1. Is Tyler Reddick’s win a bad thing for teammate Bubba Wallace?
That popping noise you heard Sunday (Mar. 27) afternoon? No, it wasn’t a plate of your grandma’s fried chicken in the fryer. It was the heat being cranked up on Bubba Wallace, some of it being self-induced.
Sunday’s win by Tyler Reddick was great for 23XI Racing. But you have to wonder how badly it beat up the psyche of Wallace. This is now two years in a row that a 23XI driver not named Wallace has clinched a postseason spot within the first part of the season. That tells us that the resources, people, and equipment are there for races to be won, and Wallace’s latest self-defeating quote on national TV doesn’t help things.
There’s a line between holding yourself accountable and self-blame, and Wallace can flirt heavily with it at times.
Wallace likely knows this – that he’s in a ride that other drivers in the garage think they could succeed in – he is far from the first or last driver to be in those shoes.
One way to quiet that doubt, but inwardly and outwardly, is to win races. Until Wallace can do that, the question will linger over the No. 23 team with more and more pressure building between now and the postseason.
2. Should COTA replace Texas Motor Speedway on the schedule?
The Austin road course gets a mulligan from 2021 due to the weather, and up until the closing laps on Sunday when everyone tried to out-knucklehead one another, it was an exciting and compelling road race. Recent road-course affairs have gained notoriety for door-slamming action. Sunday, for the most part, was an exciting road race without those theatrics.
Contrast that with Texas Motor Speedway, which despite the efforts to tweak the racing surface, has been unable to put on a brand of exciting racing in recent seasons. If NASCAR’s long-term view is to add events in new markets, a discussion of oversaturating certain areas of the country needs to be had. If the sport’s top division is going to lean toward road courses and away from 1.5-mile layouts, then there is no reason not to seriously discuss replacing Texas Motor Speedway with COTA.
3. Whose silly season move has paid off more? Reddick or Busch?
There is no guarantee of success when a driver moves to a new race team. You can have all the elements in place – people, parts, funding and everything else. But if things do not click and gel, it blows up in your face. NASCAR’s history is filled with cases of something looking good on paper and not panning out. Darrell Waltrip teaming with Waddell Wilson had such high expectations that it was coined “The Dream Team,” but the results ended up being more like a nightmare. Larry McReynolds’ moving to crew chief Dale Earnhardt had an expectation of success, but that never materialized either.
Kyle Busch and Reddick are in an entirely different ballpark, as the moves of both to Richard Childress Racing and 23XI have already shown to be the right decisions. Regardless, both are in the postseason. Sure, there were doubts – was Reddick leaving a trending upward RCR the right move? Could Busch find success early with a new team?
Both have already proven those doubts wrong, and if you give both five more months to fine-tune things, both are looking at a season that goes beyond just winning a race or two.
4. Was the road course ringer show overkill?
Going into Sunday at COTA, there was a justified amount of buzz around the road-course ringers. But in the end, neither was a factor to win in the closing laps. Sure, it was cool to see drivers of a wide degree of disciplines racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, but it felt a lot like Travis Pastrana in the Daytona 500 – a bucket list item being checked off at the expense of drivers in NASCAR’s top series.
Given the end-of-race chaos, any hope of non-NASCAR fans taking an interest in this series had buckets of ice-cold water heaped on it.
NASCAR needs a compelling week-to-week product to generate interest – not trying to cram a one-off all-star race into its top level of racing.
5. When will Sheldon Creed reach a breaking point?
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I can understand what goes through a driver’s head mentally, as my racing experience is limited to go-karts and a brief hot lap or two in a Legends car.
But Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, in which Sheldon Creed overcame contact from eventual race winner AJ Allmendinger to come back for a top-ten finish, does beg the question – when will enough be enough for Creed?
Every driver has a way that they must choose to race. Some use the chrome horn. Others pride themselves on being a Jeff Burton or Mark Martin and race one another clean. There is nothing wrong with that, but at some point, you have to wonder if Creed will have to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and go over the top to show that blatantly dumping him won’t be tolerated.
You can rough a driver up until they show that they have had enough. Earnhardt may have roughed up people, but it’s worth noting that he and Bill Ellliott‘s paint trading never happened again on a deliberate level after The Winston in 1985.
Every driver has a moment to say that enough is enough, and that moment may be soon for Creed.
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