Kyle Larson was adamant that Bubba Wallace’s spin in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway was intentional. How prevalent do you think such occurrences are, and what, if anything, needs to be done?
Adam Cheek: They aren’t massively common, but something should be done when it’s pretty clearly intentional. Maybe a pass-through or something to that effect. Kyle Larson was having a good race and was caught on pit road when Bubba Wallace spun the car, hurting his chances at a good race in the midst of a playoff round.
Wesley Coburn: It probably depends on the status of the drivers, just as top quarterbacks in the NFL seem to draw ticky-tacky roughing the passer calls more often. And it’s probably been that way pretty much forever, so I don’t know that much can really be done about it. But NASCAR’s solidifying and clarifying what exactly results in a caution and what doesn’t would be a good start.
Amy Henderson: They happen on occasion. The same thing has probably happened since the dawn of time; despite what we’ve seen the last two races, it’s really not a weekly issue. If it becomes one, it’ll be time to intervene. Until then, not so much, as long as there are no playoff implications for a teammate. Joey Logano spun to help himself, not another Team Penske driver. Wallace has no teammates and his Richard Childress Racing partners are not in the playoffs. We don’t need another Spingate where a drivers intentionally brings out the yellow for a teammate in the playoffs who needs it, and NASCAR needs to reiterate that that is the line in the sand.
Josh Roller: This is a gray area to police for NASCAR. No one wants to see drivers intentionally cause cautions, but it happens more often than we think. What about the drivers who have a flat tire or hit the wall and stay on the track to draw a yellow flag to save a lap? What about Logano last week at Martinsville Speedway? Did he intentionally spin? If there is no evidence that the driver and or team conspired to cause a caution, like Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond Raceway in 2013, how does NASCAR prove intent? Staying out to create a caution flag and, to an extent, what Wallace did on Sunday is just a part of racing.
Zach Gillispie: Nobody should get blamed here, but that does not mean nobody is at fault. It was extremely evident that Wallace spun his car on purpose, but that was after his half-spin down the banking that was unintentional due to a tire problem. NASCAR should have thrown the caution for the first time Wallace slid. The problem is that there is a car out of control and then subsequently was slow on a track that had proved extremely treacherous (ahem, stage one). There was an element of safety to which NASCAR should have paid closer attention. There is no reason for a car running 25th to intentionally spin to spur a caution. That being said, this isn’t common issue and there doesn’t need to be consequences. However, if it becomes more prevalent, NASCAR should evaluate the problem on a case-by-case basis.
Barring a disaster by Kyle Busch, three of the Championship 4 drivers will be the same for the fourth time in the past five years. Is this a positive or negative outcome?
Gillispie: They have been the best three drivers the last couple of seasons. Is there a problem here?
Cheek: I’m neutral. It’s negative for people who hate seeing the same thing, it’s positive in that these drivers show just how talented they are by being so consistent. I take it for what it is, which is the latter: I respect all these drivers, and their performance is incredibly impressive. If they’re the rightful contenders to compete for a championship — and Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are arguably three of the best and most consistent in the sport — it’s a good thing overall; it reflects the sport as it is and who’s best when it comes to the postseason.
Henderson: How can it be a negative outcome when the four best drivers in the sport this year are vying for the title? And that’s exactly how it’s shaping up to be. While I put little stock in non-playoff standings because everyone would race differently without them, guess what? Take away the resets and eliminations and the top four drivers are the same four drivers we’re talking about (separated by just 21 points; we need the playoffs because…?). Nobody who purports to want a full-season championship should be upset in the least this year by the prospect of a final four repeat, because it’s the final four it should be if that happens.
Roller: If Busch had been more productive, it wouldn’t be an issue having the same three drivers in the Championship 4 for another year. He has been lackluster at best and has ridden his playoff points through two rounds. The negative is that a driver can potentially squeak his way into the Championship 4.
Coburn: Seems like a great thing for the organizations involved, as well as the fans of those drivers. The playoffs are designed so that ideally the best are the only ones left standing at the end, and it seems to be working.
