Race Weekend Central

5 Points To Ponder: Is Kyle Busch Back in The Saddle?

1. Has Kyle Busch Served Notice That He’s Back?

There’s a big danger in overreacting when a driver has a good run to counter a batch of bad ones. A balance exists between a team turning a corner or just one day of all things going right being an aberration.

Even on a day when Kyle Busch bemoaned how hard it is for the current generation of car to be the aggressor, he finished fourth on Sunday (April 29) at Dover Motor Speedway after starting from the pole position.

Busch now has two top 10s in three races, his best string since last fall when he drove to back-to-back top fives at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Charlotte ROVAL. It was also his first start from the pole since World Wide Technology Raceway last year, a race in which he won from the pole.

Busch has now put together top 10s at two rather different tracks of late, at Texas Motor Speedway and Dover.

If Richard Childress Racing can keep up that versatility with the No. 8 car, then Busch stands a good chance of being the best car not from the Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing camps.

See also
Kyle Busch Frustrated with Aero Blocking After 4th Place at Dover

2. Did Dover’s Fans Cement The Track’s One-Race Future?

When a track loses a race weekend, it’s easy to assume that the move is one step closer to that facility being shuttered.

Going from two race weekends to one can be a shot across the bow, a sign to a region that perhaps this track is not worth being as much of a part of the sport as it once was.

But a funny thing can happen with that, sometimes.

Not only does one fewer race weekend per season drive demand for ticket sales, but fans can also take it as a personal challenge. In what seems an ancient time ago, Darlington Raceway saw its spot on the schedule challenged. In 2004, its Labor Day date was shifted to November and the next year, it went from two race weekends down to one, its lone date being on Mother’s Day weekend, a time usually reserved to be time off.

I still remember being at a Darlington race in March 2003 and seeing a fan holding a poster saying, “NASCAR can take our tradition, but not our southern dedication. See ya in November.”

Many fans around the Low Country and PeeDee Region took that challenge personally, and fans in the Carolinas went to bat for Darlington which now not only has two weekends again but one on its beloved Labor Day Weekend.

Fans at Dover answered the call in a similar fashion on Sunday.

Since NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports – which owns Dover – do not publicly report attendance, we can only guess what we see, but based on crowd shots, fans near Dover took the prospect of supporting racing there personally, proving that they, after all these years, can still support racing.

Given that and Dover’s uniqueness, it’d be downright silly to have NASCAR minus Dover.

3. Can Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 Team Handle The Kansas Heat?

I’m no meteorologist, so I am not about to guess what the weather will be this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

But what is known is this: Tyler Reddick‘s Talladega Superspeedway win and the Michael Jordan factor put more exposure than usual on 23XI Racing. And with two strong runs soiled by being caught up in other driver’s misfortunes, Bubba Wallace is in need of a run not just for momentum, but to prevent a slide further outside the playoff bubble.

Getting to the postseason minus a race win is doable – Wallace did it last year. But that’s a fire that a driver probably wants to avoid playing with again if they can avoid it.

And that’s where this weekend at Kansas comes in. Wallace and 23XI expect to run well at Kansas. It is, remember, the site of Wallace’s most recent win the NASCAR Cup Series.

Wallace and the No. 23 team need to show up and at the least finish in the top five. If not, the pressure will be turned up hotter than the temperature used to be when NASCAR raced in July at Talladega.

See also
The Underdog House: Miles the Monster Smiles on Daniel Hemric at Dover

4. Is the No. 34 Team in Need of a McExorcist?

Michael McDowell and Front Row Motorsports had quite a feather in their cap last year, getting a win on a non-drafting style racetrack in a year that they’d have likely been good enough to race into the postseason on points. You can even make the case that McDowell had better fortunes than a majority of the other Ford teams, even those with more resources.

That created a degree of expectations.

But expectations can be a monster, one that you have to feed. If a racing god exists, it’s been standing in the way of McDowell and success this season. After a solid start of this year with top 10s at Phoenix Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, foul fortune has found its way to McDowell, especially recently. McDowell has failed to finish three races in a row, two via a crash.

