Clint Bowyer said that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series package at Michigan International Speedway “wasn’t racing.” Do you agree?
Bryan Davis Keith: While even the great Dale Earnhardt was quoted as saying plate racing wasn’t real racing, even before the tapered spacer era, the stats showed that there were drivers that would capitalize on plate tracks more than others. Just because it’s a niche skill that doesn’t translate to every track doesn’t mean it’s not real racing. Now, having said that, questions as to whether it’s the right idea for NASCAR to transition to a schedule that makes such a skill what’s needed to win for two-thirds of the races on the circuit need to be asked. And if NASCAR is going to continue to refuse to rip the front air dams off the cars, it at least needs to add more horsepower back to the cars. It worked wonders at Talladega Superspeedway.
Adam Cheek: To a point. We saw some great racing from second place on back throughout the day, but racing for the lead left a lot to be desired.
Christian Koelle: It’s a tough subject. I said a few months ago that this package had some work to do in order to make the summer go well, and as it’s rolled out, that is not the case. This summer is probably going to be dreadful. I actually thought Monday’s race was solid and had everything I could’ve wanted, but at tracks like Chicagoland Speedway and Pocono Raceway, I’m concerned. Let’s just pray that Daytona International Speedway is as much a thriller as Talladega was.
Amy Henderson: I don’t know that I’d go that far, but for sure there could be improvement. I’d really like to see NASCAR go back toward a higher-horsepower car that makes drivers lift and use brake entering the corners; braking points are passing points. The cars raced well Monday in that they could catch one another, but they need to be able to pass one another. They’re too equal with the restricted engines.
13 of the 14 Cup races have been won by either Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske. Should this be a cause for concern for NASCAR?
Henderson: For NASCAR? No. For the other teams? Sure, because they need to get better. While I like to see a lot of different winners, the whole concept of winning too much in the Cup Series is a load of BS. The sport has survived a lot of drivers winning, reportedly, too much. It’ll survive this too.
Keith: It’s not a cause for concern. Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing are more than capable of winning races right now, and it’s not atypical to see some teams hit a home run out of the box with new packages (remember Hendrick in the COT era). Besides, we’re not to the Formula 1 level where one two-car operation is batting 1.000.
Koelle: I mean, look at the last few years. Heck, we got rid of Furniture Row Racing, and aside from the few times that Hendrick and Roush Fenway Racing have managed to squeak a win, it’s been nothing but these two going at it. Even SHR has simmered down, and that’s concerning again for the summer months. I remember how unbearable it was for some fans to watch Jimmie Johnson win every week; can’t wait to see what they say when another driver comes in and cleans house like he used to. NASCAR shouldn’t be concerned, but other teams should.
Cheek: I wouldn’t say so; we’ve seen this happen before where certain teams are dominant for a good part of the year. Granted, it’s been a while since so few teams have dominated nearly the first half of a season, but this could be happening due to a number of factors. Perhaps teams like SHR simply need more time to completely decode the package. Maybe it doesn’t fit those drivers’ styles. Either way, we’ll see the playing field even out somewhat; it’s only a matter of time before Kevin Harvick wins a race, among others.
How significant was Greg Biffle’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series win at Texas Motors Speedway after being out of the sport for so long?
Cheek: Incredibly significant. Greg Biffle hadn’t been in the sport since the end of 2016 — and hadn’t been in a truck for far, far longer — and to come out and hold off some of the series’ best had a huge impact. Whether it’s the fan impact, as a good chunk of viewers were certainly rooting for Biffle, or the racing impact (in that drivers who haven’t raced for a while can still come out and compete), it certainly was a significant victory.
Koelle: It was a huge deal for him to be able to pull that off. But you know who it really hurt? Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland. The fire’s getting hotter, boys. Better start performing, or Kyle Busch will find someone who will — and looking at the ARCA Menard Series lineup, he’s got a ton of options.
Henderson: Significant for what, exactly? I mean, it’s great for Biffle, but a former champion driving the best-funded and best-prepared truck in the field? If he wasn’t in the conversation before the race, someone wasn’t paying attention. Significance beyond a cute story, though? Pegs my meter at zero. Maybe a .5 on a slow day. If Kyle Busch Motorsports brings Biffle on for a title run next year, that’ll be a story to follow.
Keith: Biffle certainly got a boost from the Truck regulars staging a demolition derby in lieu of a race. Should KBM give Biffle a few more races (which it should), we’ll have a sample size from which to evaluate. At day’s end, a veteran driver won in a truck that’s won half the races on the schedule. Biffle or not, he was driving an A+ truck in a minor league race.
Sebastian Vettel clearly took exception to the penalty that was issued in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix in F1, costing him the win. Should drivers be able to appeal such a penalty — and if successful, retroactively awarded a win?
Cheek: In some cases, yes. If it’s a clear violation of some rule or guideline, it should stand, but if it’s a borderline penalty like Sebastian Vettel‘s was, that process should be an option. It looked like Vettel had no choice but to slide into the racing line in order to save his car. In that case, the appeal process should be a route drivers can take.
Keith: Appeals are not the way to go, as they rob fans of the race day experience (no one wants to leave the grandstands wondering who won the race). The issue in the Vettel/Lewis Hamilton debate is the same one gripping football and soccer, among others: all sports that are relying more and more on video review for governance are taking too damn long and thinking too damn hard. Races, like any other sport, need to limit replay reviews to 30 seconds after the incident occurs. If the missed call/issue isn’t so blatant that it can’t be resolved in 30 seconds, let the call stand and play on.
Henderson: No. That opens a can of worms no sanctioning body wants to let out. Judgment calls are part of sports, and human beings will sometimes get one wrong. That doesn’t mean the process is broken.
Koelle: We’ve seen both sides of this this weekend. Many claimed that Joey Logano jumped the restart in the Cup race, but as they looked back, it turned out he didn’t. Calls get dropped all the time, and that’s a big issue, but it’s not just motorsports. Human error can happen, and that’s just a part of life.