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 Michigan International Speedway.
Question 1: Another Toyota visited victory lane and the top four finishing cars were all Toyota. What are the chances a Toyota team wins the championship this year?
Matt Lovisa: Their chances this season are the same as this time last year, pretty good. Right now they have two of the best cars every week in Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch while the rest of the Toyotas have been running consistently towards the front with drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth as the rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. However, it only takes one driver to break up the Toyota party and last year it was Jimmie Johnson.
Question 2: Hendrick Motorsports has announced Kasey Kahne will not driver the No. 5 in 2018, and multiple reports have surfaced that the new driver will be William Byron. Is it too soon for Byron to jump to the Cup Series?
Matt Lovisa: At the beginning of the season I would say yes but with Byron scoring three wins in the Xfinity Series this season so far, I would say no. Byron is a quick study and has progressed up the ranks quickly so far, so why not give him the chance and see what he can do.
Question 3: Both Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones had impressive runs at Watkins Glen and are both sitting inside the top-20 in points. Who has been the more impressive rookie driver so far this season?
Matt Lovisa: I think Daniel Suarez, despite the slow start, has been more impressive this season. Suarez started the 2017 calendar year thinking he was going to drive in the Xfinity Series but learned very quickly that he would be in the Cup Series replacing Carl Edwards. Suarez has shown consistent speed as of late and as he visits tracks for the second time, that speed should continue.
Question 4: Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne are all free agents for 2018. Who gets a ride first and where?
Matt Lovisa: At this point, Gene Haas has already indicated that he expects Kurt Busch to be back in the No. 41 next year despite reports that his contract is up. Kasey Kahne in the fourth Stewart-Haas Racing car makes sense as does Matt Kenseth in the Furniture Row Racing second car.