Motorsport.com's NASCAR team tackle questions from the All-Star race to the shuttering of Red Horse Racing in this week's NASCAR Roundtable.
The reaction from fans and media seems to be that it might be time to move the All-Star race. If you could move it to another track, which one would it be and why?
Jim: I would move the All-Star Race to Martinsville Speedway, run it under their new lights, and simply double the laps for each segment - 40, 40, 40 and a 20-lap shootout for the $1 million. If that didn't provide excitement, I'm not sure there would be any reason to continue running it.
Lee: I’ve heard the arguments for Bristol, but if we’re to engage the fans, let’s go to Martinsville — under the lights, midway break in the season. A one day show, a short trip from Charlotte and still in the heart of NASCAR country.
Nick: The race has definitely lost something. My idea wouldn't be to change to change the track, but the track layout. What I mean is that I think they should run the Charlotte road course for the All-Star Race. It's becoming an official part of the schedule in 2018 with the fall Charlotte race, so why not try it for the All-Star event? I think it could work, but if I have to pick a different track, I concur with the sentiment of Martinsvile under the lights.
Tim: I would say either Bristol Motor Speedway (my first choice) or Martinsville Speedway. I think holding the event on a true short track would bring a level of excitement to the event that has been missing for nearly a decade now. To be fair, I feel fans today want contact and tempers flaring in the event and I think a short track is the only place that can give fans that today.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was very displeased with his car after the All-Star race on Saturday. Do you think he and his team can turn it around for the 600?
Jim: For his sake, I hope so. The No. 88 appeared out of contention almost from the start of the race, and even though the all-star race utilizes a different format and likely much different set-ups then typical races, it seemed very strange to see a Hendrick Motorsports car so far off the mark. Jimmie Johnson clearly contended for the win and even Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott ran strong enough (Elliott especially in the Open) where they were in the picture, but it was sad to see Earnhardt's final All-Star Race almost become an afterthought.
Lee: First, I’d be curious as to whether the team was experimenting with the car and the setup during the All-Star Race. Earnhardt couldn’t find the feel he was looking for throughout practice. This is a constant theme with the No. 88 team where the driver is not comfortable with the car coming off of the truck. The team wastes precious time dialing the car in rather than perfecting the set up for the race. It was surprising how solid Earnhardt was for qualifying despite never practicing pit stops. Still, his sole top-five finish came on an intermediate track. So, there’s hope, right?
Nick: That car was so far off that I wonder how it got so bad. But the 600 is a new race and he'll have a different car, so I presume he will run stronger than he did in that disastrous All-Star Race. But if the No. 88 struggles again this weekend, there are going to be a lot more questions.
Tim: It was unusual to see his car run that badly in the race, considering his past Charlotte runs. I hope for him and his fans that the car they bring for the 600 is more comfortable for him or it will be the longest 600 miles of his career.
Kyle Busch finally got Joe Gibbs Racing back in Victory Lane in the All-Star Race. Could this be the beginning of the turnaround for that team?
Jim: Kyle has had several good runs already this season and but for some circumstances, he could have easily already recorded a victory this season. It's the rest of Joe Gibbs Racing that has had the most problems so far this year. I'm not sure Kyle's victory in the All-Star Race will cure any ills, but it certainly can't hurt. Perhaps the No. 18 learned something last weekend that could help its teammates.
Lee: I’m not ready to declare JGR is back just yet. I believe Busch’s win was more due to his remarkable restart than a dominant car at Charlotte. The drivers just don’t seem to have the consistency this season compared to the last few years. Remember 2016 when JGR won six of the first 11 races? Then Kenseth went on to win the 12th race, too. In contrast to this season, the only Toyota wins (2) are at the hands of Martin Truex Jr. With Truex’s success, it would be difficult to blame the new nose on the Camry or the level of horsepower the TRD engines are producing for JGR’s lack of performance. On the personnel side, the ripple effect from the absence of Carl Edwards and crew chief Dave Rogers is still being felt.
Nick: The All-Star Race is one thing, the 600-mile event this weekend is quite another. If they can run strong and battle for the win in the 600, then I'll say this is the beginning of a turnaround.
Tim: Kyle has been fast at other tracks and for one reason or another couldn’t close the deal to score a win before Saturday night. The new format with four stages plays perfectly into his driving style and while it wouldn’t surprise me if he won Sunday in the 600, I still think the Fords will be tough to beat and as a team. I don’t think all of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have found the speed they’re looking for yet this season.
On Monday morning, Red Horse Racing suspended their operations. How big a loss is this for the Camping World Truck Series?
Jim: It's a huge loss, particularly in the sense that you have two drivers who were in the playoff picture now without rides. But Red Horse has been having difficulty securing sponsorship for some time and it was only a matter of time before owner Tom DeLoach would have to put the brakes on funding the team out of his own pocket. The organization is certainly of the quality that a new owner or investor looking at entering NASCAR could come right in and compete with the "big boys." For the folks who work there, I hope that's the case.
Lee: Huge. Two of the top 10 teams in the truck series are gone. Finished. And unless by some miracle, the teams won’t return. Veteran Timothy Peters is a perennial contender — and a role model for the sport. He qualified for the first truck playoff. As of now, his future is unknown. Brett Moffitt is a young driver trying to get established in NASCAR. On any given weekend, these drivers were in equipment solid enough to win. The shuttering of Red Horse Racing has depleted the talent pool significantly in the truck series. Hopefully, it’s not a harbinger for the sport.
Nick: A massive blow. They just lost two trucks that were capable of battling for wins and championships. But it shows the state of things when a Truck team like that can't afford to keep running on success alone. Without sponsorship, it was only a matter of time.
Tim: This is something NASCAR did not want to see happen and I feel for the drivers, team members and Tom DeLoach who is one of the classiest and nicest people you will ever meet in NASCAR. I hope an investor who wants to get in to the sport will appear out of nowhere and save the team, but it’s not likely. I think the Trucks are the best national series NASCAR has for week in and week out entertaining races and I hope the powers that be in Daytona can figure out a way to make it more affordable. From what I hear in the garage, they’re not the only team that was or is struggling for sponsorship.
There's also been talk of getting rid of the splitter on the Cup cars since they seem to do so much damage to the cars when they get off the track. Should NASCAR look at removing them this year?
Jim: With the way the charters were created, it's highly unlikely such a dramatic move could be made during the season. However, I think we are far past time to get rid of the yearly rules tinkering - it's just not making a significance difference. We need to go big - remove the splitter, take off the spoiler, open up the front valiance - whatever it takes to make the Cup cars punch a bigger hole in the air and reduce the dominance of aerodynamics on the cars. Giving out rules four months before the season starts just allows teams a bigger head start to get around them.
Lee: Currently, the splitter is an integral part of the aerodynamic package. I have never been a fan. The piece redirects air, creating more downforce and making the cars easier to driver. The cars need less downforce not more. Removing the splitters would be a good place to start.
Nick: Splitter needs to go for a number of reasons, but it's not something that can happen mid-season I believe. The splitter seems a bit archaic in that it was left over from the COT. We got rid of the COT body, the COT wing, but the splitter was only modified. It's long past time for it to be gone.
Tim: Unless it makes the car unsafe, I say get rid or everything that makes the car easier to drive for the drivers and take away anything that engineers can go to work on. I know engineering and innovation help make things better in life, but it seems since engineers came in full force to NASCAR, the racing has gotten worse. I know you can’t always go back to the way things were, but the engineers are figuring out how to work around NASCAR's rules changes faster that the sanctioning body can keep up with trying to make the racing entertaining at the Cup level on intermediate tracks.