Tony Stewart tested a stock car at Circuit of the Americas last week. Would you like to see the track added to a NASCAR schedule?
Coburn: Not really. Laguna Seca or another event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park would be better road courses to add, and Austin is too close to Fort Worth for a NASCAR event to be realistic. Texas is a huge state, but that’s still over-saturation.
Roller: It is a hard no for me. There are already two dates in the state of Texas, and I look at Road America as a better fit for the Cup Series. The Xfinity Series has four road courses already. The Truck Series needs to go to Sonoma Raceway or bring a national division back to the Northwest and go to Portland International Raceway. COTA is a great facility, but I don’t see a spot for the facility in NASCAR. Even if Texas loses a date in the schedule shakeup, I’d rather see that date go back to the Southeast and not COTA.
Cheek: I’m all for more road courses being added, and I certainly wouldn’t mind a track that hosts multiple other racing series adding NASCAR to their slate, regardless of what series.
Gillispie: It is apparent that NASCAR fans seem to want more road courses on the schedule. It would be a great track to add to the schedule. It’s modern and popular, which is what NASCAR needs. Additionally, COTA is a tough but fair track that can test the driver’s abilities, which is something NASCAR also needs. However, NASCAR must add more short tracks to the schedule before COTA can even be in the conversation.
Henderson: Absolutely. The problem is the schedule is too long as it is, and NASCAR needs to cut dates, not add new ones. Cutting second races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Pocono Raceway brings the schedule to the length it should be. After that, cutting a race to accommodate COTA would mean cutting either a superspeedway or a short track race. I’d be all for losing a Talladega race, but I’m not sure how many fans would share that opinion.
Do you find the Xfinity or Gander Outdoors Truck series Championship 4 battle more compelling?
Henderson: The trucks, simply because they’re not all Cup teams’ ultra-funded lower-level teams. There are smaller, family-owned teams competing for the title with a fairly equal chance of winning it. Three of the six teams still in contention never had a win before 2019. That’s pretty compelling.
Gillispie: The Truck championship has a leg up on Xfinity. Unless you have been living under a rock, it is fairly easy to tell which three drivers have been dominating NXS competition this season. When the NXS playoffs began, you could almost say Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer were shoo-ins for the Championship 4. While Homestead-Miami Speedway will be a compelling fight for those three drivers, the Truck Series has had much more closely fought competition in the front field between a ton of drivers. The six drivers still alive in the championship race have not dominated the season as the Big 3 in NXS have. While Brett Moffitt and Ross Chastain may have the most wins, the eight playoff drivers have scrapped against each other all year, and that promises to continue at Homestead between those who make the final four.
Coburn: The level of compelling storylines among the national series seems to be in inverse proportion to how often they’re on basic broadcast TV. The Truck Series is the most interesting this year due to Chastain’s unusual route to this point, Tyler Ankrum‘s getting this far as a rookie, Hattori Racing Enterprises’ quest to repeat and ThorSport Racing’s drivers fading early in the playoffs. The Xfinity Series has been fantastic to follow due to how thoroughly and evenly the Big 3 has crushed its competition, and whoever emerges as the champion will be deserving.
Cheek: Trucks. It’s the most underrated touring series of the three, and the Xfinity final four looks very similar to last year. It’s not a bad thing, considering all these drivers are immensely talented and deserve to be there, but the Truck Series is much more intriguing. Chastain’s had a heck of a year and shown how good he can be, while Moffitt is the defending champion with a new-to-him team with which he’s done equally well. Those two are pretty likely to make the final four, while the other four vying for the final two spots make an interesting group; any combination of the four that make it to Homestead will be an intriguing match-up.
Roller: Both the Xfinity and Truck series have been more compelling than Cup. In the Xfinity Series, does the Big 3 make the Championship 4, and who will the fourth driver? Can that fourth driver beat the Big 3? Can Bell win an Xfinity championship and attempt to become the first driver to win all three national series championships? In the Truck Series, it is simply Chastain, and if he wins the championship, how will it be received by fans and the NASCAR community as a guy who switched championship declaration despite competing in every race?