Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Bowman Gray, Chase Elliott & Netflix

1. Is it necessary for Chase Elliott to appear in NASCAR: Full Speed if it gets renewed for a 2nd season?

Viewership has been up across the board to start the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, and one of the reasons why is Netflix’s release of NASCAR: Full Speed, a five-episode documentary series that covered the 2023 playoffs along with the drivers and teams that qualified.

With that success, it’s possible a second season may be in the works, and it may cover more than it did last year. It’s marketing 101 to have NASCAR’s biggest and brightest stars on display in any outside forms of media, but 2020 Cup champion six-time Most Popular Driver Chase Elliott was absent from the first season since he failed to make the playoffs for the first time in his career.

In his appearance on the Dale Jr. Download earlier this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Elliott about the Netflix show, and if he would appear in season two if he was requested to do so (17:00 into the video below).

Here was Elliott’s response:

“I don’t know,” Elliott said. “Obviously, I didn’t do it last year. I haven’t watched it at all, so I think my first step to answering that question would be to watch a little bit of it and just see how bad they would piss me off being around all the time.

“It might not be the most entertaining thing or the most popular answer or whatever, but, dude, I really just want to go fast, and I want to do my job at a high level. And if I feel like there’s anything that’s going to take away from that, I’m probably going to say no to it.”

From a marketing standpoint, it would hurt if Elliott decided not to partake in the show. But as the series’ most popular driver, does Elliott have an obligation to appear in it?

No.

He may be one of the most recognizable names in the garage, but he is entitled to his own privacy, just as anyone else would be. And if having Netflix crews around would be a distraction to performance as he alluded to, that’s another reason why he has every right to turn it down, if that is ultimately his wish.

Besides, NASCAR: Full Speed has had more success bringing in new fans than existing fans, as 88% of its viewers did not watch the 2023 championship race at Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5.

Having Elliott appear in a second season would draw more existing fans, but for viewers that have never watched NASCAR or have limited knowledge of it, they would be interested in watching the show and tuning into races if they are entertaining — and the show can be entertaining with or without him.

It would be great for Elliott be a part of the show, but that is ultimately his decision.

2. Rick Ware Racing, Josh Berry and John Hunter Nemechek were among those that impressed with the tire wear at Bristol. What does that race mean going forward?

Sunday’s (March 17) Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway provided plenty of twists and turns with the extreme tire wear, and the unique set of circumstances saw some drivers and teams at the front of the field we wouldn’t normally expect.

After three straight finishes outside the top 20, John Hunter Nemechek scored the best finish of his young Cup career by crossing the line in sixth. He ran up front all day too, as he scored 13 stage points and had an average running position (ARP) of ninth.

Cup rookie Josh Berry was another one who impressed, as he started second, led 25 laps, had an ARP of 10th and was running fourth with 10 laps to go until his old tires gave out and relegated him to 12th at the finish.

Justin Haley and Kaz Grala of Rick Ware Racing finished 17th and 19th, respectively. The finishes look relatively unsuspecting at first glance, but it was the way they ran that turned heads. Both Haley and Grala were among the best at saving tires when considering the equipment that they have, and both had raced their way inside the top 10 at one point.

In terms of average running position, it was a career day for RWR.

While we won’t see a tire wear race like Bristol for a long time, all four drivers showed their skill in saving their tires and preserving their equipment on Sunday. For RWR, the race showed that it can run toward the front of the field when conserving equipment is part of the game.

If NASCAR and Goodyear can create a tire with a substantial amount of wear (but not as much as Bristol), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these four consistently toward the front of the field in the future.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Too Much of a Good Thing at Bristol?

3. Who are the road course ringers entered at COTA, and how will they perform?

For Sunday’s (March 24) EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, there are three part-time Cup drivers with road racing backgrounds that are entered in the race: AJ Allmendinger, Shane van Gisbergen and Kamui Kobayashi.

