Key questions as the NASCAR Cup Series kicks off this weekend

Because the Cup sequence attracts to an in depth this low season weekend, many questions stay.

Amongst these: How would I describe what occurred within the first 16 races?

Unpredictability shortly involves thoughts. Twelve totally different winners – together with 4 first-time winners – have revitalized the discuss that each one 16 cut-off factors drivers can fill with a win.

However is sudden actually the suitable phrase? Martin Truex Jr. Predict in January how upside this season may very well be in a chat with NBC Sports activities.

“There will probably be numerous loopy storylines at first of the 12 months,” he stated. “There will probably be numerous surprises, and there will probably be numerous guys who’ve a great week, and a foul week, and a great week, and a foul week, and worse and improper.

“I simply really feel that till we get a while underneath our belt and discover some sort of baseline for what you (the subsequent technology automotive) desires on sure tracks, we’re all going to do the analysis. We’re all going to gamble on what we take to the racetrack when it comes to setup.”

There is no such thing as a instance that highlights the character of success and failure this season as every week Joey Logano It was in Could.

He struggled at Dover, crossed the end line 29 and 4 laps behind the chief. Per week later, Lugano received the pole, main 107 laps within the race and He received in Darlington.

“It is loopy to go from the place we had been final weekend in Dover, the place we had been out … we certified within the mid-20s and actually run within the mid-20s and fall into shipwrecks and all of that,” Lugano stated after his Darlington win. “Then you definitely come again the subsequent weekend, shortly out of the truck, put it on the shaft, drive a bunch of laps, win a stage, one other third stage, and that is an ideal day for us.

“I do not know, however it’s simply displaying some sort of this next-generation automotive proper now that nobody has actually found but.”

No workforce has proven the power to place collectively a streak of High 10 Finals that has lasted greater than 5 races this season. Final 12 months, 4 drivers completed within the prime ten in at the least 5 consecutive races, led by William Byron11 races.

Chris Jabhardt, Chief of Workers Denny HamlinAnd the For NBC Sports activities in Could. “It’s outlined as getting a excessive temperature on the proper time and taking management when it is time to take management.”

2. Is Trackhouse Racing an underdog or a favourite?

Trackhouse drivers Daniel Suarez And the Ross Chastain Each of them entered the season with out successful the cup. Now, Chastain has two wins. Suarez has one.

The Trackhouse win whole is the same as what each Joe Gibbs Racing and Crew Penske have accomplished this 12 months. Solely Hendrick Motorsports – with 5 wins – has received extra races than Trackhouse this 12 months.

So does that make the workforce owned by Justin Marks and Pitbull among the many favorites to win the championship? Or does the Trackhouse stay weak as a result of the group has by no means competed for a cup title?

Ty Norris, president of Trackhouse Racing, stated this week at MotorMouths on Peacock that the group is cautious to not look too far forward.

“We now have two issues nonetheless to say,” Norris stated. “We now have to remain hungry, now we have to remain humble. If we begin enthusiastic about qualifying and speaking about qualifying, we are going to lose sight of the subsequent 10 weeks that we have to preserve on the point of run.”

The important thing may even be easy methods to function the Chastain, and if it continues to hassle drivers. Martin Truex, Jr. spoke to Chastain in Dover After he crashed whereas battling Chastain for third place. Chastain had confrontations with Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, amongst others earlier this month at World Extensive Expertise Raceway. Hamlin urged that payoff is coming.

‘” Marks instructed NBC Sports activities after that race Chastity doesn’t want to vary.

“This can be a very aggressive sport, and you might be combating for each inch,” Marks stated. “The factor is that he is a newcomer within the prime 5 and the highest 5 don’t love having a newcomer on the market. I am very happy with him.

“He is very aggressive. That is what’s wanted to win races, and finally it would lead him to the place he’ll be a NASCAR Champion – his aggressiveness matches his expertise.”

3. Will the methods change during the last 10 races earlier than the qualifiers?

One of many cool parts about parity this season is the way it can have an effect on the playoffs.

