NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Who’s On the Hot Seat Right Now?

Last week, NASCAR President Steve Phelps announced that 2021 would not feature any major shakeups in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule like many were anticipating. It is also the same season that the Gen-7 Cup car will roll out and debut, which makes me question why they would not shake up the schedule.

Is this good for the sport to only make minor changes? Should 2021 be the year NASCAR shakes it up, or would they be better served keeping things the same for a couple of years? Is too much change bad?

Meanwhile, we are approaching the time of season where we question who is on the hot seat for next season. Erik Jones has been one mentioned for 2020, and even though contract extension talks have begun, nothing has come about yet. With Christopher Bell signing an extension for 2020 with Joe Gibbs Racing, this raises the question of where will he go in Cup for the team.

Should Bell run another year in the Xfinity Series? Is he ready to jump to Cup right now? Should Jones stay even if he makes the playoffs, or does Bell deserve to replace him?

Q: What do you make of NASCAR announcing that there won’t be a major shake up to the 2021 schedule?  -Alex S., Madison, WI

A: It does surprise me that NASCAR does not want to shake up the schedule by 2021 based on what it has hinted at this year. I do like what they have done for next season, but I was hoping for even more for 2021.

2021 was supposed to be the year everything changes in the sport, from the car to the schedule — and more. The car seems to be the only definite thing changing, but the fact that there won’t be more of a schedule shakeup is very disappointment. So many are hoping NASCAR adds new tracks, makes a shorter schedule and varies the track dates.

More short tracks has been the slogan for so many years now, and it unfortunately does not seem like that will happen in the near future. I am all for doing what is best for NASCAR and its future, but I do not understand the move. If you want to attract fans of the past and more new fans, shaking things up and making a schedule that favors what the fans want would help.

If we keep the same conventional schedule every year, it gets tiring and presents problems. Last season, when NASCAR added the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL into the playoffs, it was a nice shakeup that added some excitement at the end of the first round. It was a step in the right direction.

If NASCAR goes back on what it said and conducts major changes in 2021, it will do the sport nothing but good. It will add some more excitement into the playoff races and more hype as well during the regular season, especially if new tracks can be added to the schedule

Q: Which driver do you think is on the hot seat come next season? -Alan S., Nashville, TN

A: There are a few candidates for this honor, but Erik Jones has been a name that has popped up this season as one on the hot seat. Even though he has run very well this season and has spoken of a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing, it seems like nothing has happened yet.

With Christopher Bell announcing his contract extension to 2020 with the team, this leaves everybody in question as to where Bell fits into the equation. He is ready for Cup for sure, and he will have success once he gets into a seat. There is no room, though, right now in Cup for him. Jones has been mentioned as the guy who might get canned if JGR wants to move Bell up to one of its rides instead of a satellite team.

Leavine Family Racing has been mentioned as a possible destination for Bell if JGR decides to extend Jones. LFR has an alliance with the team, and if Bell were to come over, the alliance will more than likely only get stronger. Team owner Bob Leavine has said he wants Matt DiBenedetto back in the No. 95, but he even knows it’s not necessarily that easy.

Jones has performed well this season, but he has been hot and cold. But when he runs well, it’s near the front. He sits outside of the playoffs, but his fair share of bad luck has cost him a ton of points and is a main reason why he sits where he does. This weekend, the circuit is heading to the place where he earned his first career win last season, Daytona.

If Jones does not make the playoffs, it will only add to the debate of whether he should be replaced or not. Bell is an Xfinity title contender for the second straight season, and he has earned a Cup ride. Jones will make it to the playoffs. He is in too good of a ride not to and he will gain some consistency throughout the summer. The debate will continue whether he should stay at JGR or not, but his performance will definitely be something to keep track of as the season wears on.

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Jones is going to that #20 XFinity car next season. That’s the only ride available to him in the near future….Bell is ready right now


Remember, odds are good Larson and Busch are out on the street when CGR with Felix pulls the plug


He’s headed back to KBM to win some truck races.

John Irby

I think Joe Gibbs has a major distraction this week after Xtreme Concepts/IK9 just stiffed him on a multi-tiered sponsorship deal. One of the drivers affected is Erik Jones, who had some Xfinity races scheduled to be sponsored by that operation. Another Gibbs driver who is likely done for the rest of the Xfinity season is Jeffrey Earnhardt. Even Kyle Busch and Hallie Deegan might be impacted a bit by IK9 bolting, too. Something tells me that based on this situation, the Jones’ contract extension negotiations might have just moved down a notch in Joe Gibbs’ priority. This is not good for Jones given that Bell is already signed up for 2020.

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