Track Talk: AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover

Kurt Busch and his peers are ready to take on Dover for Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Kurt Busch and his peers are ready to take on Dover for Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Superspeedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyJose Acero Jr, Katie CoppleKayla Sturm, and Stephen Conley reflect on FOX NASCAR’s second edition of the drivers-only telecast and NASCAR recently acquiring ARCA.

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Question 1

Did somebody order pizza for the FOX NASCAR booth?

Did somebody order pizza for the FOX NASCAR booth?

FOX NASCAR had its second edition of the drivers-only telecast, this time during the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega.  What was your take on this unique telecast and which driver showed their prowess as a future analyst?

Acero:  Personally I thought it was a cool concept having drivers step out their office (racecar) and actually have them talk about the cars and drivers on track. I enjoyed such telecast and wouldn’t mind having different drivers take the microphone. I can envision Harvick picking up a role in the booth after he decides to hang the steering wheel. He is a natural and does a much more better job than one that is taking up a seat with FOX.

Bowman: Unfortunately, I was not able to tune in to watch the XFINITY race. But, from everything I have heard we have a few drivers who are naturals in front of the camera!  

Cassidy:  I think the coverage from the Sparks Energy 300 was amazing – I did not change the channel with fear of missing something. The driver commentary definitely adds to the personality of the coverage in a positive way. I think Keselowski, Bubba, and Logano shined the brightest this weekend in terms of contribution and personality on air.

Conley:  I think there is a good mix. Erik Jones is questionable. If nothing else, he needs to take off the sunglasses on TV. But, not bad on air. Kevin Harvick is a natural in the booth and has a great flow. I really enjoy these broadcasts, it gives us something different, and a really good perspective of what is going on, on track. I have to say, I was really surprised with how well  Bubba Wallace sounded. Very informative, and very well presented. I can do without the Hollywood hotel. That took uncomfortable to a whole new level.

Copple:  Thanks to a heavy work schedule, I wasn’t able to tune in to this years driver broadcast, but I did LOVE last seasons and am so happy they decided to do it again in 2018! I did catch a few clips online, mostly involving food, and was glad to see them having fun with it. As someone who works in television, I can say that it’s not easy being on camera when you aren’t used to it… and being interviewed doesn’t count. I hope they continue to do this in the years to come and continue switching up the tracks. Maybe even do it more than once a season!

Hobbs: I loved it. Absolutely LOVED it! Last year, as many of the drivers said, they were stiff and nervous; this year, not so much. Seeing Logano and Bowyer take reign in the booth while they waited for Harvick to come was awesome. The three of them in the booth was golden. To see Bowyer go from funny to serious was great as well; he just adds so much!

The pit road guys were solid; we need more Bubba Wallace Jr. on pit road reporting duty! However, I feel that Stenhouse got the short end of the stick; Keselowski seemed to do 95% of the Hollywood Hotel talking. The Hollywood Hotel duo needs to be worked out more if they keep doing this. I would not be opposed to NASCAR and the XFINITY Series doing this more often.

Hull: This was such a fun segment that Fox came up with. I can see Ryan Blaney having a future in broadcasting. Not only was he good on this segment, but his podcast is amazing. I think that Kevin Harvick will also be good at broadcasting someday. I really hope that they continue to do this. It was a great idea.

Lucas: It was fun, cool, and a crisp fresh breath of air. Harvick, Logano, and Bowyer are true naturals in the booth. Bubba and Blaney bantering back and forth on pit road was classic. However, I felt that Keselowski and Stenhouse were underused during the broadcast, leading to filler time with a described ice cream eating contest.

“That Jones Boy” was decent in his first outing. Perhaps next time, disregard wearing sunglasses on air. All in all, it was great fun and I can’t wait for next year’s edition. Also of note, how about these recent Cup-less XFINITY races? They’ve been white knuckled and thrilling!

Shoppe:  It was awesome! I am so glad FOX came up with this idea last year! In a time where broadcasts are in desperate need of something different, fun, and light, this was a great thing for the network. While you can tell these guys are not trained professionals in media, it’s a welcome change from the usual on-air talent we have to suffer through during XFINITY broadcasts. The current drivers also provide a kind of perspective you cannot get from broadcast professionals or retired drivers.

Sturm:  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to watch the XFINITY race because I was busy with my internship. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time they did it and from what I could tell from social media, it went over very well this time also. I think it’s awesome to have guys that are actually on the track every weekend doing the telecast.

Question 2
With NASCAR recently acquiring ARCA, might we see racers like Michael Self or others make their way into the Cup series?

With NASCAR recently acquiring ARCA, might we see racers like Michael Self or others make their way into the Cup series?

NASCAR recently acquired ARCA, a long running stock car series that has raced in a plethora of premier series tracks and short tracks. While the details were somewhat limited, how much of a boost will this be for the future of stock car racing?

Acero:  looks like NASCAR is somewhat going to its “grassroots” with the acquisition of ARCA. Hopefully they leave the schedule as is and let them racers race under the NASCAR banner and we may see a new batch of drivers make their way into XFINITY and Cup! Good move!