Given his dominant Cup win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL last October, Allmendinger should be a contender on Sunday, and at the very least challenge for a top 10. He will also enter Saturday’s (March 23) Xfinity race as the favorite. The only difference from last year is that Allmendinger will be running Kaulig Racing’s non-chartered No. 13 car in the Cup race, so there may be some unfamiliarity to work out before race day.

Van Gisbergen won his Cup debut at the Chicago street course and finished 10th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last year, but that was with Trackhouse Racing. This year, he will be running his 2024 Cup starts for Kaulig. SVG should still be poised for a great finish on Sunday, but given the equipment difference between the two teams, a top 15 would be considered a success.

For Kobayashi — who will reprise his role at 23XI Racing after making his debut at Indianapolis last year — the goal is to acquire more experience with the Cup cars. He finished 33rd at Indy last year, but he also had help from other drivers in getting spun. Improving on that result should easily be in the cards this weekend.

Beyond Cup, Brits Jack Hawksworth and Ed Jones will be making their Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series debuts for TRICON Garage and Sam Hunt Racing, respectively. Both drivers formerly competed in IndyCar and have had success racing sports cars. Former IndyCar driver R.C. Enerson and former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kyvat will also attempt to make the Xfinity race.

The biggest intrigue of the Truck race, however, will be Connor Zilisch. The 17-year-old Trackhouse development driver has already become a racing sensation, scoring class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring — two of the most coveted endurance sports car races in the country — this year. With his expertise, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him contend for the win.

See also
NASCAR 101: Notable COTA Rule Changes to Look For

4. Bowman Gray Stadium: 2025 venue for The Clash?

Bowman Gray Stadium, a 0.25-mile asphalt oval with zero degrees of banking, is a historic racetrack in Winston-Salem, N.C., right in the heartland of NASCAR.

The track is home to weekly late model, sportsman and stock car racing, and it hosted Cup Series races from 1958 to 1971. In more recent times, it hosted the former Whelen Southern Modified Tour and the ARCA Menards East Series from the early 2000s to the mid 2010s.

The track was in the news once again on March 21, as it was announced that NASCAR will manage the operations of the track alongside the city.

Earnhardt, who is not contractually obligated to either FOX or NBC this season, wasted no time in generation discussion about the news.

Keep in mind, this is the guy that planted the seeds for the revitalization of North Wilkesboro Speedway by removing weeds from the track surface in order to get it scanned for iRacing.

In a hypothetical scenario where NASCAR does move the Clash to Bowman Gray, the racing itself would be similar to the racing seen at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the last three years, as both tracks have minimal banking and are approximately the same length.

Running the Clash at Bowman Gray would save the teams travel money by being close to Charlotte, but the track would be unable to accommodate as many fans as the Coliseum — the track currently has a seating capacity of 17,000.

In regard to Bowman Gray holding a race in the top three series, NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy said that while it’s possible, there isn’t any news at the moment.

Could it appear in NASCAR’s top three series down the road? Absolutely. But having the 0.25-mile oval host the Clash in 11 months’ time feels like wishful thinking.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

4 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steve C

I don’t think napcar has to worry about seating capacity any where with what they have created.

Joshua

Don’t watch then. There were far more snoozer races in the 90s than the constant battling restart drama of stage racing. Except in the 90s a ŕace played out naturally with areas for PEOPLE to affect the outcome. Now it’s computer simulations and “entertainment,” not true bare bones racing. With that said, I LOVE NASCAR and will watch and support it until I die. But, we don’t need halfway fans and candy a**es.

Steve C

Your a little late if you don’t want candya** fans. That’s why many many real race fans stopped buying tickets. You obviously weren’t around in the 70s-80s. Enjoy your pc entertainment that NASCAR feeds you. To each his own, there’s great sanctions elsewhere

sb

If everyone seems to think that having to conserve tires is the next best thing, can’t they achieve the same result by limiting the number of tires the give the teams as they do in the Xfinity series? Easy to try it.

Share via