Podium Preview: Ally 400 at Nasvhille

Can William Byron score the inaugural Ally 400 win at Nashville? (Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Can William Byron score the inaugural Ally 400 win at Nashville? (Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Yes, indeed, NASCAR reunites with Nashville with Sunday’s Ally 400. Certainly, after a 37 year absence, the Cup Series battles for “Music City” glory at Nashville Superspeedway.

Of course, the usual intermediate track aces like Kyle Larson, William Byron and Kyle Busch come to mind as favorites. However, anything is possible with Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick possibly in the fight.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview each NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race. This weekend, Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Kobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorStephen ConleyTaylor KitchenTerra Jones and yours truly ponder about Kyle Larson’s winning ways and the reunion of NASCAR and Nashville!

Podium Preview: Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway
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Question 1
Primarily, Kyle Larson's hot streak coincides with spring becoming summer in America. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Primarily, Kyle Larson’s hot streak coincides with spring becoming summer in America. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Kyle Larson’s strong spring streak continued with his second NASCAR All-Star Race win last Sunday night at Texas. Have we seen the best stuff yet from the No. 5 team?

Lambeth : At the moment, Kyle Larson is in a class of his own. He is the one driver to beat in the NASCAR Cup Series. If Larson still has not shown his true form yet, the rest of the field should be extremely worried. However, all hope is not lost for Larson’s competitors yet. Hendrick Motorsports could be peaking too early or the other teams may catch up, in terms of performance.

Also, you have the playoff format and the winner-take-all Championship 4 race at Phoenix to play with. Larson could have the best season of his career to date, have a mechanical failure at the season finale and someone else could steal the title away from Yung Money. 

Sisoler: The rest of the field, including Larson’s Hendrick teammates, better hope that the level he is at now is as good as he is going to get this year, because if he keeps getting much better, I don’t see anyone touching him until at least the final few races in the playoffs. And the only reason I say that is because we all thought Kevin Harvick was untouchable last year, and then the night race at Martinsville happened.

Tiongson : To be honest, I think the best hasn’t been seen yet with Kyle Larson and his No. 5 team. Now, that may seem silly since Larson’s dominated these past three weeks (including the All-Star Race last Sunday night). However, Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels will bring their best cars and strategy in crunch time. By then, the competition may catch up and narrow the competitive gap.

All told, Larson only has one gear which is go. Ultimately, Larson may turn the wick up even more especially in the weeks before the Playoffs. Just imagine how strong this bunch may be at a place like Michigan. I’d say to pay attention to this team each week but especially in the weeks leading up to the Southern 500.

Hobbs : If we have not seen the best of Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team yet, watch out field! Larson is hot, he’s strong, he’s not backing down. I hope that this is just Kyle Larson getting warmed up!

It’s great to see him back in a Cup car and it’s great to see that he has not missed a beat on the track. Overall, the entire Hendrick Motorsports camp has found something this year, so the field better be keeping a close eye on them all, with most of their sites set on Larson.

Torres :  It’s hard to say if we’ve seen Larson’s No. 5 at their peak. We still have 10 more regular season races and of course the playoffs. The latter is where I do think is when the team should be able to deliver big. As seen with this current format we’ve had since 2014, being superb now is neat but it doesn’t always replicate in the postseason.

That’s my biggest concern with the No. 5 team right now. They can dominate all they want, but they should really deliver their greatest runs come playoff time. If they can do that, we may look back at Larson’s 2021 campaign as one of the most genuine legendary seasons in history. As I always say, time will tell.

Shoppe : Hard to believe it can get much better for Kyle Larson and the 5 team! While they have shown to be the current favorite week in and week out as well as for the title, we are still far from Phoenix this fall. They will likely fall off of this dominant pace they are on now. The question will be if they can get it back when it counts! Weather they do or not, this current form is likely as good as it gets!

Question 2
Finally, NASCAR comes back to Nashville. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Finally, NASCAR comes back to Nashville. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It’s the first Cup race in Nashville since 1984. How exciting will this race weekend be for NASCAR’s long awaited return to “The Music City?”

