Do you think Kurt Busch’s win Saturday was redemption for what happened at Daytona last week?
Jim Utter: I think it was more of a personal redemption for Busch on the decision he made in the off-season to sign a one-year deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. He went to a new team with a new crew chief in a season in which a new aero package was debuted and quite honestly he’s out-run Kyle Larson (the established team there) from the get-go. The win on Saturday night was simply an exclamation point on what has already been a stout season. And by no means do I think he has accomplished everything he’s go to in the Cup series this season.
Nick DeGroot: It was more than just redemption for Daytona. Kurt Busch came to CGR and has earned them their first win of the 2019 season and in some eyes even putting himself in the championship discussion. It was a huge win for him, especially beating his younger brother in such spectacular fashion. If Kurt Busch made one point at Kentucky, it was that he’s far from done.
Tim Southers: I don’t know if you would call it redemption because Busch and his team didn’t do anything wrong they were just victims of the weather and and poorly-timed lightning strike close to the track. I think he’s more driven to prove his move to Chip Ganassi Racing in the offseason was a good one for the veteran. What I am really surprised about his he seems to be outperforming Kyle Larson almost every week.
After winning eight times last year, Kevin Harvick has yet to win this season. Do you think he could go the entire regular season without a win?
Jim: No I don’t. But then again I was virtually certain that team would have found a win to get to Victory Lane already, especially with home dominant Harvick has been in some races. I’m not sure the dynamic that is preventing the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team from translating their race-winning speed into an actual victory, but they are not alone. The entire SHR organization seems to be stuck in the same rut right now. I think once one of the four drivers cracks the win column, many more will follow.
Nick: I am surprised every race he goes without winning, so if he failed to win a single race before the end of the 2019 season I would be baffled. Stewart-Haas Racing as a whole has been a massive surprise this year with no wins between all four of their drivers. He will win in my opinion, but hey, I didn’t think he would go half the season without winning either.
Tim: I would have bet a week’s pay that Harvick would have had a win by now this season – especially after all the success he had last year. First thought it might be the switch to a new car, but I honestly think the new Ford Mustang is fine, Harvick, and the entire Stewart-Haas Racing team is just struggling to finish a race strong. They have shown plenty of speed and that is why I think Harvick is too good of a driver to go winless and he and his team will figure it out soon.
Cole Custer has emerged as a favorite to win the Xfinity Series title and is coming off of yet another win. In fact, he has won three of the last six races. Do you think he is the one to beat now for the championship?
Jim: I had been hesitant to say Custer could be the favorite but his performance on intermediate tracks – where the championship will be determined in the fall – is hard to ignore. While Bell is consistently fast each week as well, Custer’s team certainly seems to have the upper hand on the intermediate tracks. Bell could easily end the season with more wins than Custer, but he’s going to have a hard time topping Custer if both are battling for the title in Homestead.
Nick: He, Reddick and Bell are all equally favorites in my eyes. They are all the ones to beat and it will come down to them at Homestead, I’m sure of it. As for which will prevail, I couldn’t say.
Tim: I honestly thought Christopher Bell was the one to beat this season, but Custer has shown he’s now one of the drivers to watch and clearly has the momentum going right now for he and his team. His performance recently shows his team can run well and win on the types of tracks prevalent in the playoffs and that bodes well for the California native.
Are you surprised by the lack of serious inspection issues that have arisen over the summer and do you think it will increase as we get closer to the playoffs?
Jim: I didn’t really think anyone would dare test NASCAR on its new disqualification rules this season and it appeared for several months no one would. Then, ever since Ross Chastain had his Truck win thrown out at Iowa last month, several other teams have had issues arise. Christopher Bell had a third-place run DQ’d, Stewart Friesen had a truck confiscated before it ever got on track and Austin Cindric’s Xfinity team got an L1 penalty for it hit the track last weekend. Perhaps it’s the pressure of making the playoffs that has increased the violations but there are no signs NASCAR is backing down from its toughened stance and I certainly don’t think the risk is worth any reward.
Nick: It appears the updated consequences for failing inspection have worked masterfully as a deterrent. No one wants to risk a disqualification and make an entire race weekend of work be for naught. They will surely push it come playoff time but still, the penalty then is even worse than failing now so I believe (and hope) it will be a non-story.
Tim: I honestly didn’t think we would see a DQ this season but I was proven wrong not once but twice so far this season. Last weekend NASCAR showed it wasn’t messing around by confiscating the truck of Stewart Friesen and Austin CIncric’s penalty. What I am waiting to see is a DQ in the Cup Series.