1. Did Kevin Harvick’s win awaken a sleeping giant?
Anytime someone opines that a driver maybe just does not have it anymore, I go back to what I was told in the 2000s by a NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran when we were discussing the plight of a former champion mired in a tough slump.
In short, the comment went like this: “Guys like that, they don’t wake up one day and just forget how to drive.”
That was proven again on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 7) at Michigan International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Given his spot in the standings and good ol’ lady luck apparently choosing to abandon the No. 4 team at Stewart-Haas Racing in recent weeks, many casual observers wrote off the chances of Harvick winning in 2022.
But much like the “Man In The Arena” speech, Harvick, crew chief Rodney Childers and everyone else on the team showed that it matters not what the outside world says. Instead, what matters most is what those inside the walls of SHR think and believe, and the season may have indeed turned for Harvick with his Michigan victory.
Harvick knows how to win — and win in clutch moments. The same can be said for his crew chief. Remember, just two years ago, the regular season was Harvick, Denny Hamlin and everyone else.
2. Is this the year of the playoff busters?
As Sunday’s race ended, the field saw multiple drivers without a win this season near the front. Had things gone differently, Wallace, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones or Austin Dillon could have gotten their first win of the season.
Instead, it was Harvick.
But with so few playoff spots left and possibly more winners than postseason positions, there’s a very real scenario that could give us very strong drivers and race teams not in the playoffs but very capable of winning.
We saw Tony Stewart do that in 2006, winning three times in the playoffs despite not being among the drivers in that year’s playoff format. He kept drivers racing for a title from picking up more points.
With so many drivers capable of winning, it’s not out of the question that 2022 could be more of the same. These playoff busters could interject and keep a driver from advancing by winning a race for themselves.
It could very well overshadow the title chase, and that’d be a welcome sight to fans who hate this championship format.
3. Do more tracks only need one race per year?
Does absence make the heart grow fonder?
Sunday’s crowd in the stands and infield says yes.
I have always thought it odd that both Michigan and Pocono Raceway had repeat visits to their respective facilities within two months of each other. The weather is a factor, to a degree, but other sports play outdoors in the early fall and spring in that region.
When you have something so similar twice a year, it can be a bit monotonous.
The plan to spread things out and have just one race at Michigan and another elsewhere to give a different venue exposure appears to work. It only further gives weight to the argument that, with the exception of Daytona International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, no track should have more than one NASCAR weekend in a year.
Why race somewhere twice a year when you can liven up the schedule with a different venue and market to reach fans in? Even if you want to stay in the same region, why not race once at an existing track and another nearby at a similar venue; such as, for example, once a year at Talladega Superspeedway and once a year at Barber Motorsports Park?
Or what about an annual event at Richmond Raceway and one at Virginia International Raceway?
Plus, with only one race a year, as Sunday showed, fans are more apt to show up.
NASCAR should take notice.
4. How much emotion is too much?
In a post-race interview that seemed to never end, a tearful runner-up Bubba Wallace fielded multiple questions from USA Network. Wallace being on camera was expected; he had just finished second and ran arguably his most complete race on a non-superspeedway.
At what point is enough enough, though? One question? That’s to be expected.
Wallace’s face had the words of the late Lewis Grizzard’s column after his beloved University of Georgia lost to Georgia Tech, when his entire column read, “Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Wallace’s self-deprecation — similar, by the way, to what we saw from Chase Elliott prior to his first win — has a place during post-race interviews. But there’s a thin line between taking raw emotion into fans’ living rooms and making things worse; Sunday’s post-race coverage flirted heavily with it.
5. Why isn’t Ty Gibbs going Cup racing next year?
Ty Gibbs fought his way to a top-10 finish, another solid run for a driver thrust into a spotlight for which he didn’t ask. But Gibbs is making the most of his chance, regardless.
With this much proven talent, it’s foolish to lock him down and relegate the teenager solely to the Xfinity Series next year. If Kurt Busch is not cleared to race full time, or perhaps in his potential final year if he opts for a part-time schedule similar to what AJ Allmendinger is doing at Kaulig Racing, Toyota would be knuckleheaded to not find a way to put Gibbs in a Cup car next year.
That’s even if it’s on a part-time basis. Otherwise, it’d be a waste of Gibbs’ time and talents.
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