No driver has greater than 13 break factors. Twelve drivers have at the least six break factors. Final 12 months presently, there was an 18-point hole between first and fourth place in complement factors scored.

With how shut match factors are, this might result in extra drivers heading to stage factors, particularly on street programs. Three laps stay on the street till the playoffs start – Highway America (July 3), Indianapolis (July 31) and Watkins Glen (August 21).

It’s not unusual on street programs for groups to dig earlier than a stage break, giving up stage factors to place themselves on the finish of the race. Will it occur amongst potential rivals?

Technique calls throughout every of the next 10 races can have an effect on groups within the qualifiers primarily based on what number of qualifier factors they acquire or fail to take action.

Additionally, the highest 10 after the common season earns playoff factors. Whereas the time period level racing is seen as pejorative by many racing followers, the deal with factors might result in extra dramatic moments over the subsequent 10 Cup races, starting with the June 26 race at Nashville Superspeedway (5 p.m. ET, NBC).

4. Is there a favourite match?

are you kidding? Who would it not be?

Final 12 months, it was straightforward to listing Martin Truex Jr. as the favourite as a result of he received the tracks that can host main playoff races: Phoenix (the championship race host), Martinsville (the third-round ultimate race host) and Darlington (the playoff opener).

This 12 months, Phoenix noticed Chase Briscoe Successful his first cup race. The Martinsville race, received by William Byron, was a lackluster occasion that drove Drivers to demand adjustments earlier than the sequence returns. With tire and regulatory testing this summer season in Martinsville, adjustments are seemingly. Darlington noticed Logano knock Byron out of the lead on the finish to win.

Of the six level races on the tracks that can host a playoff race this 12 months – not together with Bristol because the spring race was on dust and will not be a qualifying race – there was a unique winner every time. Alex Bowman He received in Las Vegas, Briscoe in Phoenix, Byron in Martinsville, Ross Chastain in Talladega, Lugano in Darlington and Kurt Bosch in Kansas.

This 12 months’s playoffs may very well be nearly surviving every spherical.

Select favorite? Very troublesome now.

5. What would occur in a foolish season?

The important thing to the ridiculous season could also be Martin Truex Jr, who has stated he’ll decide quickly on whether or not to return for an additional season.

Truex turns 42 years previous on June 29. The 2017 Cup champion has struggled this 12 months. With seven video games within the prime 10, he is on observe for his fewest prime 10 video games in a season since 2014 – the final time he missed the playoffs. Truex has no win and has but to safe a playoff.

If he does not return after this season, Joe Gibbs Racing can have a number of choices. Ty Gibbs It seems to be a pure transfer to take though JGR seems extra intent on holding the 19-year-old at Xfinity for an additional season. If Gibbs is not excessive, does JGR discover somebody to drive the quantity 19 automotive for one season earlier than Gibbs climbs, or does it go after a high quality driver who may very well be there for years to return?

Joe Gibbs Racing has additionally not introduced sponsorship and contract extension for Kyle Bush. Since hidden feedback in late April About his standing for subsequent 12 months – And the response of a Toyota CEO – Bush stated a bit of about subsequent 12 months. Indicators point out he’s staying at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Stewart Haas Racing has an opportunity for subsequent season. Eric Almerola He’ll retire from full-time competitors after this season. The workforce has not introduced a alternative.

Supplied Truex stays one other 12 months at JGR and the workforce completes their long-awaited Busch deal, the very best journey accessible would be the Almirola journey.

Hendrick Motorsports has Its 4 drivers have signed for at the least the subsequent season. Penske’s workforce has no probability. Trackhouse Racing President Ty Norris stated this week on MotorMuths that Crew Daniel Suarez will signal a contract extension.

workforce proprietor Richard Childress stated in March that Tyler Riddick is underneath contract for subsequent 12 months. Crew proprietor Matt Collig instructed NBC Sports activities this month he can be “torn” if he continues to have a rotating driver lineup within the workforce’s second automotive subsequent 12 months or put one driver sixteenth for the total season.