Battle Round Bristol: David Ragan or Erik Jones?

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NKP
Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NKP

Submitted by Matt Lovisa (follow on Twitter @mattlovisa)
Contributions by MRD Staff Writers
April 15, 2015

Alan Marle, HHP
Alan Marle, HHP

Question 1: NASCAR issued a P5 penalty to the #31 Richard Childress Racing team for manipulating tires at Auto Club Speedway. Was the penalty too harsh or justified to set a precedent?

David Morgan: There are three things that make up the holy trinity of things not to be messed with in NASCAR: Tires, engines, and fuel. NASCAR had no choice here but to lay down the law to send a message throughout the garage that this would not be tolerated. Any team will no doubt think twice before doing the same thing in the future with the precedent set by NASCAR. Although it will be interesting to see how the appeal plays out this week.

Dave Thompson: NASCAR definitely has delivered a message to other teams that manipulating tires is being monitored and you will pay the consequences if you try and cheat doing it. I don’t feel the penalty is too harsh and don’t see the appeal being successful for RCR.

Steve Conley: Certainly justified, but it could have been stiffer.

Matt Lovisa: The penalty against the #31 team was justified and NASCAR was left with really nothing else to do. We all know there are gray areas that exist when it comes to the rules but this was most certainly a warning for all other teams to not mess with tires in this way. I do not see the appeal favoring RCR but odd things have happened in the past.

Brandon Whitton: The penalty was justified. Altering the tires has always been a cardinal sin, and NASCAR warned the teams not to so several times.

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NKP
Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NKP

Question 2: David Ragan has scored one top ten as the substitute driver for Kyle Busch. Erik Jones picked up his first XFINITY win in just his 9th start this past weekend. Should Joe Gibbs Racing switch to Erik Jones, and if so, when?

DM: There is no doubt that Erik Jones is on the fast track to a Sprint Cup Series ride and likely will take over in the No. 18 in relief of Kyle Busch sooner rather than later. It’s just a matter of figuring out when and where to make the switch from Ragan to Jones.

DT: The media availability on Wednesday, 15 April at JGR with Kyle Busch may give a better indication of his timeline to return to the track. With that in mind, Erik Jones is clearly talented enough to make it at the Cup level, but I think JGR should stick with Ragan for now and allow Jones to continue to gain experience in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series.

SC: Two words…David Gilliland! Remember his instant transfer in to the Sprint Cup Series? How’d that go? Same thing with Logano. Just a few instant success that either did not pan out or took quite a while to move forward. Jones will get his shot. Don’t push it, especially in someone else’s car.

ML: As great as it is to see David Ragan in top notch equipment again, one can not help but wonder what Erik Jones would be capable of if he were the drive behind the wheel of the #18. If I were making the calls, I would make the switch at Kansas Motor Speedway. This would give Ragan his best shot of winning at Richmond and Talladega while allowing Jones to compete at a track during a double header weekend for Trucks and Cup. Then he has the chance for some extra track time during the Sprint Showdown before heading into the Coca-Cola 600.

BW: I don’t think they should switch at all. Why is there a constant need in the garage to push the next young talent so fast when he doesn’t have a permanent ride or sponsor? It’s not like the No. 18 team is going to lose sponsors because of Kyle’s accident, and Ragan is doing just fine in a substitute role. Let Jones develop more before thrusting him into Cup.

Nigel Kinrade, NKP
Nigel Kinrade, NKP

Question 3: NASCAR floated with the idea of running the 2016 rules package during this year’s All-Star race, giving the opportunity to see the cars in real racing action. If the rules package would be ready in time, do you think running next year’s rules package would have been a good idea?

DM: Absolutely. NASCAR can do all the testing that they want, but the only way to get a real judge of how the package will really work in the real world is to put it in real race conditions in the All-Star Race or some other exhibition. The data gathered would be invaluable in making any changes to the package before being rolled out full-time the following season.

DT: No question they should. New rules and changes always look good on paper and work great in theory, but taking the opportunity to test in in live environment is critical. Running the 2016 rules package at the All-Star race (a non points race) would yield enough information for NASCAR to make the necessary changes that don’t work before the 2016 season.

SC: No, the cars, and the racing is so much different for the All-Star race that they wouldn’t get a real gauge.

ML: Running the 2016 rules package would have been great but I see why they chose to stick with the 2015 rules. The new rules package would have built up extra excitement, something the All-Star race needs, while giving drivers the best form of testing. The only downside is if the rules package provides better racing and the fans cry out to make the switch now and begin to consider the 2015 season a waste, similar to when NASCAR began alternating races using the Car of Tomorrow.

BW: I don’t think it would have been a good idea. The All-Star race is an exhibition race for a huge sum of money, not a test session. Let NASCAR and the teams continue testing throughout the year with a refined rules package to wow us in 2016.

Russell LaBounty, NKP
Russell LaBounty, NKP

Question 4: Seven races in the 2015 season and we have seen five different drivers visit victory lane. Is it six different drivers after Bristol or do we see another repeat winner?

DM: There are several drivers who have run well at Bristol in the past that do not have a win yet in 2015, so odds are that we’ll see a sixth different winner in 2015 this weekend at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

DT: I think we see a repeat winner at Bristol this weekend. Likely Keselowski, Johnson or Hamlin. If not a repeat winner, I would pick Kenseth, Gordon or Kurt Busch.

SC: Thats a 50-50 shot. All five current winners are very good at Bristol, but I think it may go to six since Kurt Busch has been incredibly good since his return and there aren’t many better at Bristol than Kurt.

ML: I think we see someone knew the next two weeks at short tracks. Maybe Kasey Kahne this weekend and Carl Edwards the following weekend in Richmond.

BW: Probably a repeat winner in Logano or Harvick.