Much has been made of the situation involving Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer following the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ All-Star Race. Who was in the right?
Mark Kristl: Both drivers were at fault. Ryan Newman was at fault for hitting Clint Bowyer‘s car after the race. Clint Bowyer was at fault for losing control, hitting the wall and throwing punches at a defenseless player. Bowyer also was at fault for being misinformed. After the punches were thrown by Bowyer, Newman was at fault for resorting to insults rather than talking about his actions. Moral of the story: NASCAR was in the right to call them both to the hauler.
Wesley Coburn: Neither of them. Newman was wrong because you don’t spin someone into the wall during a slow period of any kind — remember Kyle Busch getting parked for shoving Ron Hornaday into the fence under caution at Texas Motor Speedway? On the other hand, Bowyer is wrong because you don’t run up and start whaling on a guy who can’t defend himself, still being trapped in his racecar. And if you do that anyways, your reputation will take a hit as wearing your helmet at the time makes keyboard warriors call you a sissy.
Joy Tomlinson: Neither driver was in the right. It’s one thing to battle during the race, but then Newman turned Bowyer on the cool-down lap. I can understand why Bowyer was upset after that. That being said, I don’t agree with Bowyer leaving his helmet on and punching Newman while he was still in the car. He should have at least tried to discuss the issues they had with each other on the track. I don’t blame Bowyer for keeping his helmet on, however. I wouldn’t want to face Newman without protection if he was upset with me.
Amy Henderson: Neither one, really. It all started because Bowyer thought Newman was a lap down. Not really Bowyer’s mistake but his spotter’s for not telling him. Then, Newman has the reputation of racing the leaders like it’s for position when he’s multiple laps down, so it’s understandable that under the circumstances, Bowyer thought Newman was racing him the wrong way. All in all, they were racing aggressively for a chance to win; can’t fault either for it. After the race, they were both equally wrong. You don’t intentionally wreck someone under caution or on the cool-down lap; at the very least it’s massively disrespectful to the crewmen on both teams, and at worst, it’s dangerous. But also, maybe don’t run up to the other guy, still wearing your helmet, and start swinging while he’s still strapped into his car. That’s a jerk move too. So yeah, it was dramatic to watch, nobody was in the wrong for the original racing incident, nobody was in the right for how they reacted.
Bryan Gable: Both drivers share some of the blame, but Bowyer came out looking worse than Newman. I understand that emotions run high and I don’t mind drivers getting angry with each other, but Bowyer running over to the No. 6 car and throwing punches while Newman was still strapped in was an overreaction. Bowyer also looked weak by not taking his helmet off before the fisticuffs began. As far as the cool-down lap shenanigans, it looked more like Newman was just trying to shove Bowyer out of the way rather than turn him into the wall. It was a bad situation that both drivers let get out of hand, but I don’t expect it to carry over to future races.
Kyle Larson was disappointed that there is no playoff benefit for winning the All-Star Race. Should there be?
Gable: No. For a non-points event with a select field and big money on the line, bragging rights should be enough incentive to win the All-Star Race. Not everything has to get tied back to the playoffs or have some kind of postseason benefit. Keep it simple and separate from the regular season.
Henderson: Nope, nope and, oh, did I mention nope? There’s already too much emphasis on the playoffs as it is — it’s one of the biggest reasons the racing isn’t what it once was week to week — and this isn’t about that. Also, not all potential playoff drivers are in the All-Star Race, so awarding points of any kind would be massively unfair. Not to mention the cars aren’t points-race regulation when they try a new package in the All-Star event. Just go out and have fun for a night. If it’s not fun to race for $1 million, stay home.
Kristl: I lean both ways on this one. The All-Star Race is an exhibition testing potential new rules packages. However, if NASCAR awarded playoff point(s) to the winner of the All-Star Race, then so be it.
Tomlinson: It wouldn’t be very fair for the victor to earn something for the playoffs (like a playoff point, or a guarantee into the playoffs). Why should an exhibition event count for the season? Although if the racers wanted to vote on awarding a playoff point to the winner, I would be open to that. Still, the racing this past Saturday was some of the best so far this year. I don’t think any changes should be made, at least for next year.
Coburn: Pfft, no. The All-Star Race is already an unnecessary waste of time and money, considering the special cars teams need to craft just to run, much less the expense if they get wrecked. There shouldn’t be an All-Star Race, though there is, and so the winner should just get bragging rights, and to signify that, the use of a special color of number like in Supercross.
