Each week the Motor Racing Digest team tackles the tough questions facing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This week our experts debate the hot topics as NASCAR heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Question 1: Where will Matt Kenseth be driving next year?
Matt Lovisa: As of right now, it doesn’t seem to be the obvious choice. There is Furniture Row Racing who has an open seat now that Erik Jones is going to Joe Gibbs Racing, but Kenseth will need to bring sponsorship. The No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports will be available and quite possibly the No. 5 if Rick Hendrick decides to field four cars. Then there is the No. 10 and No. 41 at Stewart-Haas Racing, both rides that car owner Gene Haas has publicly stated he wants to field but thinks the driver lineup might be different.
Kenseth also said he is in no rush and doesn’t feel any pressure to find something for next year. With that said, my best guess would be the No. 10 at SHR or the No. 88/25 at HMS.
Dave Thompson: This has been the burning question since Kenseth made the announcement he would not be returning to JGR in 2018. Even at age 45, Kenseth is still very competitive on the track and in my opinion, the best option to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports. However, with the trend likely to continue with the “youth movement” in NASCAR, he may be forced to elsewhere.
Just to stir up some interesting conversation, wouldn’t it be interesting to see Kenseth replace Danica Patrick at Stewart-Haas or even return to Roush Fenway Racing to close out his career.
Question 2: Do you like NASCAR using VHT/PJ1/Trackbite at tracks like New Hampshire to help improve the racing lines, or, do they need to be doing something else?
Matt Lovisa: It seemed as though it did more during the Xfinity race than the Cup Series race. Which makes me believe it is more about the race car that’s on the track rather than what’s actually on the track.
Dave Thompson: Not sure the VHT/PJ1/Trackbite did much for me in terms of adding excitement to the race. While it seemed to help with grip, it eventually appeared to wear out and not be as effective in the later part of the race.
Question 3: A week after being handed one of the biggest penalties in recent memory, Kyle Larson’s pole winning time was disallowed and he had to start at the rear of the field. Is Larson’s team pushing the envelope too far?
Matt Lovisa: Larson’s team is in danger of crossing that line when fans talk about his team as “winners” compared to “cheaters.” To thrive in NASCAR you have think outside the lines and bend the rules a little bit. Martin Truex Jr.’s team is a perfect example of this. A year ago it was a feel good story when he would pull into victory lane. Now when he wins the fans want NASCAR to inspect every piece of his Toyota Camry with the finest precision. Even if Larson’s team doesn’t push the envelope and he keeps on winning into next season, fans might give his team the same treatment they’re giving Truex Jr. now.
Dave Thompson: Of course they are, and why shouldn’t they? One of the knocks on the No. 48 team has always been their ability to “push the envelope” and the result…seven championships. Teams have to push as far as they can within the rules to get that competitive advantage over their competition. With that said, let’s hope they have learned a lesson and turn it down a notch as the playoff approaches.
Question 4: Joey Logano currently sits outside the playoffs right now due to his encumbered win. Will Logano miss the playoffs?
Matt Lovisa: I think Logano will miss the playoffs and it’s going to be close if he can make it in. He is more than fifty points behind Matt Kenseth and he can’t afford many more bad results like the one at New Hampshire. The only positive is that drivers we have expected to win this season and haven’t are all ahead of him. The negative is that it only takes a win by A.J. Allmendinger at Watkins Glen or someone to win a fuel mileage race at Pocono that is below him in the standings, to place him further back.
Dave Thompson: I don’t think Logano makes the playoffs this season. The No. 22 team seems to be in a “funk” right now and heading in the wrong direction with just seven races remaining before the playoffs are set. All it will take for him to dig a deeper hole is a driver like Dale Earnhardt Jr. (a must win situation to make playoffs) or an AJ Allmendinger to win at Watkins Glen (5 top-10’s in 8 races, including a win), who both sit behind Logano in points, and he is likely done at that point.