Ford announced it will be investing billions into further development and production of electric cars. Does NASCAR have a future with electric racecars?
Luken Glover: It’s been rumored that NASCAR was at least once exploring a potential series that was all electric. The possibility of an all-electric series in the near future is very feasible. It may end up replacing one of the lower divisions we have currently. However, I don’t see the NASCAR Cup Series taking that route any time soon. Hybrid components could be on the way in a few years, but all electric seems unlikely at this time.
Stephen Stumpf: With the Gen 6 and Next Gen cars, NASCAR has strived to put the stock back in stock cars. Therefore, NASCAR will follow whatever the manufacturers decide to do with their models in the future. If the models NASCAR uses in the future become electric, that would be the ideal time for NASCAR to switch to all-electric cars if that is something it is serious about doing.
Josh Roller: NASCAR has to have a future in electric cars. Whether you agree or not, the wind from the automobile industry is currently blowing electric, electric, electric. That said, it’s crucial for NASCAR to push the idea that the sound of engines and smell of gasoline will be significant draws in the future as the highways become devoid of engine noise. How often do new fans or first-time race attendees say the noise and smells were a major player in their experience? Aside from creating an all-electric series or rebranding the lower series to electric, the best way to go would be to introduce a form of hybridization into the cars — gasoline while racing, electric while pacing, something like that.
Should Talladega Superspeedway be a cutoff race during the Cup playoffs?
Stumpf: No; the Talladega race is fine where it is. Talladega was a cutoff race when the playoffs began in 2014, and it wasn’t fair to the drivers. During that inaugural second round in 2014, Kyle Busch entered Talladega as the highest driver in points that was not locked into the Round of 8 with a win. But because he was the only one to get swept up in a crash before the closing laps, he went from being second in points to out of the playoffs entirely. Talladega is always one of the most chaotic races on the schedule, and having drivers’ playoff chances live and die on dodging wrecks in the closing laps of a Talladega race is mentally exhausting for any team involved. Having Talladega as the first or second race in a round allows the dust to settle, and it gives drivers and teams a clearer head about what they need to do in the remaining races in order to advance.
Roller: Talladega should not be a cutoff race for a round of the playoffs. Sister track Daytona International Speedway is the regular-season finale and therefore a cutoff race, but there are 25 races before Daytona. If Talladega were a cutoff race, there are only two races before that. Keep Talladega as race two in whichever round it falls. It’s too big of a wildcard track to make up two poor performances, and there is already enough chaos as there is.
Glover: We already have Daytona as the last race of the regular season, which provides great drama and appears to be making the most out of that slot. That is good enough; it gives drivers one last shot to make the playoffs. While I love Talladega and its intensity, this is the playoffs now and the best of the best teams. You could have two great races to start the round and lose it all at Talladega. Don’t get me wrong, Talladega should require maximum effort and performance as much as any track. However, it’s so much of a wildcard that it may not give the fairest shot for teams to advance. Simultaneously, it’s plausible that it deserves to be a cutoff race as much as the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Kevin Harvick has just six races left to pick up a win in 2021 and will be without crew chief Rodney Childers at Talladega. Will the No. 4 team win before the season ends?
Roller: Kevin Harvick has two big teams to beat: Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. He won’t find victory lane in 2021 without something crazy happening from race retirements or pit strategy. The might of HMS and JGR is too large right now, and both are bringing their best stuff right now. It’s the final six races for these cars, and a championship is on the line. All the secrets and tricks from those two teams will not be overcome by Harvick without something wild going down.
Glover: Harvick’s 11-year win streak is in jeopardy, and it doesn’t have a great shot of getting out of the hole. These next two races are unpredictable and don’t appear to be tracks that you could point to Harvick as the favorite. While the team has appeared to improve over the year, its intermediate speed is still off from its fellow powerhouse teams. That won’t get the job done in Kansas Speedway or Texas Motor Speedway. Martinsville Speedway has been historically one of his worst tracks. That leaves Phoenix Raceway as his last hope, probably his best shot the rest of the year considering he has the most track wins with nine. However, other teams seem to be above the No. 4 team’s level there as well. He won’t win this year.
Stumpf: Harvick’s golden opportunity in 2021 was the Bristol Motor Speedway night race, and he wasn’t able to capitalize on it. While winning a race certainly isn’t impossible for Harvick and the No. 4 team, it is improbable now. The only two races where I see Harvick having a realistic chance at winning are Talladega and Kansas. The former is Harvick’s best chance at a win because of how random the races turn out. If Harvick can survive the carnage throughout the day, I expect him to be contending for the win in the closing like he has been all year. As for Kansas, it is an intermediate 550-horsepower track, something that SHR has struggled mightily at this year. But the race at Kansas in May was Harvick’s best run on such tracks this season, and the team appears to be showing some improvements, as Harvick put together a solid ninth place run at Las Vegas Motor Speeway. If the team nails the setup and builds off their previous run at the track in May, his chances are as good as anyone’s.
Justin Allgaier and Landon Cassill have over 400 Cup starts between them but will make just their second starts of the year at Talladega. Which would be the better Cup prospect, and who will finish higher on Sunday?
Stumpf: Justin Allgaier will get a better finish on Sunday. He will have his Xfinity Series sponsor Brandt on board with him, which tells me that they’re putting some serious work into making the car as competitive as it can be. And given JR Motorsports’ ties to Hendrick, Allgaier will have an advantage in the form of extra help if he ever finds himself within the main pack. That said, Landon Cassill has the better chances of making it back to Cup. If Cassill gets another Cup opportunity like he has in the past, he will take it. On the other hand, Allgaier is in a comfortable situation at JRM, where he has been able to compete for wins and championships in the last six seasons. Given his success in the Xfinity Series, he would likely be less inclined at taking a full-time Cup ride if the opportunity presented itself.
Glover: Both drivers are underrated candidates who I would love to see get a shot in top equipment, but Allgaier gets the edge. Since arriving at JRM in 2016, Allgaier has scored 13 of his 16 career Xfinity wins, with four points results of fourth or better. Allgaier has proved to be a consistent driver willing to take risks, and he takes care of his equipment, too. Granted, Cassill has not gotten as strong of an opportunity as Allgaier in recent years, so he shouldn’t be forgotten either. Just watching Allgaier in top equipment in the NXS gives him the edge and the intrigue of what he could do in Cup.
Roller: I’m high on Cassill. He has never been in a great Cup ride but has always outdriven the equipment he was in. Just look at StarCom Racing from 2019 and compare it to what Quin Houff did in 2020. The same can be said about his time at Front Row Motorsports. He has never been given the opportunity to drive quality equipment in the past decade; his last quality ride was back in 2008 with JRM, and JRM of 2008 was not the same JRM of 2021.
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