Key questions as the NASCAR Cup Series kicks off this weekend

Because the Cup sequence attracts to a detailed this low season weekend, many questions stay.

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

Unpredictability rapidly involves thoughts. Twelve completely 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 best phrase? Martin Truex Jr. Predict in January how upside this season may very well be in a chat with NBC Sports activities.

“There might be a whole lot of loopy storylines initially of the yr,” he mentioned. “There might be a whole lot of surprises, and there might be a whole lot of guys who’ve an excellent week, and a foul week, and an excellent week, and a foul week, and worse and mistaken.

“I simply really feel that till we get a while beneath our belt and discover some form of baseline for what you (the subsequent era automobile) needs on sure tracks, we’re all going to do the analysis. We’re all going to gamble on what we take to the racetrack by way of 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 gained the pole, main 107 laps within the race and He gained 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 mentioned after his Darlington win. “You then come again the subsequent weekend, rapidly 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 form of this next-generation automobile proper now that nobody has actually found but.”

No group has proven the power to place collectively a streak of Prime 10 Finals that has lasted greater than 5 races this season. Final yr, 4 drivers completed within the high ten in not less than 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 complete is the same as what each Joe Gibbs Racing and Staff Penske have carried out this yr. Solely Hendrick Motorsports – with 5 wins – has gained extra races than Trackhouse this yr.

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

Ty Norris, president of Trackhouse Racing, mentioned 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 mentioned. “We now have to remain hungry, we now have to remain humble. If we begin fascinated about qualifying and speaking about qualifying, we’ll lose sight of the subsequent 10 weeks that we have to hold on the brink of run.”

The important thing will even be find out how 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 Vast Know-how Raceway. Hamlin urged that payoff is coming.

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

“It is a very aggressive sport, and you’re combating for each inch,” Marks mentioned. “The factor is that he is a newcomer within the high 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 in the end it should lead him to the place he will 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 components 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 not less than six break factors. Final yr 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 highway programs. Three laps stay on the highway till the playoffs start – Highway America (July 3), Indianapolis (July 31) and Watkins Glen (August 21).

It’s not unusual on highway 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 opponents?

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 may 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 event?

are you kidding? Who wouldn’t it be?

Final yr, it was simple to record Martin Truex Jr. as the favourite as a result of he gained the tracks that may host main playoff races: Phoenix (the championship race host), Martinsville (the third-round ultimate race host) and Darlington (the playoff opener).

This yr, Phoenix noticed Chase Briscoe Successful his first cup race. The Martinsville race, gained 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 may host a playoff race this yr – not together with Bristol because the spring race was on dust and will not be a qualifying race – there was a special winner every time. Alex Bowman He gained in Las Vegas, Briscoe in Phoenix, Byron in Martinsville, Ross Chastain in Talladega, Lugano in Darlington and Kurt Bosch in Kansas.

This yr’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 mentioned 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 yr. With seven video games within the high 10, he is on observe for his fewest high 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 would 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 preserving the 19-year-old at Xfinity for an additional season. If Gibbs is not excessive, does JGR discover somebody to drive the quantity 19 automobile 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 come back?

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 yr – And the response of a Toyota CEO – Bush mentioned somewhat about subsequent yr. 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 group has not introduced a alternative.

Supplied Truex stays one other yr at JGR and the group completes their long-awaited Busch deal, one of the best experience out there would be the Almirola experience.

Hendrick Motorsports has Its 4 drivers have signed for not less than the subsequent season. Penske’s group has no likelihood. Trackhouse Racing President Ty Norris mentioned this week on MotorMuths that Staff Daniel Suarez will signal a contract extension.

group proprietor Richard Childress mentioned in March that Tyler Riddick is beneath contract for subsequent yr. Staff proprietor Matt Collig instructed NBC Sports activities this month he can be “torn” if he continues to have a rotating driver lineup within the group’s second automobile subsequent yr or put one driver sixteenth for the total season.