Kevin Harvick still doesnt have a win yet in 2019. Should there be any concern in the Stewart Haas camp?
Nick Tylwalk: Concern? Of course. Not so much for Harvick individually as the entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization, which was at worst the second-best team in 2018 and now is still searching for answers halfway through May. But not panic, because there is a lot of season still to come, and things can and often do change during the summer. If this is still a question a month and a half from now, that’s an entirely different conversation.
Mark Kristl: Yes, there should be concern, but not panic. Stewart-Haas Racing has shown speed this season. Harvick may have won the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway if not for a piece of debris landing on his grill. Daniel Suarez had race-winning speed earlier this season at Texas Motor Speedway. While Fords typically work well together at Talladega Superspeedway, Chevrolets banded together to everyone’s surprise. Still, I wonder if the pressure to win added to Clint Bowyer’s frustrations which he directed at Erik Jones. Make no mistake about it, Stewart-Haas Racing has work to do.
Joy Tomlinson: Considering Kansas was Harvick’s best weekend speed-wise (as well as his Stewart-Haas teammates), I think a win is coming soon. Perhaps he will win when he needs it most: in the playoffs. That being said, I do feel a team of Harvick’s caliber should have had a win by now. I mean, he’s had more poles than anyone so far this year; they have the speed, now they just need to close out races. After all, Harvick is “The Closer.”
Amy Henderson: No reason to panic. All of the SHR cars are running well, and the wins will come. Harvick had some bad luck Saturday at Kansas; otherwise, we might very well be talking about his dominance there. If he hasn’t won by the playoffs, there should be concern, but I suspect that won’t happen. It’s a bit strange that not one SHR car has one this year, and it’s something to keep an eye on, but it’s a little early to worry, just something to keep in mind.
Clint Bowyer was upset at Erik Jones for blocking near the end of the Kansas race. Is blocking a fair tactic or an underhanded maneuver?
Henderson: On the last lap or two, blocking is fine. Please read and repeat. It’s not like Jones threw that move on lap 50 or something. Hard blocking early in the race reeks of desperation and is completely uncalled for. Heading to the checkers for position? That’s racing, boys and girls. For that matter, the bump and run in that situation is perfectly acceptable. What’s not acceptable is intentionally wrecking someone, ever. Other than that, though, shame on any driver who doesn’t try to gain (or protect) every position that they can.
Tylwalk: It’s tough to frame the blocking question as one of fairness, because it’s symptomatic of the way current Cup cars handle around each other in traffic. Throw a block on top of the advantage you have from being in front of the driver chasing you, and you’ve got the recipe for holding onto a win, or in Jones’ case, a strong final position. The ethical quandary really lies with the blockee: to wreck or not to wreck. Bowyer sounds like he was at least thinking about it, and it’s fine to deal with the situation that way as long as you accept what might come from it down the road.
Tomlinson: There’s nothing wrong with blocking, as long as it’s not too late to block. Erik Jones wanted to keep his position, since Brad Keselowski already grabbed the lead. The block occurred on one of the last couple of laps, where everyone was jockeying for position. It seems like it’s different when drivers block at Talladega or Daytona; usually they block from the lead. I do feel like maybe Bowyer (if he could) should have bumped Jones. Not wreck him, just move him out of the way a bit. He did have a huge run there. Will be interesting to see if he retaliates.
Kristl: Like I pointed out in 2-Headed Monster, blocking has been a part of NASCAR. That was good racing at the end of the Digital Ally 400, plain and simple.
What is your ideal All Star race format?
Kristl: Ideal All-Star Race format: include race winners from previous season and current season, Cup Series champions from the past 10 years, reigning All-Star Race champion, reigning Xfinity Series champion, and reigning Truck Series champion. Have title sponsors (Xfinity and Gander Outdoors) foot the tire bill for the respective champions. For the race itself, have segments of 40 laps, 30 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. Have everything else like a normal NASCAR race, such as pit road penalties, Lucky Dog, damaged vehicle policy, etc.
Tomlinson: Top 16 drivers in points, plus the most popular fan voted in. Three 20-lap heat races for the rest of the field and the winners of those heat races are entered. Then three 10-lap stages to determine the victor.
Henderson: I’m fine with the entry criteria as is, except add the current NXS and Truck champions if someone will field a car for them. I’d like to go back to one heat in the Open, and just one transfer from that race. I’m cool with the fan vote; fans deserve a say and have one in most sports. As for the race, I would make segments 50 laps, 20 laps and 10 or 15 laps with a mandatory green-flag stop in one of the first two segments and an inversion for the last segment of at least half the field. I kind of liked when they drew for the number inverted as it kept everyone from sandbagging. Oh, and it would be at Martinsville. Because everything is better at Martinsville.
Tylwalk: This is not an original observation by any means, but the inherent problem with a NASCAR All-Star Race is that every week, the lead lap cars by the end of the race are basically an All-Star lineup already. It’s actually the opposite of most sports; where the NFL and NHL have All-Star affairs too different from the normal product, with NASCAR it’s too much of the same. Every now and then, ideas float through my head — race on a track that isn’t on the regular season schedule, or maybe make it a true team event by having one car from an organization run half the race and then a different one take over — but none of them are practical. I don’t have an answer.
Ross Chastain said after his win last week that he doesn’t want to be seen as an underdog, but rather as a contender. Where does he fall in your mind?
Kristl: Ross Chastain is categorized as an underdog strictly because of the respective teams he races for. Premium Motorsports, JD Motorsports and Niece Motorsports have one win combined in their respective series. That lone victory came courtesy of Chastain. Chastain is uber-talented, but his equipment relegates him to an underdog status. Then again, defining an underdog is subjective anyway. I classify Ross Chastain as an underdog, but he’s on the cusp of losing that status.
Tylwalk: We’re definitely at peak Ross Chastain love right now, and it’s well deserved. From making incredible saves to winning his first Truck Series race, he’s showing off all of his skills as of late. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’d be a contender if someone gave him a full season ride in top equipment — which he came agonizingly close to getting this year in the Xfinity Series before fate cruelly intervened — but until someone actually gives him that chance, we’ll never know for sure. Call him a circumstantial underdog for now, but a very lovable one.
Henderson: Chastain has proven himself to be a contender. The problem is, he’s in underdog equipment, and like it or not, that plays a role in how a driver is perceived. All too often, an underfunded driver has to endure people questioning his talent because of his finishes alone. Money =/= talent. Chastain has heaps of talent and his race teams have little money. It’s really a shame that we didn’t get to see Chastain in that well-funded Xfinity ride this year, because it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be racing for wins and the title. He’s the real deal for sure.
Tomlinson: Chastain is certainly NOT an underdog as far as driving ability is concerned. I mean, not many competitors can save their vehicles the way he has. He just won the Kansas truck race and is in the top 10 in points there (even though he’s declared for Xfinity). If he drove for a top-tier Cup team, I think he would definitely be a contender.