NASCAR Mailbag: An early prediction for the final four

Welcome back to another edition of the NASCAR Mailbag as our team answers fan questions ahead of the 2018 season.

Who are your gut picks for the Championship 4? Do you think there will be a first-time champion and who will have the most wins at the end of the season? Thanks! – Jack

Jack, my picks for the Championship 4 —in no specific order—are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson. I believe Busch will have the most wins and no there will not be a new champion. – Lee Spencer

I'd have to agree with Lee with three of her picks, but I want to go out on a limb and replace Kevin Harvick with Chase Elliott. I feel this could be a big year for him after everything that transpired towards the end of the 2017 season. - Nick DeGroot

With the New Camaro in for the Cup series, is the year that RCR and RPM make their names heard again with a solid season? – Kevin

Kevin, Richard Childress Racing will be leaner and meaner in 2018. However, I don’t believe they are playing at the same level as Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing or Hendrick Motorsports. That doesn’t mean that RCR  cannot reach the level of success they once enjoyed and with Andy Petree on board I would not bet against them. As for Richard Petty Motorsports, the transition from Ford to Chevy will be tough. But there’s a lot to prove from RPM particularly from Darrell “Bubba” Wallace who is looking to make a name for himself on NASCAR’s top tour. – Lee Spencer

Have they looked at any other manufacturer to join NASCAR? Since Toyota joined, why not BMW, Nissan, or Benz? – Michael

Michael, the only car make mentioned in the latest round of rumors has been Dodge possibly making a return and no one from NASCAR nor Dodge has commented on that recently. NASCAR has an application and approval process that must be executed before any new make can enter a series for competition. To our knowledge, none of your mentioned manufacturers are close to entering NASCAR if at all. – Tim Southers

Also, over the last year, the rumor mill has been flush with speculation that Dodge would make a return to NASCAR after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters at Daytona International Speedway, “It is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in.” Certainly, an organization such as Richard Childress Racing which has its own engine program would make sense, however, the company builds power plants across racing divisions outside of NASCAR which could muddy the waters. Prior to Richard Petty Motorsports’ latest alliance with RCR, RPM entertained talks with other manufacturers but it would take an organization that already has a viable engine program to take the lead on the transition. As for the status of the satellite teams, that changes from year-to-year as up-and-coming organizations search for ways to become more competitive. I believe you saw that last year with JTG Daugherty Racing moving to the Hendrick Motorsports chassis. – Lee Spencer

What do you feel is NASCAR’s biggest issue to tackle this season? – David

David, NASCAR must do a good job of promoting its drivers this season after having lost veterans Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the past three seasons. The biggest hurdle will be for NASCAR and the sport in general to find a way to keep the fans of their most popular driver – Dale Jr. – engaged in the sport and not losing interest – Tim Southers

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