1. Does the Camping World SRX Series rely too much on NASCAR stardom to fill its driver roster?
Out of 23 drivers scheduled to compete in the Camping World SRX Series in 2023, 16 of them are from NASCAR.
That’s 70% of the roster.
There is an argument that because NASCAR is the most viewed sport in the United States that it would make sense to include a majority of drivers that are from that side of racing competition.
But the series is called the Superstar Racing Experience, not the Superstar NASCAR Experience, promoting the idea that the series includes drivers from outside the world of stock car racing. Those drivers must be superstars, as the name suggests.
Despite that, however, the season will see a field comprised of primarily NASCAR drivers, current and former, racing against a handful of NTT IndyCar Series drivers (six to be exact), one Trans-Am Series driver and a drag racer. Those last two are only in one race each, too.
That’s not a wide variety of racing talent, is it?
You could also argue that there’s no reason to add more drivers from other walks of motorsports when the whole schedule consists of dirt and asphalt short tracks and racing in late models.
Well, maybe you should argue that to Marco Andretti, who, despite spending his entire career in open wheel racing and on mostly road courses, won last year’s championship. Or perhaps you should argue that to Ron Capps, who has spent most of his racing career going in a straight line in funny cars and will take on a dirt track at Eldora Raceway. There’s also Ernie Francis Jr., the Trans-Am champion who whupped the field at Lucas Oil Speedway in 2021 and will return to try to do it again in 2023.
In other words, not only do drivers from outside the stock car world want to compete in SRX races, they can also even win them.
And there are plenty more who would likely be interested.
There’s a chance somebody like former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, who actually raced in the NASCAR Cup Series in a car prepared by SRX owner Tony Stewart‘s race team Stewart-Haas Racing, would take on the SRX challenge.
There’s also Australian supercars star Shane van Gisbergen, who recently beat the whole Cup field in only his very first NASCAR start at the Chicago street course. Kamui Kobayashi, the World Endurance Championship star who will compete in the Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course later this year, also may take up the offer.
All you have to do is ask.
2. How many chances do Ford teams have left to win their way into the playoffs?
It hasn’t been an easy season for the Fords.
Despite being 19 races into the season, the manufacturer has only gone to victory lane in the Cup Series two times in 2023, meaning that only two Ford drivers are locked into the postseason. So with only seven races left in the regular season and the clock ticking, where would the Blue Ovals have the best chance at winning another driver into the playoffs?
Let’s start with the obvious: Daytona International Speedway.
There’s little to no doubt that the Fords have been the dominant manufacturer when it comes to superspeedway racing so far in 2023. Out of the 853 laps ran on superspeedways in 2023, a Ford has led 595 of them. That’s 70% of the laps where a Blue Oval was at the head of the field.
That sounds promising, right?
Yet despite the manufacturer’s speed on the pack racing tracks, it has only claimed one of the four race victories, with Joey Logano winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. The rest of them have been won by a Chevrolet.
So perhaps Ford shouldn’t put all hope into Daytona — and the rest of the regular season doesn’t look too good either.
There aren’t any more 1.5-mile tracks in the regular season like the one Ryan Blaney earned his Coca-Cola 600 victory at in May, and out of the 260 laps run on road courses this year, Ford has led six of them.
It probably shouldn’t expect much from Indianapolis or Watkins Glen International. Ford also only led one of the 400 laps at Richmond Raceway earlier this year and has only been to victory lane at Pocono Raceway one time in the last 10 races.
That leaves New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Michigan Raceway.
Here’s where things look a little better.
At Martinsville Speedway earlier this year, Ford led a whopping 296 of the race’s 400 laps. One-hundred-and-thirty-five of those were led by Ryan Preece, who is well known for his modified racing background in the Northeast at Martinsville-like tracks such as New Hampshire.
For Michigan International Speedway, Kevin Harvick has won four of the last six Cup races including the Next Gen car’s only race there last year.
Outside of winning, thankfully, Ford still has four drivers inside of the top 16 spots in points alone.
Regarding how much that will change over the course of seven weeks, however, remains to be seen.
3. Are we watching Martin Truex Jr.’s final season?
Martin Truex Jr. said something interesting at Atlanta last weekend, and you may have missed it.
Truex, who has been one of the few Cup drivers in the field that has been part of the retirement conversation over the last year, mentioned that he will have to make a decision soon when it comes to returning in 2024.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also admitted that even his recent success, which has seen him earn two wins and sit second in the regular season standings, doesn’t make his decision any easier.
That doesn’t sound too positive. If winning races and being in the run for the championship doesn’t make you want to stay, what will?
Either way, fans and everyone in the industry should brace themselves for news regarding the No. 19 driver’s future being announced pretty soon.
4. Why is NASCAR not fighting harder to get a full-distance race in during rain delays?
You’ve heard the argument a million times, and you probably heard it again this past weekend: “The track has lights! Why can’t we wait a few hours to dry the track?”
Atlanta wasn’t the first time NASCAR officials have decided to end the race shortly after red-flagging for rain, and it most likely won’t be the last, either.
Another time was the infamous rain-shortened 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona that saw Justin Haley earn an upset win for Spire Motorsports. Those of you out there who attended that race may remember the sky becoming pretty clear only minutes after officials ended the event. That was pretty frustrating, wasn’t it?
It was also annoying to see NASCAR wait until the next day to announce the end of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Chicago.
Is there an in-between? Well, maybe there is for a track with lights.
After all, if a track has lights, who cares how late it takes to dry the track? Just resume the race at 3 a.m. if you have to.
Except you may forget about the casual fan, who isn’t willing to stay up until past 10 p.m. on a Sunday night to watch the last 75 laps of a race, no matter how fun it is, and therein lies the dilemma. There is a big, expensive cloud that looms over NASCAR’s head in 2023.
Broadcasting rights negotiations.
Every single race run this year alters the amount of money NASCAR will receive from a company for the broadcasting rights depending on its ratings, and ratings haven’t been too swell in 2023. Rain delays, such as the one at Atlanta, don’t help.
So rather than wait it out for hours and see the average ratings number plummet with every painful minute, NASCAR needs to do what is in its power to capture the highest ratings average possible.
Even if that means ending a race early when it doesn’t have to.
About the author
Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT
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