Without the NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader, does Pocono Raceway still have prestige in NASCAR?
Amy Henderson: I’m not sure it’s a question of prestige because Pocono has never been in the league of Darlington Raceway or Charlotte Motor Speedway, but I don’t like how NASCAR treated Pocono. The reason that Pocono had two races to begin with was because when NASCAR was begging Doc Mattioli to host a race, he agreed, but only if he was guaranteed a second date. I know times change, but it just seems like NASCAR should have kept a promise from a time when it was not in the position to be picky.
Mike Neff: Pocono will always have prestige due to its unique configuration and its legacy. The track has been running NASCAR races for almost the entire modern era of the sport. It is a fantastic test of compromise to determine a winner. You have to deal with a car handling poorly in at least one corner to ensure you have the speed necessary to get down the longest front straight in the sport.
Andrew Stoddard: Yes, for two reasons. Pocono’s triangular oval layout is truly one of a kind on the NASCAR schedule. As we saw with the recent announcement of the Chicago street race in 2023, NASCAR appears to value racetracks that have a design and identity that helps them stand out from other places on the NASCAR calendar. Pocono also boasts nearly half a century of NASCAR history, as the track will be celebrating its 50th year of Cup racing in 2024. In that time, the Tricky Triangle has hosted 88 Cup events (excluding this coming weekend), and the list of past winners there includes Hall of Famers like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and present-day stars such as Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Pocono still has prestige, and if anything, narrowing it down to one Cup race per year adds to it rather than subtracts from it.
Is Chicago the best choice for NASCAR to have its first street course event?
Neff: If we have to have a street race, it is as good as any. Just like they continue to force feed us the West Coast on a regular basis, they are going to continually hammer us with the Windy City. The computer-generated model looks like the course will be quite wide and easy to drive.
Stoddard: NASCAR is making a wise decision. The Chicago area is a largely untapped market for NASCAR; there has not been a NASCAR event in that neck of the woods since the 2019 Chicagoland Speedway race weekend. Also, calling Joliet, Ill., part of the Chicago area is a bit of a stretch, with it being about an hour’s drive from the heart of Chicago. I could see this working as well as the Busch Clash did earlier this year in terms of a boost in TV ratings and bringing new fans to the sport. While I understand the safety concerns, I am sure NASCAR and Chicago will collaborate on a plan to make sure this event goes well.
Stephen Stumpf: A Chicago street race is bittersweet when Chicagoland has been left untouched for the last three years. That said, it’s hard to do better than a street race in the downtown section of the United States’ third-largest city. It would be one of the most picturesque locations, as the city is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and boasts the second largest skyline in the country behind New York. Any issues with a street race in Chicago will be because of its narrow lanes, limited passing zones and minimal runoff areas, not its location.
Luken Glover: There should not be a street course, period. I want the sport to grow as much as anyone, but it should be done in a way that reaches out to fans interested in NASCAR or people who are potential fans to pull in. Trying new things is great to a degree. The LA Coliseum? That is a great idea. Chicago? Not so much. NASCAR has an on-track product that is working well. NASCAR is getting beat by Formula 1 in promoting that product. F1, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMSA are made for tracks like this. But even they have a hard time passing on road courses. Road courses add diversity to the schedule, but this is a sport rooted in oval racing. A return to Chicagoland would be better because of the Next Gen success on intermediates. This car has struggled on road courses, and quite frankly, NASCAR road racing in general has not been that great.
Was Landon Cassill’s on-track performance a fluke or a sign he’s on the verge of earning his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory?
Stoddard: Landon Cassill is unlikely to visit victory lane this year. His performance at New Hampshire was an anamoly rather than a new norm for the Kaulig Racing No. 10 team. Through 18 races, Cassill boasts only three top fives and eight top 10s. While both numbers are career bests for Cassill, keep in mind that he has never had equipment anywhere close to this caliber in his Xfinity career. Yet it feels like he is underperforming in the ride, especially when you consider everything Kaulig has accomplished in the Xfinity Series over the past few years. There is also the issue of the sponsorship limbo around that No. 10 team, with primary sponsor Voyager recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I believe Cassill will make the Xfinity playoffs, and I could even see him advancing to the Round of 8. But I do not see him taking a checkered flag.
