Could this be the beginning of another dominant season for the No. 78 team?
Mark Howell: After the kind of 2017 Martin Truex Jr. enjoyed, anything is most certainly possible. One win does not mean dominance, but the No. 78 bunch is leaning in that direction. More wins will come as we enter the summer months, although dominance might be up for grabs, as Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have demonstrated.
Amy Henderson: It’s hard to say the No. 78 won’t have a strong season, but it’s a long time until the champion is crowned, and he’s crowned for his performance in one race. Sure, a lot of wins would make Truex a favorite, but one thing goes wrong at Homestead-Miami Speedway for any of the final four and it all comes crashing down.
Matt McLaughlin: Harvick won three straight races and some folks were ready to hand him the title. Truex won at Fontana in dominating fashion and now people are at least willing to concede he might offer Harvick a challenge for the title. People! We’re five races into a 36-race schedule. As the old magic 8 ball might say, “Answer cloudy, try again later.”
John Haverlin: Truex will be fast this year, but he won’t be as dominant as he was in 2017. Can’t picture him winning the same amount of stages. This year’s championship battle will be a three-way fight between Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
Last weekend, inspection issues forced NASCAR to give teams an extra set of tires for the race. What needs to be done, if anything, moving forward with regards to the OSS, the new inspection system?
Christian Koelle: Nothing needs to be done with the OSS. Teams just need to start showing up with legal vehicles instead of trying to push just a little bit. As for those drivers who fail inspection, I like what they told XFINITY Series teams on Saturday: if they failed inspection, they will need to make a pass-through penalty once the green flag is shown. That should teach them a lesson, especially at tracks like Martinsville and Bristol Motor Speedway, where if you go more than two laps down, your race is over.
Howell: As with any inspection process, the key must be consistency. This means not only from team-to-team, but also (and more importantly) from week-to-week. We’ll see more bugs as the season goes on, and we’ll likely see additional concessions to the new system.
Haverlin: NASCAR just needs to stay consistent with its regulations. I wasn’t a fan of allowing teams to have an extra set of tires just because they made a qualifying effort. It was a reward that shouldn’t have been given just for passing inspection.
Vito Pugliese: If teams can’t get through in three tries, start them from pit lane. Seems to work just fine in Formula 1, and it would be obvious to everyone who the offenders are. If you miss a few minutes of practice the following week, nobody is really going to notice or care. Keep botching up the process and delaying things and pay the price on raceday when the cameras are on and when everyone is watching.
With Lowe’s leaving Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team at the end of this season, it marks the end of one of the longest and most recognizable partnerships in NASCAR. Is this cause to panic?
McLaughlin: No, actually it was time to panic four or five years ago. This is just another symptom of the underlying disease.
Haverlin: It was already time to panic, and now that Lowe’s is leaving Jimmie Johnson, it makes things worse. Attendance and ratings have been decreasing for a decade, NASCAR’s star power is currently at the bare minimum and the most successful driver in the field has to find a new marketing partner. Sounds like things are going great.
Henderson: No. Lowe’s has been having financial issues for a while, so it’s no surprise. For the sport as a whole, it leaves FedEx as the last company standing in terms of full-season sponsorship. For the No. 48, a full-time backer is unlikely, but Hendrick Motorsports should be able to sell 36 races on the car of a seven-time champion and the current winningest driver in the game for as long as he wants to drive it.
Howell: No need to panic at all. We’ve seen long-term relationships between teams and sponsors fade before (like Richard Petty and his glory years with STP). If anything, now the door is open for interested companies who’ve avoided the issue because of Lowe’s to toss their financial hats into the ring. Johnson will be just fine.
The Cup and Camping World Truck series head to Martinsville Speedway this weekend, but the XFINITY Series is, and has been, notably absent from the Paperclip for years now. Should the NXS make a trip to Martinsville?
Howell: The XFINITY Series should most definitely return to Martinsville. The facility is a great proving ground for drivers and teams alike, and being successful in NASCAR is often reflected by taking home a grandfather clock from Virginia. An XFINITY date at Martinsville would be a must-see event.
Pugliese: Absolutely. The fact that there are lights now is all the more reason to bring the middle sibling into play in what is always one of the most anticipated stops on the schedule. It would be an early Easter egg for those who want to see more short track racing — and at NASCAR’s oldest venue with the most character and which is about as grass roots as you’re going to get.
Haverlin: I don’t see how an XFINITY race at Martinsville could be a bad thing. Having all three national series at the short track sounds like a kick-ass weekend. But per usual, money will dictate what will happen. If NASCAR believes it will be cost-effective, then I’d hope to see it on the schedule sooner than later.
Henderson: The decision not to host an NXS race has nothing to do with NASCAR or the race teams not wanting one and everything to do with the fact that Martinsville Speedway loses money on the series overtime it tries because the sanctioning fee is significantly higher than the trucks, but they don’t get more butts in the seats. If fans want to see an NXS race at Martinsville, they need to go to it, and they haven’t done so in a sustainable fashion in years. The nature of truck racing is perfect for the track in any case, so the fans who do go aren’t missing anything in terms of the quality of racing.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.
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