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 Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race.
Question 1: Was the decision to add a fourth stage to the Coca-Cola 600 good for the sport?
Matt Lovisa: I think it made NASCAR look more like entertainment than it did a sport. Sure, a fourth stage makes sense for the longest race of the season. But this sends the message that this is the most important race on the calendar since there are more points available to earn. If this decision was made at the beginning of the season, I think it flies under the radar.
Steven Taranto: It’s not a case of the decision being good or bad – I think it’s an excellent decision – But I thought it was haphazard to drop the fact that the race would be worth more points on everyone two weeks before the event. NASCAR should’ve made the decision before the season started, and I’m scratching my head as to why they didn’t.
Question 2: Joe Gibbs Racing has yet to win this season. Should they be concerned?
Matt Lovisa: Not yet. Kyle Busch will win and so will Denny Hamlin at some point. I think I would be more concerned with Matt Kenseth so far this season. He has had some bad luck this season, similar to Earnhardt Jr., but outside of Kenseth’s performance at Richmond, he hasn’t shown as much muscle as his teammates or other Toyota cars.
Steven Taranto: No. Kyle Busch has been in contention and leading laps the past two weeks and Martin Truex Jr. has won twice this season in identical equipment. As long as they have a car or two running at the front each week, a win will come naturally – No need to force it.
Question 3: Who wins in the Cup Series first: Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott?
Matt Lovisa: Right now it would have to be Blaney. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him win The Open to get into the All-Star race and then follow it up with a win in the Coca-Cola 600.
Steven Taranto: Based on his performance at the 1.5 mile tracks as of late, Blaney. The Wood Brothers were a restart and adjustment away from winning at Kansas and they’re right on the verge of putting a complete race together. I’m a little disappointed that Elliott hasn’t won yet, but I won’t bank on him winning first unless the Hendrick cars find some knockout speed.
Question 4: If you were Rick Hendrick, which driver would you choose to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of the season?
Matt Lovisa: If Hendrick has a chance to add Kyle Larson, I think that’s the first choice. Next, I would see if Brad Keselowski is going to renew his contract with Team Penske and can bring Miller Lite to the team. After that, I think signing Alex Bowman to a one year deal with an option for a second is the way to go.
Steven Taranto: Mr. Hendrick should do the right thing and go in-house. Alex Bowman proved that he could drive and compete by dominating at Phoenix last year, and he’s putting the work he needs to in as a Hendrick employee. If it were strictly up to me I would’ve proclaimed him as Earnhardt’s replacement for 2018 immediately.