Kyle Busch went five-for-five in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series this year. How impressive is this accomplishment to you?
Coburn: Incredibly impressive. Yes, he is driving some of the top equipment in the garage, but his full-time trucks are running in the fifth-eighth range most weeks this year on the good end. Kyle Busch has won seven of the past nine Truck races he’s entered and was second in the other two. It’s amazing to witness.
Tomlinson: One could argue that Busch competes against drivers who don’t have as much experience (or as good equipment) as he does. That is a fair point. However, he also competes against someone like Johnny Sauter, who has years of experience in not only the Truck Series, but also the Xfinity and Cup series. Last year Busch only had two wins out of five races, so to win all of the Truck races he’s run in 2019 is very impressive.
Henderson: The most overall experienced driver in the field driving the best-funded truck? He SHOULD be winning them all, so from that angle, he’s not really doing anything special. It would be more impressive if he won a race for an underfunded team. You know, like Ross Chastain did.
Gable: Winning any race in NASCAR’s national divisions is something of which any driver should be proud. Those trucks do not drive themselves. That said, this isn’t 2004. The competitive depth of the Truck Series is not what it used to be, and there are a lot less well-financed teams than there were 15 years ago. What impresses me most about Busch is that he has built Kyle Busch Motorsports into one of the best Truck teams in the business. Given the strength of his team and the ability behind the wheel everyone knows he has, he honestly should win just about every Truck Series race he enters. Of course, the fastest truck and the best driver do not always win, so kudos to Busch for being able to manage races effectively and be leading the pack when it counts. But in the grand scheme of his whole career, Busch has way more impressive accomplishments than his dominance of the Truck Series this season.
Kristl: He is a Hall of Fame driver already solely because of his Truck Series resume. Although many fans disliked his domination in those five races, kudos to Busch. He won all his Truck Series races playing by NASCAR’s rules. Perfection in anything is darn near impossible.
Denny Hamlin expressed his feeling that the Coca-Cola 600 doesn’t need to remain 600 miles simply for the sake of tradition. Do you agree?
Coburn: Yep! Although old-time purists would howl, most of the races need to be significantly shortened. 200-350 miles and/or laps would be best, 400 on the high end with a handful of 500-milers. There’s no need to run 600 miles nowadays because there’s not really any accomplishment in making a car run that long now. Besides, the track is boring and one driver tends to dominate. That’s not the way to attract new fans, and if they celebrate, most people are too busy with Memorial Day plans to care about following a parade.
Kristl: I support decreasing the mileage in all but three races: the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. Those three are NASCAR’s crown jewels. Keep those three the same. It’s acceptable to change other race distances.
Gable: I disagree strongly. The total mileage is what makes the Coca-Cola 600 one of NASCAR’s signature races. Don’t forget that the race is NASCAR’s contribution to the world of motorsports on Memorial Day weekend. That extra 100 miles gives the World 600 its mystique and makes it a special race to win. We already have too many 400- and 500-mile races at intermediate tracks, so why create another one? Besides, this is the highest level of professional stock car racing. It’s supposed to be a challenge, and upholding the tradition of NASCAR’s endurance race is good for the sport.
Henderson: If Denny Hamlin doesn’t want to race 400 laps on Sunday, I’m sure Joe Gibbs could find someone who does. It’s not the race of mechanical attrition it once was, which is really a shame, but it’s still a huge challenge. Plus, NASCAR is a sport that thrives on tradition, and as the sanctioning body has seemingly been perfectly content to throw tradition out the window, what’s left should be celebrated. The Coca-Cola 600 is a marquee event because it’s 100 miles longer than any other race, not for any other reason.
Tomlinson: Certain races should keep traditions, and the Coca-Cola 600 is one of them. Is it long? Yes. Can it get boring? Of course. But there have been other races this year that didn’t keep my interest either. Driving the car for 600 miles is tiresome and difficult. It’s a test of endurance both physically and mentally, and it should be kept at this length. (Although if they want to try something different, they could split the race and use part of the ROVAL.) There’s something special about Memorial Day weekend that I eagerly anticipate sitting down and watching the races. I’m sure if new fans knew the history of this special event, they would understand why the race is so long.