Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Silly Season Just Got Absurd

1. Is Ford beginning to rise from its slumber?

You’ve heard it all before. Ford’s lost three races by a combined .006 seconds in 2024, and the manufacturer is 0-for-30 in NASCAR’s top three series for its worst start since 2010. Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have combined to win all nine NASCAR Cup Series races on non-superspeedways, and Ford has seldom been in contention to win outside of a superspeedway.

That is, until last Sunday’s (May 5) race at Kansas Speedway. Chris Buescher of RFK Racing ended up being the surprise of the race, as he started 12th, won stage two, led 54 laps and was just a blink of eye from ending the drought and scoring his sixth career Cup win.

Aside from Ross Chastain asserting himself as one of the fastest cars in stage one, Buescher was one of the few drivers able to keep pace with Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin as the laps wound down. The No. 17 team was able to get back in the game with smart pit strategy after incurring a penalty for being over the wall too soon to start the final stage, and while Buescher wouldn’t have won without the late caution for Kyle Busch, he did a masterful job in getting to the lead on the overtime restart until Larson pulled off his heroics in the final set of corners.

The 54 laps led by Buescher marked the most laps led by a Ford driver on a 1.5-mile track (sans Atlanta Motor Speedway) since Ryan Blaney’s win in the Coca-Cola 600 last May, so Kansas marked a huge step in the right direction for the Blue Ovals.

Buescher may have been the only Ford to run up front from last week, but sometimes all it takes is one catalyst to turn things around. Just look at last season, where Ford only had one win in 13 Cup races (Joey Logano at Atlanta) until Blaney came out of nowhere to lead 163 laps and dominate the 600. That race was the turning point for Ford, and we all know which driver and manufacturer won the championship last November.

See also
The Perfect Race

2. With Chevrolet ending production of the Camaro and Malibu, what is its future in NASCAR?

The sixth generation of the Chevrolet Camaro ended production in January 2024, and on May 9, it was announced that the Chevrolet Malibu would end production at the end of the year due to declining sales. General Motors will shift its focus to electric car production instead.

Why is the discontinuation of the Malibu important? Because it was the last sedan left in Chevy’s lineup, and now it’s gone.

With both the Camaro and Malibu out the door, that leaves Chevrolet in a peculiar position for the Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series: What model would the brand use?

The manufacturer can keep using the Camaro in NASCAR for the time being, but given the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” it won’t keep using a discontinued car forever.

In that case, what would be the next model to grace Cup and Xfinity? If the series has a future in hybrids or electric vehicles, that gives the manufacturer options down the road. But if the series stays with gas-powered vehicles for the remainder of the 2020s, what General Motors chooses as its successor is anyone’s guess.

3. How much will change in the 2024/25 offseason?

If the past week has been any indication, a lot.

The first concrete news was announced on May 8, and in an absolute stunner, Michael McDowell announced that he will leave his longtime home at Front Row Motorsports for Spire Motorsports’ No. 71 car next season.

The current driver of the No. 71, Zane Smith, has a deal with Trackhouse Racing and is currently on loan to Spire. All signs point to him joining Trackhouse in 2025, likely in a third car for the organization.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Did Michael McDowell Make the Right Decision Leaving Front Row for Spire?

Trackhouse would need a charter for a third car, and there are plenty of other organizations, like 23XI Racing or RFK, that have room to grow. So where would the charters come from? Stewart-Haas Racing.

The rumors of SHR selling charters are nothing new. The team has struggled to return to its late 2010s peak, and Tony Stewart (who is already busy with NHRA, Eldora Speedway and formerly SRX) has been critical of the team’s recent performance.

The smoke behind SHR selling charters has gone well beyond what anyone could’ve expected, however. That smoke has turned into a raging inferno, and the entirely of its charters, its shop and the team itself might be up for grabs.

Chase Briscoe, Ryan Preece and newcomers Josh Berry and Noah Gragson are all walking on uneven ground, and their futures are up in the air if SHR sells charters or sells entirely.

More speculation has come about with FRM, especially after McDowell’s unexpected exit from the team. One rumor out there is that FRM and SHR may be in the process of a merger, although FRM GM Jerry Freeze denied the recent murmurs.

Combine all this with the current uncertainty surrounding the Cup charter agreement, and we’re in for a wild season of change.

