Will Greg Biffle race again?
Last Friday night, Greg Biffle made a triumphant return to NASCAR competition.
Biffle was able to outlast the rest of the field in a carnage-filled NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was Biffle’s first start in NASCAR since 2016, his first NASCAR win since 2013, and his first Truck Series win since 2001.
It also speaks volumes about his teammates for the evening; Todd Gilliland had a solid truck but wrecked it in the second stage, while Harrison Burton’s truck was clean but also a complete non-factor in a race where there were 13 cautions. Burton was able to sneak up and finish fifth, but he spent a lot of that race outside of the top ten.
It’s unknown if we’ve seen the last of the 2000 Truck Series champion. This was initially just a one race deal, somebody that team owner Kyle Busch could put in the truck and not wreck the thing while everybody else was at Michigan International Speedway. But now, Biffle actually winning has opened the door for more races in the future rather than just a one-and-done.
Biffle, for his part, remains coy.
“I’ll see how June goes,” Biffle said matter-of-factually following his win. “I could be talked into some more – maybe.”
What’s going to happen to Alex Bowman?
Can’t thank @Nationwide enough for everything they’ve done for my career. I love wheeling the @Nationwide88 car, and I’m pumped to finish 2019 strong with their support. Feel really good about this 88 team and all that we can accomplish 🤘🏼
— Alex Bowman (@Alex_Bowman) June 12, 2019
Needless to say, Nationwide leaving is bad news for Bowman. The biggest reason he ended up scoring a Cup Series ride with Hendrick Motorsports to begin with was impressing Nationwide enough in his subsitute role for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the sponsor to continue to support him following Earnhardt’s retirement.
But let’s be honest: Nationwide has never really thrown a lot of weight around in promoting Bowman. Earnhardt was in a number of commercials for the insurance provider (who could forget “Water Cooler Dale”?) and all over promotional materials. Meanwhile, what has Nationwide ever really done while supporting Bowman? I don’t think they got nearly as much exposure as they should have under the sponsorship, so in retrospect it was always only a matter of time until this was going to happen.
Bowman has a contract through the end of next year, but ask Kasey Kahne how much contracts matter at Hendrick. Teams always have a way out of a contract with a driver, and if somebody else comes along and brings sponsorship to the table, that’s probably it for Bowman.
And it’s a shame too. Bowman’s career was almost over after being booted from Tommy Baldwin Racing after 2015, and was able to find enough sponsorship to get a part-time ride with JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Now, after a charmed four years, that might all be taken away again.
And it’s not like Bowman has under-performed. He’s usually been about the second-best Hendrick driver on track, ahead of Jimmie Johnson and William Byron while being a step behind Chase Elliott. But the team has struggled beyond belief during Bowman’s tenure with the team, with 2018 in store to be Hendrick’s worst year ever before Elliott got a few late season wins.
2019 has been a great year for Bowman, having enjoyed three straight second place finishes last month at one point and is currently tenth in points. But he’s going to need to break the glass ceiling and get that first win if he wants some job security.
Who will take the spotlight in Iowa?
Iowa Speedway, much like the track it was heavily inspired by, Richmond Raceway, is a speedway disguised as a short track. It’s a short track, but drivers don’t race it like a short track. There are multiple grooves in the turns and not too many passing opportunities.
Looking at the last four races at Iowa for the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Justin Allgaier has had a lot of success, having won this race last year and finishing second in the other race.
Christopher Bell has had a rocket the three times he’s raced at Iowa in this series, starting on the pole and leading 152 laps his first time two years ago, finishing second last spring, and winning the summer race. Expect Allgaier and Bell to write another chapter in what’s developing into one of the more interesting on-track rivalries in NASCAR.
Over on the Trucks side, it’s hard to find a lot of concrete statistics due to the amount of turnover in the series. If you’re looking for a bit of a wildcard in fantasy, Harrison Burton would be a strong choice. Burton has a lot of pressure entering this weekend as with his teammate Todd Gilliland, but Burton tied his best career finish at Iowa last year with a third.
One driver expected to be great this weekend in both series is Ross Chastain. Two of Chastain’s career top five finishes in NXS have came at Iowa, and the only two with tiny Johnny Davis Racing.
Back in 2013, Chastain was driving part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series. Yeah, forgot about that, didn’t you? Well, Chastain’s best race in that truck came at Iowa, sitting on the pole and leading over half of the race before having to settle for second at the finish.
Is Ross Chastain going to make the NGOTS playoffs?
Speaking of Chastain, last week he set one of the most ambitious challenges this sport has seen in a while.
After winning at Kansas Speedway last month, Chastain decided to declare for Truck Series points. It was obvious the last couple of months that Chastain should have declared for Truck points, at times being the phantom points leader. But now, he’s got to make it into the top 20 in points (which shouldn’t be that hard) and win a race to break into the playoffs.
And keep in mind that Chastain has to do this with Neice Motorsports, a team that has just three top five finishes in its history… and all of them have been this year with Chastain.
It begs the question, though: should NASCAR really limit NXS drivers from racing for the Truck Series championship? Would there really be an epidemic of NXS drivers coming down and stomping NGOTS drivers every week?
It doesn’t seem likely. Chastain has been the only driver to run both series this year full-time, and if NASCAR were to open that avenue up, more of the smaller team drivers would try to race in both. This would be great for the Trucks, which is a series that has car-count problems.
So honestly, Chastain shouldn’t have to embark on this challenge. Having to declare for series points is dumb; you’re either a Cup driver or you’re not. It would have been a great accomplishment if Chastain, driving for underfunded teams in both lower series, had made the playoffs in both. Yet now he will no longer have the opportunity to do just that in NXS competition, and the health of that series is going to hurt for that.