NASCAR is considering an electric vehicle exhibition event as soon as 2024. Would an event help the sport grow?
Stephen Stumpf: It’s a double-edged sword. The manufacturers would likely enjoy an electric exhibition because they are making the first steps toward an electric car future. Such an event may also draw new fans that otherwise wouldn’t have watched.
But at the same time, would NASCAR’s current viewers like it? It would certainly draw mixed reviews when considering that the roar of the engines is a big part of the draw, especially for people that attend in person. But to do an electric race as an exhibition? I feel that it’s certainly worth a try.
Mark Kristl: I’d support the notion of a hybrid racecar, especially if it becomes more cost-effective and energy-efficient. As far as a full-on electric vehicle event, though, NASCAR fans like to hear the roar of the engine. So it might be a nice conversation topic, but any new fans of that event wouldn’t likely tune in to watch current NASCAR races.
Andrew Stoddard: This is the right move for the sport in the long term. While there will always be a place for internal combustion engines in NASCAR’s top series, an electric car series similar to that of Formula E will help bring a new set of eyes to the sport. It will also be a good PR move for NASCAR with the increased environmental awareness in the general population.
Joy Tomlinson: It wouldn’t help it grow but it would help NASCAR to explore the environmental-friendly forms of racing. With California set to sell zero-emissions/electric vehicles only by 2035, it might help NASCAR get a leg up on what’s to come in the future, especially if it wants to continue racing in California. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go for an electric NASCAR race, but it’s a start.
Wyatt Watson: NASCAR doing an electric vehicle exhibition would certainly grow the sport; however, in the wrong direction. Fans from across the country go to the track to see loud, high-powered machines rev around for hundreds of laps. Taking away the thrill of those engines would be appalling. The roar of the engines is an aesthetic that should most certainly not be changed in NASCAR.
Mike Neff: Eh, maybe. The world is moving to EVs and the sport will eventually have to adopt them. A hybrid vehicle is not far off, but a full EV is going to be tough. The sights and sounds are a big part of racing. EVs don’t make noise. It will be a conversation starter but not sure how long the talk will last.
Did NASCAR fairly penalize Hendrick Motorsports and Kaulig Racing for its confiscated louvers?
Stoddard: NASCAR got this one right. For a frame of reference to this week’s penalties, we can look back to Brad Keselowski’s penalty last season for modifying a single-source part. When that penalty was assessed following last season’s first Atlanta Motor Speedway race, Keselowski was docked 100 driver points and 10 playoff points, plus NASCAR levied a $100,000 fine to crew chief Matt McCall and suspended him for the next four races.
The severity of that punishment aligns with the penalties given to the Hendrick teams and the Kaulig No. 31 team this week. NASCAR’s officiating has been spotty at times in recent years, but they were consistent this time.
Tomlinson: Yes. NASCAR didn’t exactly say what was wrong with the louvers but it doesn’t allow for unapproved modifications of single-sourced supplied parts. It must’ve found something that was changed on the louvers, which resulted in the penalties. The same outcome has happened before for similar infractions.
Last year, Michael McDowell and Keselowski incurred the same punishments that Hendrick and the No. 31 Kaulig teams have. So it’s not like there isn’t precedent for the penalties. It seemed harsh then and it still does now, but it does tell teams that NASCAR means business.
Watson: I consider the penalties 100% fair. I applaud NASCAR for staying consistent and ultimately fair in its penalty toward Hendrick. Just as they levied two L-2 penalties to RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports last year, they taxed all four Hendrick cars and the No. 31 from Kaulig with the same penalty (with, of course, the exception of the injured Chase Elliott). Although I believe the penalty system that NASCAR has in place currently is too harsh on teams, I commend NASCAR for following through with enforcing the penalties.
Chris Skala: It is 100% fair. NASCAR said from the start, if you modify a body part, you will pay. Since the release of the car in 2022, NASCAR has been consistent with this penalty, which I applaud. What you have to watch out for is, did these teams make this obvious, to hide something else? I think this penalty is too big of a risk. But with the elimination of the top-30 rule, all you need is one win.
Zach Gillispie: Mess with the bull, you get the horns. It’s pretty simple logic. Hendrick messed with the bull and got NASCAR’s horns. What more do you want?
Neff: Yep, rules are rules with this new car. You cannot modify parts, period. Parts were modified so you get fined and suspended. End of story.
Can William Byron win three NASCAR Cup Series races in a row? Would that establish him as the top driver at Hendrick Motorsports in 2023?
Skala: He could, but I doubt it. With the penalty, Rudy Fugle is out for four weeks. The record shows Byron is not the same without Fugle. I do think this is an appetizer for what could come later this summer.
Stoddard: Byron can win this weekend, without a doubt. After all, he is the defending champion of this race, and he has shown his prowess on superspeedways throughout his career, including his first-ever Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway. However, even with a win on Sunday, I do not see him as the top driver at Hendrick.