That puts him 29th in the standings and for all intents and purposes, win-or-bust territory.

McDowell and his team need to get a few finishes in a row to build up some measure of momentum. This team is good enough to make the playoffs. All it needs is a handful of strong finishes to move toward being in a position to do so again, even if it might be via a race win this season.

5. Is Carson Hocevar’s Season Already A Success?

Before this season, Carson Hocevar only had nine starts in the Cup Series. His Spire Motorsports teammate Corey LaJoie had 236.

So going into 2024, Hocevar had the hurdle of inexperience to fight against. So far, however, Hocever has matched that of the veteran leader of Spire. LaJoie’s average start is 24th with an average finish of 23rd.

As for Hocevar? He has barely outperformed LaJoie, starting at an average of 22nd and finishing at an average of 21st. It’s worth noting that bad luck has found its way to LaJoie, especially the late-race carnage at Talladega.

More noticeably. Hocevar, for the moment, is 20th in points, ten markers in front of LaJoie. Last year, Hocevar’s predecessor at Spire, Ty Dillon finished 32nd.

Anytime a new driver is hired, one measure of success is how much they improve performance compared to their predecessor, and Hocevar is doing just that.

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janice

i remember when i lived in maryland and would go to dover races. you had to compete with beach traffic as well, especially on sunday night after the race. i could always get from northern baltimore county to dover in an hour pre-race…..heading home, easily 6-8 hrs. man i hated that traffic. there’s 2 ways into dover, either approach from the north from 95N or the south from the delaware and maryland beaches. this past sunday you had good weather so people went day tripping to the beach as well.

dover was always packed when i attended. they built extra seats to help with that, and then racing changed. now they’ve torn out those extra seats, so there were less 18″ spaces sold for each person. boy do i remember being shoehorned into those seats. having seats in the middle of the row was rough if you had to refuel and refresh during the race.

wildcatsfan2016

Janice, I totally understand. We had a group of people who went to the races – it was 4 busloads! and the stands were indeed packed. IMO that’s when the races were exciting at Dover. the guy who used to organize all that decided he didn’t want to do it any more so then we started driving there ourselves. It would take a couple of hours just to get out of the parking lot, let alone traveling 95N to go home. But as long as the racing was interesting, I was OK with that.

As I mentioned in another post, the last time we went there was so much empty space around us, I was able to lay down on the bench seats and take a nap. That’s when I told my friends I was done with spending my entire Sunday at Dover.

gbvette

I too remember the big crowds, the new stands being added every year till they were all the way around the track, and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic after the race trying to get back to NJ. Especially before they built the RT-1 expressway. I even remember back in the 70’s camping at the track and going in the club house Saturday night to watch the harness racing on the dirt horse track. But I have to disagree about the races at Dover being exciting. I know that with time our memories of past experiences often seem to improve and embellish those experiences, but I still remember that most Dover races were long and boring with very little passing or lead changes.

I remember when the Dover races were 500 miles, not 400 and could easily last over 4 hours. If you had a scanner, you’d hear the network announcers complain about Dover and laughingly call the races there the “The Longest Day at Dover”. I watched DW lead 250 and win and 300 and not win. There were quite a few years were Bill Elliott lead 260, 360, 200, 400 laps, sometimes winning. I saw Dale Sr win twice after leading 400 laps in one race and 450 in another. I was there in 95 when Kyle Petty lead close to 300 laps (winning the race and a Rolls from Felix Sabatas), and Gordon lead another 100-130 of the laps that race. If you go back and look at the results from Dover over the years I think you’ll find that many of the races at Dover were long boring yawners with just one or two cars leading all the laps.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d hate to see Dover go, it’s one of the few unique tracks on the schedule and the closest NASCAR track to me. But it’s long past time for them to do something to improve the racing.

Bill B

You left out the part about there often being only a handful of cars on the lead lap at the end as a result of loooong green flag runs where only a couple of cars could keep the pace.
My recollection is that somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 races were really good.

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