NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Does Michael McDowell’s Win Turn Up Heat For Mid-Pack Teams?

Should the Daytona 500 and this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course have been held with fewer days in between?

Luken Glover: I can understand the reasoning behind it, but no. In a world where television ratings are crucial, a midweek race would not be the way to go. We saw a couple of midweek races last year and the ratings were not great. The Daytona 500 got a solid audience once again this year but was down last year, likely due to the fact that former president Donald Trump had been at that race. I wish we could watch racing without the thoughts of how viewership would be, as television controls a lot of aspects of sports today. If midweek races drew a strong audience, I’d say go for it. You could run the road course on a Thursday and then head straight to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Unfortunately, that is in a world where midweek races could bring in strong ratings.

Josh Roller: In a perfect world logistically, yes, but to ask some teams to prepare a road course car and bring it down with them to the 500 or change the setup in such a short timeframe is too big of ask. Remember, this race is in place of Auto Club Speedway, so money is being saved on travel expenses already.

Joy Tomlinson: No. If Auto Club had stayed on the schedule, teams would have gone to Homestead-Miami Speedway this week. NASCAR switched some dates and replaced ACS with the Daytona International Speedway road course fairly early enough for teams to prepare. After all, they were probably already preparing some cars for the other six road courses. Plus they’d likely have to bring their backup Daytona car as well as their road course car, as the turnaround time would be too quick. Besides, the sanctioning body experimented with weeknight races last year and the ratings weren’t very good.

Does an unexpected winner like Michael McDowell increase the desperation for mid-level Cup teams trying to make the playoffs this year?

Roller: It definitely puts pressure on the fringe playoff teams because I’m not confident Front Row Motorsports will be in the top 16 in points. But positions 20-25, no more than usual.

Tomlinson: A little, but there’s still 25 races left in the regular season. The desperation might pick up after a couple of months into the season, depending on who all wins. New teams Trackhouse Racing Team and 23XI Racing, as well as young talents like Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick, are all looking to earn victories and clinch their spot in the playoffs. Should one or several of these drivers win, the on-track competition would definitely increase.

Glover: Absolutely, that was one of the first thoughts that came to my mind after it had sunk in. First off, what an accomplishment for Michael McDowell. It’s great to see such a journeyman finally get his moment in a sport to which he’s dedicated a lot of time and energy. The Richard Childress Racing cars come to mind first as those who could be affected. I wouldn’t be surprised if either Austin Dillon or Reddick pulled off a win, but if neither does, this could mean one or both of them miss the playoffs if they hang around their position from last season. The Roush Fenway Racing cars, Jones and Bubba Wallace are also likely going to be affected by this. There are other guys who could slip into the picture if they don’t have strong years, but this main group is one I’ll be watching at Talladega Superspeedway, Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt track and Daytona in August.

There’s the rumor that Toyota could land a current team as well as new teams. What current team would best benefit from switching to Toyota?

Tomlinson: None. In order for a team to be able to compete right away, it would likely need a partnership with a top-tier team. Team Penske, RFR and Stewart-Haas Racing are all Fords, while RCR, Chip Ganassi Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are all Chevrolets. There’s currently only one top Toyota team — Joe Gibbs Racing. 23XI is already tied with JGR, so I don’t think any other team would benefit from switching to Toyota. It’s unlikely the other top teams would change from its rich history and move to Toyota, though RFR could be a candidate considering it’s only won two races since 2015. If RFR was desperate for wins, it could make the change, though it might not benefit the team right off the bat.

Glover: I’d like to see a Dodge comeback in Cup before a manufacturer switch. However, another Toyota team would provide more room to work with during the silly season in the future. The team that comes to mind is one that used to be with Toyota: JTG Daugherty Racing. This is a team that has been on the cusp of becoming another Chip Ganassi Racing or Wood Brothers Racing for the past couple of years. In 2019, Chris Buescher got the team a top-20 points finish. Last year, the pandemic hurt it like most teams, but there were flashes of race-winning speed from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Even Ryan Preece showed in the last 10 races that he can be consistent. A switch to a much more powerful Toyota than 2009-2012 would help this team become a top 20 team instantly, as well as a playoff contender.

Roller: Chevrolet has the most teams at the moment. JTG seems like a candidate for a possible manufacturer switch. If JTG wants to continue to field two cars, it needs funding and Toyota is willing to help, it may require a driver lineup switch but I can see the Nos. 37 and 47 cars being Toyota-powered.

The new Netflix show The Crew is based on the operations of a NASCAR team. What is the biggest benefit of such a show for NASCAR? Is there a downside?

Roller: The obvious benefit is that Netflix has lost a LOT of content recently, and if a customer is looking for something new and up pops The Crew, maybe NASCAR gains a new fan after watching. The downside is that recent portrayals on the big and small screens have made NASCAR look goofy or comedic. But from what I’ve watched so far, The Crew is somewhere between Days of Thunder and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Glover: The fact that there is a series based off of NASCAR is a bonus in itself. While it is a comedy, it will help people who may have never watched NASCAR to get an idea of what the sport is like and the basic foundations of a team. The only downside I see is that while I like the comedy of the series, people won’t learn as much about team operations as much as they possibly could.

Tomlinson: It could bring in new fans curious about how a NASCAR team actually operates. New fans could lead to better TV ratings, though the show is on a streaming platform. Many have opted to cut the cable cord and may not know all the ways they can view NASCAR races. It would be nice if the show added a screen telling fans how they can watch the races that week. As long as the show doesn’t paint NASCAR in a bad light, it shouldn’t do any harm.

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TiminPayson

The Crew on Netflix will bring liberal politics to NASCAR. just wait for it.

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