Who is your ideal FOX broadcasting crew for the NASCAR Cup Series next year?
Stephen Stumpf: Mike Joy needs to remain at FOX for as long as he wants to. He is the heart and soul of the broadcast. Beyond him, it appears that Clint Bowyer is also a part of its long-term plans, which means the best course of action is finding someone who can complement him. It would be great to see Larry McReynolds back in the booth as the third member, but at the same time, the broadcast would also lose his knowledge in his current position as an in-race analyst. If McReynolds declines, a clear-cut third commentator hasn’t emerged for next season. That said, Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, among others, showed promise, and there’s no harm in experimenting with them again for next year. Also, FOX could even try a booth with just Bowyer and Joy to see how it works. There’s no need to rush in a third commentator full time when no one is sure about how to proceed.
Aaron Bearden: I don’t think this needs to be anything drastic. Put McMurray in place of Bowyer and throw in McReynolds or another bright crew chief mind as the third person. It could keep Bowyer around for some pre-race fun or have him host a podcast. But in an ideal world, FOX would lean to be more sport and less comedy in the presentation of the races themselves. Get rid of Michael Waltrip’s grid walk and focus on an at-track show in front of fans leading up to the race. Get rid of the cartoon-style imagery in driver photos. Make it look cool and exciting to be at the track.
Mike Neff: OK, let’s be real, the ideal booth would be Ken Squier, Barney Hall and Chris Economaki. Since that simply isn’t possible, let us have Joy, McReynolds and Stewart.
Josh Roller: The FOX broadcasting crew needs to be enlarged and more consistent. It’s sold on Bowyer, and while he has faults, he also has bright spots. But the third party joining Bowyer and Joy needs to either be McReynolds or McMurray — McReynolds for having a crew chief perspective there and in-person, McMurray serving as a more grounded balance to Bowyer. Then on pit road, there needs to be three reporters each week. Jamie Little is spectacular and is half of the reason FOX is watchable, the other half being Joy. But a third reporter via Josh Sims or Vince Welch needs to join Little and Regan Smith.
Kevin Harvick is currently below the Cup playoff cutline. Is his age to blame for his subpar performance this year, and if so, how much longer do you think he keeps driving?
Luken Glover: At 46 years old, age plays somewhat of a factor. As humans, it is inevitable that the reflexes just aren’t what they were compared to 10-15 years ago. However, Kevin Harvick can still be competitive and grab some wins. Ford as a whole has been a bit off at most tracks this year, with tracks smaller than a mile and a half being its bread and butter. That could play into Harvick’s hands at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stewart-Haas Racing has a driver on his way out, a driver on the hot seat and one who is still coming into his own. It has been running better as of late, and I would not be surprised to see Harvick find victory lane once again before he hangs it up. If his streak gets longer and longer, the end of the line may come as soon as next year. However, three to four years appears to be an appropriate timeline right now.
Neff: Age has nothing to do with it. Harvick has had some bad luck, and he has been in contention at multiple races. He will win a race before the end of the regular season. That said, he has three years left in him after the current season.
Roller: The struggles for Harvick are more car- and team-related and has nothing to do with his age. You have to wonder if the relationship between he and crew chief Rodney Childers has run its course. Maybe a change is needed on top of the pit box. In general, Ford has struggled but in recent weeks seems to be righting the ship. And SHR, let’s face it, has the weakest lineup among teams with three or more drivers. When you have that range of data collecting and it isn’t resulting in on-track gains, something is wrong. Forgoing any NASCAR craziness from leadership, if SHR can begin performing, I don’t see why Harvick doesn’t race for another six years. Especially with son Keelan coming up through the ranks.
After a strong crowd showing at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, what other venues should NASCAR consider that would likely also drive strong ticket sales?
Neff: The problem is, ticket sales don’t matter. It is nice to have full stands at racetracks, but the TV numbers are all that really matter. So, considering what would make the best TV, let’s run Hickory Speedway, South Boston Speedway, Stafford Speedway, Rockford Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway.
