NASCAR Mailbag: Silly Season outlook for 2018

The NASCAR team answers your most pressing questions in this week's Mailbag.

NASCAR Mailbag: Silly Season outlook for 2018
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota
Race winner Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford, Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford
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This week fans ask about different topics from the coast of racing helmets to where will Ryan Blaney be racing in 2018.

It seems that the media in general has portrayed NASCAR in some shape or form as the "best it’s ever been." Why is it that you don’t have fans write into you to say that? Why is that sentiment only coming from the people within the sport? Is anyone willing to say that the sport is relying on gimmicks right now that just aren't working for those who never wanted them, which seems to be a significant number of people based on continually falling ratings? - From Bob

Hey Bob, for someone who is at the track every week (ok, I missed the 600) and watched the races from the press box, I can tell you I honestly haven’t seen this much action in a long time. In 13 of the first 14 races, I have composed stage reports following every segment. After following the races that closely, I have a very good sense about what’s going on. I believe the stages have escalated the level of drama within the races compared to when the races just played out in the closing laps. Gone are the phantom debris cautions NASCAR used to artificially bunch up the field. That happens naturally  — and on a more frequent basis — now that the races are broken into segment. In the first  I only hope that at some point, only the green flag laps  count between the segments rather than lose that time under yellow. With the influx of the youth movement, these drivers appear to take a lot more chances than some of the veterans. They’re looking to make a name for themselves. With three first-time winners under the age of 30, they've done just that. If the battle between Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick last week at Pocono didn’t move the needle for you, I’m not sure there’s a solution. And if you're only basing your opinion from your couch, then a trip to the track is in order. TV can’t capture the intensity of what’s happening on the race track. – Lee Spencer

My husband and I were wondering the cost of a NASCAR drivers helmet, after all the specs are added. He says around 3-4 grand, I thought over 20. Can you help us? - From Buddy and Debi

Buddy and Debi, I checked with a couple teams and it appears a typical custom-made NASCAR driver's helmet varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. Some can run around $1,200, while Stilo helmets can run between $4,000 and $5,000 each. Special paint schemes can run an extra $1,000 to $3,000 for each helmet. – Jim Utter

There seems to be a lot of buzz on silly season this year. Do you guys think Penske expands to three Fords with Blaney next year and if so any word on who the sponsor(s) would be? Who do you think will be in the 10 next year? Any other Moves to be on the look out for? - From Nicholas

Hey Nicolas, silly season will be absolutely nuts — and will last all the way to Homestead-Miami Speedway. While we’re still in the speculation stage and this isn’t confirmed, here is some recent buzz. I would bet on three cars at Team Penske next year with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney behind the wheels. Then Paul Menard fills the seat at the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. The obvious choice to replace Menard would be Ty Dillon, however, I’ve been told he has a three-year contract with Germain Racing. Any driver looking to fill Menard’s seat at Richard Childress Racing will have to bring sponsorship. As for the No. 10 Ford, Aric Almirola’s name has been mentioned for that ride. However, a source told me this morning Smithfield will stay with the No. 43 Ford. Rumors also persist that Erik Jones will be in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. If so, does Matt Kenseth stay in the Toyota camp? Perhaps a swap with the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team or does he move to Hendrick Motorsports to work with  their  development drivers? Despite reports that Hendrick Motorsports scaled down to three cars in 2018, I don't believe it. Stay tuned. – Lee Spencer

What do you think NASCAR should do about the front valences on the races cars and trucks as it appears it causes a lot of damage and is a safety factor when they get in the grass? - From Mike

Mike, I'm in the same camp as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and would like to see the front valences greatly reduced or even removed. Certainly, it would help the current  problems splitters cause running into the grass, but I believe the quality of racing was better before the use of splitters became commonplace in NASCAR. The downside for NASCAR is it would likely return the sanctioning body to having to do more work evaluating each manufacturer's aero numbers to ensure the field of competition was fair. – Jim Utter

Do you have a question?

Fans, you can submit your questions each week to Responses will be reported generally once a week during the NASCAR season (Usually on Thursdays) 

You can also reach Jim Utter, Lee Spencer, Nick DeGroot and Tim Southers on Twitter at @jim_utter,  @candicespencer, @ndegroot89 and @TimSouthers, respectively. Use the hashtags #AskJim, #AskLee, #AskNick or #AskTim when submitting a question through Twitter. 


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