Raynor : This weekend of racing is by far the most exciting anticipated one of the year. It was always iconic and I am so happy NASCAR decided to go back to Music City. I hope it brings excitement, fun, and joy. I hope it’s a great race on Sunday and fans love it! It’s a big weekend for the sport and I cannot wait to see if it all unfolds.

Lucas : Anxious and hopeful that this weekend goes off without any flaws. So far through several practice sessions and a truck race, there are two grooves! I personally was afraid that the track would not be much better than a single groove. But, boy, am I thankful that I was wrong! NASCAR Cup in “The Music City” was always something that I wanted to see since I was a child, and now it is a reality.

Don’t expect anything too crazy to happen, but with the higher horsepower lower downforce package, I think we are in for a decent treat on Cup race day. The track will be very “racey”, definitely a battle for both car, driver, and crew.

Jones : NASCAR is back in Music City! The high horsepower, low downforce package screams “racey.” There’s a sold out crowd. This is all very exciting! It’s definitely one weekend I personally have been looking forward to all season. But, I feel that this is a make-it-or-break-it weekend for the Nashville area.

I feel a lot of recent “trials” in NASCAR have left fans slightly underwhelmed. To keep the excitement for a return race, it needs to deliver on-track and not just the pre-race hype. I have my fingers crossed and can’t wait to see!

Kitchen :  The Ally 400 is set to be an electric, star-studded event presented to a sold-out crowd! So, without a doubt, this will be a big weekend for the sport as we all await the highly anticipated races at Nashville Superspeedway.

Though I am overly ecstatic about this weekend (the combination of NASCAR and Nashville is flawless), I do not want to set the bar too high in hopes of being let down.

Like any “new” track, everyone comes into the weekend with many questions, little answers, and their best critical eye. I, myself, am trying not to let my curiosity and judgment get the best of me. However, I am very interested to see what kind of racing this track will produce for the Cup cars. Better yet, will the fans like what they see on Sunday?

If the racing is good, I think NASCAR has found their next gem on the schedule. Additionally, if the racing is disappointing, disheartened fans will be left shaking their heads. So, I hope this race lives up to the hype, and that NASCAR’s weekend in “The Music City” will end on a sweet note.

Conley :  This is a huge moment for NASCAR. There has long been a want to return to fairgrounds, and this puts us back in that market and opens up that opportunity down the road, but it ties in the old with the new, it has that connection with the banquet and it fills a void left by Kentucky to really draw a large fan base. 

Now, the big question, how will it race? This race track has been sitting for a decade without any racing, plus concrete race tracks present challenges for teams and drivers alike. 

This is a big weekend for the sport and have to hope it exceeds expectations.

By all means, two laps around Nashville warrants a guitar, right? Next, here’s a look back at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma with our race and points reports!
Firstly, Rob 'n Taylor triumph with Kyle Larson.

Firstly, Rob ‘n Taylor triumph with Kyle Larson.

Notwithstanding, it's a close points battle before Sunday's Ally 400 at Nashville.

Notwithstanding, it’s a close points battle before Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville.

Now, Ashley Hobbs considers the trends for Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville with the past 10 years of intermediate track action.
First, consider how your favorite team fares at intermediate races.

First, consider how your favorite team fares at intermediate races.

In the past 17 intermediate track races before 2021, the winner has an average starting spot of 9.6, led an average of 78.4 laps, started within the top five 35.29% of the time and started within the top 10 70.59% of the time.

In the past 17 intermediate track races before 2021, the winner has an average starting spot of 9.6, led an average of 78.4 laps, started within the top five 35.29% of the time and started within the top 10 70.59% of the time.

In the past intermediate track races since 2004, it's quite close between the recent champs.

It’s quite close between the recent champs at the intermediate track races since 2004.

In the past 10 years, check out the trends at intermediates.

In the past 10 years, check out the trends at intermediates.