Stumpf: The biggest market that NASCAR needs to visit is the one it recently left: Canada. It looked like the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had found a home there, as the series raced at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park from 2013 to 2019 with great success. However, COVID-19 logistics prevented the race from running in 2020 and 2021, and with the financial difficulties for teams travelling up north, the track was left off the schedule in 2022. While it might be unfeasible to bring the Truck Series back to Canada, a Cup race there would be a packed house and a massive success. Money wouldn’t be as much of an issue, as the Cup teams receive the majority of the revenue in comparison to the NASCAR Xfinity Series or Trucks. In addition, the track is located in Bowmanville, Ontario, a town on the outskirts of the Toronto metropolitan area that is less than 50 miles away from the center city. Given the draw of a Cup race and the accessibility of the track to millions of people, it would provide a huge turnout. Fans packed Circuit Gilles Villeneuve when the Xfinity Series raced there from 2007 to 2012, and they will do it again if given the opportunity.
Bearden: I understand that this may not be entirely feasible with the hoarding of tracks by NASCAR/Speedway Motorsports and the economic models of some facilities, but in an ideal world NASCAR should keep spreading the wealth and removing second dates for individual trips to venues in new, underserved markets. The one that immediately comes to mind is Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The Chicago street course that’s been rumored for the past year is interesting. A track like Iowa Speedway could be fun if the local market can be swayed to support it. The Xfinity race at Portland International Raceway showed there’s appetite for a Cup date in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not sure the right track exists for that yet, but if the Portland course was given the funding for infrastructure improvements it could be tempting. You’d also get a short-term bump at historic venues — Rockingham Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, etc. — but time would tell if it truly proved enough to provide yearly attendance and fanfare.
Glover: NASCAR’s move into markets like Nashville, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Austin have been a success thus far. Diving into markets that bring both new sets of eyes plus keeping the core group of fans intrigued is currently important. NASCAR does not need to go to street courses; it has a peak number of road courses already. The most popular suspects recently have been North Wilkesboro, Rockingham and Nashville Fairgrounds, with which I am on board. Let’s venture out of those, however. Memphis International Raceway would be a great track to which NASCAR could bring Cup. NASCAR and Tennessee’s large markets have mixed very well, and this would likely be no different. Additionally, races in the Midwest have been popular in that area recently. The Milwaukee Mile, Iowa and Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park would all be great additions.
After a lengthy response time to Carson Hocevar after his last-lap crash in the Truck Series at Gateway, what, if anything, can be done to improve safety personnel tending to a driver?
Roller: At the end of the day, the safety crews responding to an accident need to get there as quickly and efficiently as possible. If that means NASCAR needs to direct all cars to run a specific line until all safety crews have arrived, then do so. There needs to be more physical urgency when a driver or safety team member deems something is wrong. There wasn’t a sense of urgency physically from those responding to Carson Hocevar‘s truck. Do more safety workers arrive sooner if someone is gesturing to get there quickly? From what was published by FOX and NASCAR, I did not see that. NASCAR, AMR and tracks need to develop a plan that resembles the NTT IndyCar Series’ response during their oval races.
Stumpf: Part of the response time can be improved by prioritizing the drivers that have suffered the worst impacts in a crash first. In Hocevar’s case, a car or truck that is hit in the driver’s door at full speed should be prioritized for assistance over all vehicles unless another is upside down, on fire or suffered an even worse impact. While every driver suffered hard hits in the last lap crash at Gateway, only one truck was hit in the door, the most vulnerable part of the vehicle. The left side of Hocevar’s truck was also pancaked in, which was another indication that he should’ve received priority assistance among the drivers involved. Another solution would be giving pit boxes the ability to instantly contact safety personnel. Hocevar was begging for help, and if the No. 42 team could radio to the safety crews that he was in distress, the crews would have been able to rush into action and focus on his well-being first.
Bearden: Look, I know the crash response didn’t sound good. Most of us have heard Hocevar’s in-car audio on social media and it was heartbreaking to listen to. But I’m not sure what all NASCAR could have done differently. There were multiple vehicles in the accident, safety workers needed to wait for the field to pass by before they could get out to the scene of the wreck, and Hocevar quickly put his window net down, giving the impression that he was unhurt. I wish someone up above would have told safety workers to check on Hocevar first given his accident (maybe they did and it was missed), but they were still on the scene within a minute. NASCAR could potentially learn something from IndyCar’s traveling crew, and there are always improvements to be made with the speed and quality of safety care, but the response to Hocevar’s crash wasn’t particularly egregious.
Glover: Part of the problem with Hocevar’s crash was that he put the window net down, which signals that a driver is not seriously hurt. However, the safety teams still need to make a quick effort to respond to a crash as soon as possible. Radio communication is important, and it should be vital that the safety crew has immediate access to radio communication to be able to respond efficiently.
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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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