Stumpf: Because Cassill’s third-place finish at New Hampshire came in a car that was later disqualified, a huge amount of doubt was cast upon the legitimacy of his performance. If his performance was with a legal car, it would appear that Cassill and the No. 10 were heading in the right direction. Instead, the disqualification gives off the appearance that their strong performance only happened because of an unfair advantage. If Cassill can replicate the top five speed he showed at New Hampshire in a legal car, he is on the verge of winning a race. Until then, his performance last weekend is an aberration.
Glover: I am not ready to say it is a consistent sighting, but it is not a fluke either. Cassill has talent and Kaulig in general has a great lineup. I just have to wonder how the addition of two full-time Cup cars might be affecting its performance. Kaulig has tried some new things lately, and the speed is beginning to pick up. However, it still has a lot of work to do to catch JR Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. Cassill will likely compete for a win a couple of times this season, but he is still a step off where he needs to be.
Henderson: It’s not a fluke. Cassill has always had the talent to do well if he had equipment as capable as he is. But racing for wins is still a learning curve, and he has never had the opportunity to learn. He’s learning now. He’ll be just fine, and I hope Kaulig will find a way to keep him in the seat next year; he’s more than earned it.
Set to make his 800th NASCAR start, should two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
Stumpf: I am not keen on inducting Xfinity and Truck series regulars into the Hall of Fame. The majority of Truck mainstays found a home after they were unsuccessful in the Cup Series, which opens up Pandora’s box about which drivers are worthy of induction. For example, AJ Allmendinger won one Cup race from 2007 to 2018. He has now won 10 Xfinity races in 67 starts since 2019, and he looks poised to win the regular-season championship in the Xfinity Series for the second year in a row. If other mid-tier Cup drivers decided to instead run Xfinity or Trucks full time instead of Cup throughout their careers, how much greater would their legacies be? When it comes to the Truck Series, drivers like Ron Hornaday Jr. are one of the few exceptions; his Truck dominance and impact was far greater than any other driver that made the series their home.
Glover: The number of starts definitely should not get someone inducted. However, 800 career starts are an extra incentive to a decent Hall of Fame case for Todd Bodine. He has two Truck titles, 22 Truck wins, 15 Xfinity wins and 125 top 10s in 225 Truck starts. Looking at drivers such as Hornaday, Jack Ingram and Mike Stefanik, plus Bodine’s contribution from a broadcast standpoint, he should have a strong case to make it.
Henderson: No. Sure, he has the titles (and for a smaller team in Germain Racing), but the numbers aren’t really there beyond that. His 22 wins pale against Hornaday’s 51. I have zero issues with drivers getting into the Hall based on their numbers in whatever was their primary series in their career, but for Bodine, despite the titles, that wasn’t Trucks. He has more starts in both Cup and Xfinity, making the argument for him as a career Truck guy a difficult one to make. Again, look at Hornaday, the gold standard for the series. He has over a hundred fewer starts in Cup and Xfinity combined than in trucks. He’s a career Truck guy. I’d support Matt Crafton over Bodine with fewer wins on the basis of three titles and being a career Truck guy. Bodine comes across more as a guy who couldn’t win consistently in the other series so he raced Trucks than a guy who made that series his home.
Neff: Dave Marcis has 883 career Cup starts. Just because you run a bunch of races doesn’t mean you are a Hall of Famer. Two Truck titles are certainly nothing to sneeze at, but Jack Sprague has three and no one is talking about his Hall of Fame career. Sprague did a lot more at the local level. Let’s wait a little bit on Bodine.
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