Bowman:  I think it is great for the future stability of ARCA and for driver development. I just hope that there are very few (if any) changes to the current schedule and set up of the ARCA series. I would still love to see this be a place where young drivers and small teams can cultivate their skills and organizations. While access to higher profile sponsors and a more commercial approach would probably be better for the sport and series as a whole, I would love to see it stay true to its roots.

Cassidy:  This is huge for ARCA. Using NASCAR’s fan base I think this series will shine in the light it deserves. This discussion is also great for developing drivers – hopefully some gaps in the current system can be merged through these organizations coming together.

Conley:  I’ve said it since the announcement. This could be huge for ARCA, if for nothing more than the promotion team that is now behind them with NASCAR. It will give a big boost to the series and the drivers.

In fact, it will offer more chances for the teams, drivers, sponsors and owners to get in front of large markets and potentially new sponsors. Certainly, consider the distribution of TV money that will likely go to the series should be a benefit in itself.

Plus, look at something fans have clamored about for years. We want to see more short tracks. So, this is a great opportunity to take the Truck Series and the XFINITY Series to the short tracks that ARCA runs on as companion races. More chances for tracks to get the spotlight. Ultimately, this should help build the grassroot levels of the sport. This is all good in my mind.

Copple:  This is a great step and a HUGE boost to NASCAR. Many of the up-and-coming drivers move through the ARCA series and there is always great racing. Plus, this opens up Trucks and XFINITY to a host of other tracks to potentially run at. This is a great move by NASCAR. Let’s just hope they do something with it instead of letting them fall to the wayside.

Hobbs: Everything in recent years that has been said to help the sport, does not seem to have done the trick as well as we all would have liked. The unknowns make this virtually impossible to answer until we know how NASCAR plans to incorporate ARCA into their business. This could be great for developing new talent, or it could be a series for NASCAR to test things they want to see in the top three series; no one knows.

Hull:  This is great in terms of giving future NASCAR stars a foundation to develop and grow. I think that the ARCA series always has great racing, so this will help. I just hope that it picks up more fans in the process.

Lucas: It sounds to me like the recent North American sports car unification of Grand Am and American Le Mans (now known as IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Series). I believe it’s a positive step for both series in putting out a better, fun, and exciting product. Hopefully ARCA will still be a season long series and not become a regional satellite series.

Shoppe:  This is an exciting time for ARCA who should have a better time aligning schedules as well as satellite teams and equipment with the big series. NASCAR will benefit with another official feeder series for young talent to show they deserve a future in this stock car series!

Sturm: I may be in the minority but I think this was a great idea. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago about how I believe NASCAR should get involved in these lower series again. It kind of brings back the old feel of them investing into up and coming drivers and going back to their roots if you may. It also helps to scout out and bring new talent and diversity to the premier series. Good move, NASCAR.

That’s two solid laps around the ole Monster Mile!  Before we confront Miles for a NASCAR win, let’s review the action from last Sunday at Talladega!
A trio of our panelists earned points through third place finisher Chase Elliott.

A trio of our panelists earned points through third place finisher Chase Elliott.

Meanwhile, the points lead battle has tightened up heading to Dover!

Meanwhile, the points lead battle has tightened up heading to Dover!

Well, friends, it’s time to go for the win at “The Monster Mile,” Delaware’s concrete beast of the Northeast!  Let’s reveal our picks to win Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover!
Can one of these seven claim victory at Dover?

Can one of these seven claim victory at Dover?

Tiongson:  We’ve talked a lot about the strong start for the Fords in 2018.  Stewart-Haas Racing seems to have their program figured out after more than a quarter into this year.  One driver who’s ready to win and snap a long winless streak is Kurt Busch, my pick to win the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

Hobbs: I want nothing more than to see Chase Elliott breakthrough and win, and this could be his time.  

Conley:  With an average finish of 3.2 in his four races, and was right there in the fall, Chase Elliott finally breaks through.

TPF Stats: We only talk about stats that pertain to this AAA 400 Drive for Autism and not Dover as a whole (because, let’s face it, Playoff Dover is different than non-Playoff Dover). That being said, Chase Elliott’s average finish of 4.0 in his first two trips to Dover for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism could finally set him up for victory lane this weekend.

Copple:  He’s been slowly improving all season long. I think this weekend, he FINALLY gets back to Victory Lane. Plus, he and Miles have been friends for years. Jimmie Johnson wins at Dover.

Acero:  Jimmie Johnson will tame the Monster Mile!

Hull:  Jimmie Johnson as always for Dover!

Lucas: Jimmie Johnson will punch his ticket to the playoffs this weekend and tame the Monster Mile!

Bowman: Look for Kyle Busch to keep the short track streak going!

Cassidy:  Martin Truex Jr to Victory Lane!

Shoppe:  Erik Jones gets his first win this weekend at Dover!

Sturm: I’m going to go with the apparently not so popular pick here and choose Kyle Larson. I so badly want to pick Chase Elliott because he’s statistically the best driver here. However, I just don’t see him closing it out this weekend, so Larson it is.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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