Six different drivers have won the first six NASCAR Cup Series races. How many more weeks will the streak continue? Which driver breaks it?
Luken Glover: The streak is in jeopardy this week at Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt track with guys like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell in the field. I am not going to underestimate someone like Austin Dillon winning this week, but there is a good chance we see either the Nos. 5 or 20 in victory lane this week. If not, it could be weeks before we see our first multi-winner.
Josh Roller: It comes to an end this weekend. Larson or Bell will be victorious on the dirt at Bristol. Probably sounds like I’m beating a dead horse that others have been beating for months with this prediction, but one of them will win. If it weren’t for this weekend, I’d say another week or two at least.
Rob Tiongson: The easy answer is that this streak ends this weekend with Larson winning Sunday. While it’s possible that Dillon, Bubba Wallace and Bell will be in the mix, the race will be like an extended version of what Larson feasts with away from the NASCAR scene. Larson knows how to finesse and muscle his way around a dirt track in a sprint car, dirt late model car and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series truck. On Sunday, he’ll showcase his prowess in grand fashion with his second win of the Cup season.
Should NASCAR allow controlled fighting similar to hockey?
Roller: Part of me wants to say yes, but I have to say no because we can’t trust the crews to stay out of the fight. Too often we see a crew member step in and truly make an effort to break the fight up but end up on the ground or surrounded by an opposing team. In addition, I like to think NASCAR, and racing in general, is more civilized compared to hockey (I look forward to your tweets, hockey fans). We don’t need to have controlled fighting, nor can we control it. As a sport, we are too entrenched in non-controlled fighting. It’s a part of our makeup and history, and we can’t flip a switch and tell crew members and team personnel to stay out of a fight between drivers.
Tiongson: NASCAR should control it so that any pent-up anger and frustrations are out of the way. I get it with the drivers going into a different mode and the stresses of being in that car, along with moments in which they feel wronged by another driver, getting to them. My answer may seem PC, but with my nephew and niece watching racing with me on occasion, I also hope NASCAR doesn’t bring this to a point where physical fighting becomes the norm. Moments like Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough in 1979 had that balance in terms of a fight that would eventually get controlled or stopped by officials.
Glover: To a degree, yes. The issue is crew members always get involved. If we are going to have a fight, let it be driver vs. driver without anyone else getting involved, like we generally see in hockey. If one crew member touches another driver during a fight, that’s where the penalties come in. Fans complain the fighting is too soft nowadays. A big factor in that is that crew members get involved. Fights should not be allowed to go on long at all, but let them settle it quickly.
The Xfinity Series is off this weekend. Should it have been scheduled to race on the dirt at Bristol?
Glover: As crazy as that would have been to watch, no. It would be nice to see Cup only this weekend. The trucks will put on a good show, but I would like to see the Cup guys jump onto a track that hasn’t held a full race already. Bristol has done a great job putting the track together after some early issues, but I don’t want to risk seeing it get messed up for the Cup race.
Tiongson: In this case, absolutely not. The Xfinity Series has a perfectly awesome reputation on its own, and the same can be said with Cup and Trucks to an extent. While it would’ve been great to have the start of its season continue into Bristol, the two-week reprieve allows more build up for its Friday night showdown at Martinsville Speedway.
Roller: Yes and no. No, because three series on the dirt will be too much for an inaugural race weekend, but yes, it should be scheduled, but not at Bristol. It needs another standalone weekend. The Xfinity Series only has a single standalone weekend (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course) in 2021. I chalk that one up to COVID-19, but it’s still is a huge bummer. It’s going to be great weather in Memphis this weekend. Maybe Memphis International Raceway should have been given a chance.
Does any Cup driver stand out as the likely favorite at Bristol? Who might struggle on the new surface?
Tiongson: Larson is the standout driver when it comes to a Cup regular who’ll excel at Bristol this Sunday. As for a driver who’ll struggle, Denny Hamlin isn’t someone who comes to mind with a dirt racing pedigree. He might adapt to the track and prove me wrong, but I just don’t think it’ll be a great day for the No. 11 team at Bristol.
Roller: Larson and Bell have stood out to me since this race was announced. Dillon is a good sleeper pick. Picking someone to struggle is more difficult to pinpoint. But based off how 2021 has gone so far, Kevin Harvick is the first one that comes to mind, which seems crazy after how 2020 went.
Glover: If I didn’t go with Larson I would slap myself. Other guys should not be forgotten either, though, like Bell, Alex Bowman, Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Tyler Reddick. We are going to see Brad Keselowski struggle with the new surface. While he was able to test the waters in an open-crate late model, he had a lot of growing pains. There are many drivers who are going to have a hard time adapting, but out of the top guys I’m going to keep an eye on the No. 2.