Now, check out the trends in the past five years of intermediate track action, a harbinger for Nashville.

Now, check out the trends in the past five years of intermediate track action, a harbinger for Nashville.

Come on, machine.

Come on, machine.

Lastly, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville!
Comparatively, check out this sextet for Sunday's Ally 400 at Nashville.

Comparatively, check out this sextet for Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville.

Conley : There has been progress at Stewart-Haas recently. Also, teammate Aric Almirola did the most recent tire test there and should have some of the best data to work with. You can’t keep Kevin Harvick out of victory lane for much longer.

Torres : I’m taking a different approach with my pick at Nashville. Rather than going with a driver that’s driven there before like Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, I’m going with someone who’ll have tremendous track time. That being William Byron. He’ll run the Truck Series and with him being such superb all season, it’ll bode well once the Ally 400 comes along. Also, he had a strong showing at Dover, a track with some similarities. Byron will extend Hendrick Motorsports’ winning ways.

Jones : William Byron has had such a solid season (12 top 10s, half of those being top fives). He and crew chief Rudy Fugle have seemed to find some magic. I expect Hendrick Motorsports to continue their dominance. But, Byron will come out as the top dog this weekend.

Tiongson : Although Kyle Larson’s winning ways may end on Sunday, Hendrick continues its victorious streak at Nashville. Look for William Byron back in victory lane with a chocolate chip ice cream on his mind!

TPF Stats : A new track in a hot season! One must examine history at similar tracks – in this case, Intermediate tracks. One must also analyze the season. And with that, the machine pegs Denny Hamlin to be singing some sweet tunes in Nashville.

Hobbs : The guys get practice and they get to qualify. This is a new track. For me, that spells sweet victory for Kyle Busch.

Kitchen : The easy answer for every track at this point is Kyle Larson. However, I do not want to go with a guaranteed safe bet this weekend.

Winning in both the Truck and XFINITY Series, Kyle Busch is no stranger to claiming the checkered flag at this track, or shall I say the Gibson Guitar. More importantly, this season, he has shown he can run with the Hendrick crowd and compete with them for wins.

And though I do not doubt that HMS will be out to play this weekend, I think Kyle Busch can finally be the grand marshal of their parade, winning the Ally 400.

Lambeth : He is known for smashing the guitar in victory lane during NASCAR’s previous stint at Nashville Superspeedway. Look for the Kyle not named Larson to steal the show in the Music City. Kyle Busch will end Larson’s streak of absolute dominance.

Shoppe : When Kyle Busch wins today in the inaugural cup race at Nashville Superspeedway he better have learned from the past and not smash the guitar this time!

Lucas : I think the race will be a battle between the two Kyles. Busch has plenty of wins at this track between Truck and XFINITY and wants to get Brexton a guitar. But, I can’t ignore the fact that Larson is red hot and just destroying the competition no matter what he drives in. Kyle Larson gets another one!

Raynor : Larson’s on a streak and I can see him winning again.

Sisoler : I’m gonna stay with the guy who I picked to win at Sonoma last time out. One of the guys, who was a teenager or younger the last time, prior to this weekend, that NASCAR raced any of its three main series at Nashville. I have a feeling everyone is going to be chasing Mr. Chase Elliott around Nashville when the checkered flag falls Sunday on the Cup Series’ first trip to the Music City.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Stay safe and wash your hands often. Help yourself, your family and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine! Also, thanks for reading our content throughout this season.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

Presently, Ashley Hobbs challenges each of our fans to participate in the 38 Challenge for mental health awareness! In this case, join her challenge now by visiting this link!

Also, if you are shopping for NASCAR or racing die-casts, be sure to check out our friends at Circle B Diecast! If your order is $20 or more, be sure to use coupon code TPF2021 for free shipping! Tell them we sent you and buy some new die-casts now!

Lastly, Happy Father’s Day to my dad Virgil, the dads here with TPF and all of our fathers  and fatherly figures, present and/or in our hearts!

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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