First off, welcome back to NASCAR Mailbox after a long two months. I know we are all glad that NASCAR is finally back and not only is it back, but it is arguably stronger than it was before the break. We have seen three full races now this week at Darlington, and all three have been the best we have seen in 2020.
What is the reason for the huge success so far since the return? Does no practice and no qualifying really contribute that much, or is the racing just this much better this season? Which drivers benefit most from this?
Kyle Busch has committed to running all seven races in the first 11 days of the return of NASCAR. This will be quite an impressive feat, given the durability it takes to make it through some of these upcoming races, including a 400-miler at Darlington this past Sunday and the Coca-Cola 600 this upcoming Sunday, two of the more grueling races on the schedule. Remember, before the entire COVID-19 break, a “bounty” was put out in the Truck Series for any Cup regular who can beat Busch. The debate continues as to whether it is too much, or is it good for the lower series to see him running like this.
Do you see this being good for the sport with Busch running these seven races? What benefit does it give Busch himself? Is it more beneficial for the series and ratings to have Busch in the races?
Q: What do you think is the main reason for the successful races at Darlington since the return? – Robert D., Asheville, N.C.
A: The first obvious answer here would be drivers being hungry to get back into the swing of things and also having to wipe off the rust after two months of not being in the car. That will definitely add to the aggressiveness all around. With no practice and no qualifying, the first time drivers were at full speed was turn 1 in the Cup race on Sunday.
Number two was the fact that cars were more than likely not setup to the drivers’ liking. Many cars were driving terrible in hot and slick conditions as they usually do at Darlington. That will always add to the excitement of a race. It did not seem like anyone truly got their car to their liking until near the middle of the last stage of the race.
Over 230 laps of racing with drivers struggling to find the balance and searching for the right place to run on the track allowed us to see some of the best racing all season through the first four races prior to Sunday. Not many expected much out of the race given what we saw last season at Darlington, but everyone who predicted it to be boring or uneventful was 100% wrong.
The third factor, as previously mentioned, was the weather. Warm conditions will always equal better racing, and we saw that on Sunday versus Wednesday when it was cloudy and cool at night. While Wednesday’s race was spectacular in every way, the weather was cool and the threat of rain was present the entire time. That adds grip to the track, but the tension still made for a great race.
The final factor was no practice and no qualifying. This has now raised other questions whether we even need this anymore, including from some of the drivers themselves.
No practice? No problem.
“We’re race car drivers, not practice drivers.” – @joeylogano
“I hope as time goes on, we can race more and practice less.” – @chaseelliott
— Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) May 22, 2020
Could all races be better without any weekend practice and no qualifying? We have seen the answer so far through two races be yes. While we will see qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600, every other race for the time being will not have anything except a race.
It is very safe to say whatever NASCAR has done this week has been a huge success. Will this continue? All signs point to yes, and it is clear everyone in the sport is ecstatic about being the first major sport back in action. Every race has something new to look forward to now. We are in for an exciting next month or so as everyone begins to settle back in.
Q: What message does Busch send to everyone with running all seven races in 11 days? Good or bad for the sport, mainly the lower series? – Barry T., Peachtree City, Ga.
A: This is definitely a good thing for the sport. With NASCAR being the only live sport on for the most part, it will give some attention to the lower series that many people might not have given it before the COVID-19 break. For Kyle, this is an opportunity to add to his already impressive resume.
While he has not won a race yet in the first three races, he will definitely be strong come Charlotte. It has become one of his best tracks, and there is no reason why he wouldn’t be a favorite in all three series. While his speed in Cup has not been there all season to date, that is not saying he cannot get it going this week.
Joe Gibbs Racing has only put one team in victory lane so far this season, with Denny Hamlin winning the Daytona 500 and the Toyota 500 at Darlington. However, we have seen flashes of brilliance from the other cars, including Busch. Martin Truex Jr. has had speed all season and been close to winning. Erik Jones had an excellent chance to win at Darlington on Wednesday night, and even led a handful of laps and looked like he could have been the guy to beat near the end.
In the Xfinity and Truck Series, Busch is always the favorite every single race he enters in both series. The added competition with other Cup drivers should make it fun for him, not just at Charlotte but the upcoming tracks as well. Kevin Harvick‘s “bounty” has yet to be announced again, but it was going to be a blast to watch back in March had it actually happened.
Busch is already one of the best drivers in NASCAR history and has much left in his career. If he can pull off at least 30-40% of these wins, that would be extremely impressive for all the miles he will be racing. We all know the controversy he caused with Chase Elliott on Wednesday night; even before that, he was always going to be the one to watch at Charlotte. He just may win every race.