Keep in mind, it’s not autumn or the end of the regular season. It’s May. There are still 25 weekends of racing to go, and shit is already hitting the fan.

4. Where do we stand on the 2025 schedule?

On the topic of the silly season, Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic brought the first significant insight to the rumblings of the 2025 calendar this week.

While entirely unofficial, according to Bianchi, the following rumors have the most smoke behind them:

  • Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City (which hosted Xfinity from 2005 to 2008) gains a date, replacing the spring date at Richmond Raceway.
  • Bowman Gray Stadium has entered the running for the Clash in 2025, while Southern California will likely be left without a points race.
  • Talks have begun once again with Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, but it’s “50-50” if that deal will reach the finish line.
  • Regular season finale will return to Daytona International Speedway, while Phoenix Raceway will host championship weekend once again. Homestead-Miami Speedway is vying for championship weekend in 2026.
  • Circuit of the Americas and the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway will return.

A Cup race in Mexico City? I’ve already been on board with saying it’s a fantastic idea, especially on the heels of Daniel Suarez‘s dramatic win at Atlanta in February. It may not be the best race due to the current struggles of the Next Gen car on road courses, but it would be a party, a major event and a way to reach millions of new fans. Ditto for Montreal, even if the odds don’t look so good at the moment.

When compared to the Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum, a race at Bowman Gray seems like a lateral move in terms of the racing product. That said, it would be right in the heart of NASCAR country and just an hour drive away from Mooresville, N.C., and that would prevent a long trek out west in what is already a grueling season.

Phoenix returning as the championship race would be a disappointment considering how lackluster the racing is compared to championship weekend’s former host. But if Homestead is back in the running for the title race in two years’ time, South Florida will once again put on a show.

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.

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Christopher

I’ve long held the opinion that GM CEO Mary Barra will ultimately pull Chevy involvement from NASCAR. She is a dyed-in-the-wool EV fanatic, against all sales evidence and financial losses. The only passenger cars GM will still have are Cadillac’s and the Corvette. The Cadillac division is heavily involved in other racing series, notably IMSA, another France family owned series, but are powered by hybrid units. The only way GM (and perhaps the other two manufacturers) remain in NASCAR is if the series goes to hybrid power units. So, IMO, prepare yourself for a fundamental change to NASCAR within two years.

Jeremy

RE: your last statement, it would make sense. The world is changing, and quite honestly, I don’t know that “win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is still a thing that resonates with fans/consumers. Racing used to be a proving ground for new technology and a reliability test of mechanical improvements, but I think that development has pretty much plateaued in the realm of ICE vehicles. This is especially true since the cars achieved speeds capable of sending the vehicle hurtling into the air (and stands) once turned sideways or backwards – and the ensuing limit of speeds allowed by various means (the worst being restrictor plates).

So it begs the question; what will NASCAR be forced to change in order to survive if manufacturers no longer see a benefit to being in the series?

Christopher

All available information over the past two years would indicate that NASCAR will move to hybrid units; it’s just a matter of when. Without manufacturer support the series as it’s been for nearly 50 years would collapse back into something unrecognizable. With billion dollar TV deals for the next 7 years, NASCAR will be forced to dance to whatever tune the manufacturers play, whether NASCAR likes it or not. Whether fans go along with it, well that’s the billion dollar question.

Bill B

That last sentence really is the kicker.
I can’t speak for others but I’ve been looking for an excuse to stop caring about NASCAR. If you graphed out my engagement level, it’s been on a downward trend for quite a while. I think something like going to all electric cars might just be the tipping point.

On a side note to a couple of other points made by others…

Other racing series survives with manufacturer support without being able to buy on Monday. Where can I buy an F1 car?

Last edited 7 days ago by Bill B
wildcatsfan2016

well that may be the case. Most likely if it does that will put an end to my following NASCAR other than as a minor blip on the weekend. I already devote far less time to watching NASCAR than I did 10 years ago or even five years. it will be interesting to see if the fans (any who are left) will be interested. I realize it is NOT PC but IMO it won’t be the same at the track if there isn’t that heavy metal rumble.

Christopher

It won’t be the same. F1 has never been the same since its engine suppliers and manufacturers moved to hybrid 6’s. Every F1 driver and fan who lived in the V12 era bitterly misses that screaming banshee sound of those monsters and NASCAR fans will have to go to local short tracks to hear V8’s in the not to distant future.

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