1. How long will it be until Josh Berry has his own Cup ride?
You don’t want to make too much out of one race, but with Josh Berry getting a boost toward the front on Sunday (April 2) at Richmond Raceway thanks to pit strategy and finishing second, the question has to be raised – is Berry about to make someone in danger of losing a ride sooner than expected?
Berry has not been a world-beater in the No. 9, one of the top rides in the garage. But he has not been atrocious either, with Sunday being his second top-10 finish in three races, and you really can’t judge much off an 18th-place in Atlanta Motor Speedway in a superspeedway race.
He has proved that he can adapt over time and gain comfort inside a race car. The longer he does that until Chase Elliott returns, teams, especially ones with either unhappy sponsors or looking to attract new ones, are bound to take notice.
Would these be opportunities Berry would pursue even if it meant leaving the JR Motorsports cocoon? It’d depend. But one thing is for sure – Berry has used his role as a super-sub nicely.
2. Richmond Raceway has successfully moved toward day racing. Should other tracks take note?
If there’s one thing that NASCAR loves to do, it’s to see a successful trend and beat it into the ground.
Think about it. The 1.5-mile quad oval? It went from just one venue to Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, with other intermediate tracks to come. The same went for night races. The sport went from just a select few races under the night to the next bright and shiny thing (no star-lit pun intended) for tracks to chase in hopes that it’d bring a bigger crowd and better racing.
Well, Sunday chucked a jar of Ragu Sauce over that theory. We’ve seen it ever since Richmond teetered at least one of its races from nighttime to daylight – better racing and more side-by-side action. Lackluster racing at short tracks is not what anyone wants – check gaping holes of seats off and on at Bristol Motor Speedway for more proof of that.
The fact is that moving an event to the daytime is one of the best things that Richmond’s management has done. Other than a small slice of races such as the Coca-Cola 600, the Bristol night race, and Atlanta’s July race due to its oppressive heat, NASCAR owes it to the excitement of its fan to run the majority of its races under the heat of the daytime.
3. When should Chase Elliott return?
When Elliott sustained an injury, it was announced on Mar. 7 that he’d be out of action for approximately six weeks. That’d put him as able to return right around the time of a race where he won last fall – Talladega Superspeedway.
But is that the best place for a driver coming back from a lower-body injury? On one hand, there would not be as much quick-rhythm and physical abuse that’d come somewhere like Dover Motor Speedway and, to a degree, Darlington Raceway.
Plus – and not to be doom and gloom – but of the upcoming tracks, the odds of taking a big shot from a wreck are pretty high at Talladega. If Elliott is not yet 100 percent, the safe call may be May 7 at Kansas Speedway, an intermediate track where Elliott can ease his way back in.
The flip side to Talladega, of course, is that Elliott could start the race for points and not lose a lap if replaced on the first pit stop by Berry.
But what do I know? I may not be a doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
4. Does Martin Truex Jr.’s Richmond run make him a Bristol dirt favorite?
Until tire management went sour late on Sunday, Richmond looked like a race that was Martin Truex Jr.’s to lose. You almost have to tab Truex as a favorite to win Sunday (Apr. 9) on the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track.
Two years ago, Truex had two top fives at Martinsville Speedway and a pair of top 10s last year at Richmond. Plus, two years ago on the Bristol dirt in his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in 15 years? All he did was get the race win. He also won this year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.
On short tracks – or shorter tracks – Truex has found ways to run well. For that reason, expect Truex to be a factor at the end of the Bristol dirt race.
5. Was leaving Kyle Busch Motorsports the best thing to happen to Chandler Smith?
It’s a credit to both Kyle Busch that various drivers that have driven for him have gone on to succeed in higher levels of racing – even outside the sphere of Kyle Busch Motorsports.
It may be time to add Chandler Smith to that list following his win on Saturday in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In a move partially spurred on by Busch’s exit from Joe Gibbs Racing and the Toyota camp, the options to stay in the Truck Series were more limited. Had Smith stayed, his best chance to quickly move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series on a significant basis within Toyota would have meant someone else being uprooted from the JGR pipeline that includes Sammy Smith.
Rather, Chandler Smith is in a situation at Kaulig Racing where more focus can be on him and instead of being, “That guy driving for Kyle.” Chandler Smith has the chance to be his own person.
Moving to Kaulig may have been an adjustment for Smith, but leaving KBM may have been, even if indirect, the best thing to happen to him.
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