but it’s been like that everywhere. These cars are stuck to the ground so hard and have so much side force that they are almost impossible to spin out. If they make the cars tougher to drive, we’ll see more mayhem at Dover. That said, the Monster Mile is still a beast that the drivers have to use all of their skills to tame.
Adam Cheek: Having established itself as a track where chaos can take place, the name is still accurate, but the races there have indeed been calm lately. It could either be due to the packages or drivers just racing cleaner.
Joy Tomlinson: Perhaps drivers aren’t as aggressive as they used to be. It seemed that air flow was affected when drivers got behind the car in front of them. They seemed to pull away, though Alex Bowman passed Kyle Larson fairly cleanly and somewhat easily. It may be because Bowman used a different line to get around Larson Also, earning a spot in the playoffs seemed to affect some drivers’ aggression. Of course, I don’t want there to be wrecks, just more slide jobs.
Amy Henderson: There are a few things at play, but the culprit for a lot of tracks is a lack of aggression, and that traces quite neatly to the playoff era and particularly this format. The only teams truly worried about their playoff spots right now are those just outside the top 16 or so, and they’re not really in the mix for wins most weeks. The ones already in or who are pretty confident they will be in one way or another are trying things for the playoff race and not really trying to win the spring edition. The fall race is in the playoffs and nobody wants to race the contenders too hard, so there you have it. There’s not a lot of incentive to take risks.
Christian Koelle: The nickname still sticks, but this package has just damaged a ton of reputations of racing, including at Martinsville Speedway, where there was hardly any action. The drivers are trying, they just can’t get past anyone. The only package that has worked successfully was at Talladega Superspeedway. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board, and it’s sad saying that at the beginning of May because the summer may be dreadful.
Kyle Busch blasted the package after Monday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, saying it “sucked.” Should NASCAR make midseason changes to the aero package based on driver feedback?
Koelle: You can put makeup on a pig; it’s still a pig. Nothing NASCAR can do can fix this package, and it’s just straight-up disappointing. After the Las Vegas Motor Speedway test, people were raving about how great this will be, and oh my, I can’t wait to get to a particular track. Now? The conversation’s changed to, well, let’s see how bad it’s gonna be this weekend. Track-specific or style-specific packages need to come in the next five years or less, else we’re gonna continue hurting the reputation of this racing and people will just stop going.
Henderson: Other than the minor tweak it announced earlier this week, no. NASCAR needs to stay the course and save the changes for next year. The seventh-generation racecar slated for 2021 is where radical change should and must happen, though trying some things to that end next year isn’t a terrible idea. But unless and until the package gets the cars up off the racetrack significantly, don’t expect a big difference in the racing.
Neff: As much as I’d like to see them tweak the package, it is already difficult for these teams with track-specific packages now. A new car is coming for 2021. Let’s deal with what we have for a little bit, let the teams get used to this fluid package and see where we are when the playoffs get here.
Tomlinson: There’s already been enough changes this year, but I do hope they listen to all the drivers’ thoughts on the package. After all, it’s the drivers, not the fans, who race out there every week. They know what it’s like to get up close to a car, only to fall back. Maybe the next generation car will have a better package.
Cheek: NASCAR should listen to everything the drivers have to say and come to some sort of consensus or middle ground. It’s important that the drivers be comfortable with what they’re racing, and we’ve seen many of the frontrunners struggle at least at some point this season.
With activities beginning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading to the Indianpolis 500 in the IndyCar Series, which NASCAR driver would you like to see do the Indy/Charlotte Motor Speedway double?
Cheek: Either Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch would be cool to see. Johnson’s likely nearing the end of his career, so to see him run both races as a last hurrah would be neat. Busch is arguably the sport’s biggest star right now, and what better than for one of NASCAR’s biggest stars to run two races and get that exposure?
Tomlinson: Kevin Harvick or Clint Bowyer, maybe even in a couple of years, to commemorate their owner Tony Stewart’s double duty in 1999. However, if Johnson can run a marathon (especially as well as he did), I think he would have the stamina to compete in both races.
Henderson: Johnson, because it would be cool to get to see him fulfill something he’s wanted to do since he was a kid looking up to Rick Mears. His wife vetoed the idea years ago, though, so it won’t happen, which is kind of a shame.
Koelle: Ross Chastain, please and thank you. Michael McDowell, too, mainly because of his history in open wheel cars a while back. Busch is about the only other driver I’d like to see do it just because of how much raw talent he does have.
Neff: Busch or Martin Truex Jr. out of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable, Harvick for the Stewart-Haas camp. But the best of them all would be Brad Keselowski. Knowing his true appreciation for history and what the place means to team owner Roger Penske, he’d be the best choice to run the double.
Ross Chastain is only points-eligible in the Xfinity Series but has finished in the top 10 in every Gander Outdoors Truck Series race this year. Should drivers be allowed to switch their championship declaration after the start of the season?
Cheek: Up to a point, yes. Chastain’s been amazingly consistent in the No. 45 truck, and recognizing that you’re more proficient in one series than the other should be allowed. It shouldn’t be to the extent that a driver can change their minds halfway or two-thirds into the season, but maybe within the first 10 races or three months, something to that effect. That way, it’s not like a driver’s performance means nothing or means they miss out on a championship that they could’ve won if they had changed their mind.
Neff: As much as it would be nice to see where you start the year and choose, that idea would bring total chaos to the sport. Looking at the unintended consequences, let’s imagine Busch starts the season declared for Xfinity points, just so he can run the Dash 4 Cash races. When they are done he changes to Cup and runs for the title. It sounds like a good idea for the guys who are just trying to do the best they can, but it would be a terrible idea to actually implement.
Koelle: I agree with what Busch said at Auto Club Speedway in March: you can run for points in any and all series you want, if you miss a race you’re done for the year. Imagine NASCAR returning to, let’s say, Nashville Superspeedway in April, a Cup off-weekend, and he still can contend for that championship. There was little-to-no disgust about it when Harvick was doing it in 2006, so why do we all complain about it? Just let everyone run anything they want but once you aren’t in one, you’re done.
Henderson: Sure, but if they do, all points earned in the series they started in are erased, and if they switch back to a higher series, they start from zero and are playoff ineligible because they were not running for points in some races. Or they are not allowed to switch back up at all. That would stop crazy scenarios from happening while allowing drivers some leeway. But realistically, several races into the season is probably too late to change and make a title run because of the races in which they did not accumulate points. If they switch, they shouldn’t get points for the races already completed. It would give a driver who lost a ride early to pick up in another series and run for something, so that would be a bonus.
Tomlinson: There are positives and negatives for such an idea. I mean, it would be great to have a guy like Chastain compete in the playoffs in the Truck Series, but it feels like a slippery slope. Maybe they could switch after the first week or two and just not be allowed to receive the points for the races for which they weren’t eligible. They could start earning points after they switch. As long as they have adequate funding in place, it would be OK for a driver to switch their declaration. Perhaps it should be for rookies in Cup or drivers in Xfinity and Trucks. Although, if they didn’t receive the points, they probably wouldn’t be playoff eligible, and they wouldn’t want to declare for another series. Maybe they could make an exception for those drivers if they win a race in the series to which they switch.