Kyle Larson and Elliott both have Cup Series championships and Larson has been right behind Byron in terms of performance in recent weeks. As for Elliott, I anticipate a Kyle Busch 2015-esque story arc from him when he returns from his leg injury. Byron is off to an excellent start, but Larson and Elliott are the top dogs at Hendrick until further notice.
Stumpf: He absolutely has a chance at doing so. Byron dominated at Atlanta in March last year and he was once again one of the fastest cars in July before he got swept up in a mid-race crash. If Hendrick continues to have speed even after the louvers confiscation, he will enter as the favorite. As for Byron being the best Hendrick driver this season, not yet.
Six races is a small sample size and Larson has been right there with him in speed despite coming away empty-handed. Elliott is also out with an injury. Give a month or so after Elliott returns and the question of Hendrick’s best driver in 2023 will have a clearer answer.
Watson: Absolutely! With being the defending winner of the spring Atlanta race and the added fact that Elliott will be sidelined, Byron should most certainly be considered the favorite to win at Atlanta next week. As for him being the top driver at Hendrick now that the penalty to the Hendrick drivers have been assessed, Byron is certainly the best at Hendrick right now, being that he is the only driver to win this year for the team. Once again, however, one question still remains that has yet to be answered: Will Byron continue this dominant run into the summer and the playoffs?
Kristl: Byron absolutely can win at Atlanta. He won the 2022 event there, the first at the newly-reconfigured racetrack. He also has one win, four top fives and four top 10s in 18 superspeedway starts. But let’s slow the brakes on Byron becoming the top dog. Alex Bowman has two top fives and four top 10s in the four Cup races this season.
Larson? He won the 2021 Cup championship and took home three trophies last year. Hendrick doesn’t really need to distinguish who is its top dog because all four drivers could be the top dogs at nearly all other organizations.
Gillispie: Unbelievably, as the defending winner, he can. It’s almost comical to say, but Byron is already the top dog at Hendrick (I bet you didn’t have that on your 2023 bingo card). Elliott is out, Bowman is all over the place and Larson has played second fiddle to him in every race this season. So, what more is there to see?
Both the ASA STARS National Tour and CARS Tour begin their respective seasons last weekend. How much, if at all, should NASCAR promote these two late model series?
Gillispie: Greenville Pickens Speedway. Myrtle Beach Speedway. Peach State Speedway. Southside Speedway. Montana Raceway Park. Rockford Speedway. I-25 Speedway. Barberton Speedway. Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. Just some of the many names of asphalt short tracks across the country that have closed (or are set to close) since 2020.
Even Oglethorpe Speedway Park (albeit a dirt oval), the track I grew up going to as a kid in racing-heavy south Georgia, closed its doors in 2021. The entire state of Texas doesn’t even have an asphalt short track anymore. If NASCAR doesn’t market these regional tours and tracks, they will ALL soon disappear. It would be a colossal hit for the health of the sport as so many NASCAR stars cut their teeth on these asphalt short tracks.
Kristl: NASCAR has already promoted the CARS Tour on the NASCAR Roots Twitter account. Should it promote it more? No, it should allow the new ownership group to handle the CARS Tour. If anything, because Track Enterprises’ Bob Sargeant owns the STARS Tour and Track Enterprises has a longstanding relationship with the ARCA Menards Series, NASCAR could help promote the STARS events.
Other than some social media promotions, though, NASCAR should leave the short track series alone. Focus on its own property, ARCA, as well as the NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks.
Stumpf: The CARS Tour may be owned by a mix of NASCAR team owners, personalities and former drivers, but that doesn’t mean that it is owned by NASCAR itself. Therefore, it is still a competitor. The same goes for the ASA revival. After all, NASCAR didn’t advertise the Superstar Racing Experience just because it was owned by a former driver in Tony Stewart. With that said, grassroots racing is the foundation for everything NASCAR. It would be wise for NASCAR to get involved (and then start promoting it).
Skala: I was very disappointed with the ASA debut race and it was on Racing America PPV for $30. The CARS Tour was on FloRacing for no extra cost and you saw two good races. ASA had a fight and a fire extinguisher was tossed. I see the CARS Tour being promoted, especially with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Justin Marks and Kevin Harvick running the show. NASCAR needs this kind of racing to flourish, the fans need these tracks to succeed. I think it can be a win all around.
Tomlinson: Well, they aren’t NASCAR-sanctioned or affiliated events, but it wouldn’t hurt for NASCAR to promote them, especially the CARS tour. That series is co-owned by Earnhardt, Harvick, Burton and Marks, so talking to them about the series and highlighting what viewers/fans might expect to see and how to watch would be a good integration for both NASCAR and CARS.
Neff: This just in, NASCAR doesn’t own the series. Does NASCAR promote USAC? It isn’t their job to help other series succeed.
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