Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR and predict the winner of the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the 60th Annual Daytona 500!
This weekend, our panelists Adam Lucas, Ashley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody Shoppe, Jose Acero Jr, Kathleen Cassidy, Katie Copple, Kayla Sturm, Michael Palmer, and Stephen Conley discuss the state of NASCAR in its 70th season and the most important intangible with winning the Daytona 500!
Stage 1: NASCAR’s paradigm shift
NASCAR enters its 70th season in a bit of a crossroads state. Which drivers can assist the sport in its efforts to be more appealing to current and new fans?
Lucas : Wow! I have been thinking about this all offseason and it’s somewhat of a head turner.
Firstly, I think Team Penske will lead the way of crossing the old into the future. Additionally, they will excel with teaching the future some old tricks.
For instance, Brad Keselowski is the wily veteran who’s been through hell, fire, and brimstone. Always relevant and very intelligent about how to improve and preserve the sport.
Secondly, Joey Logano once was the kid put on NASCAR’s pedestal for instant stardom. However, he never lived up to the hype during his JGR years. That said, he found balance and confidence when he was handpicked to drive for Team Penske and has since been able to contend year after year for wins and championships. You could say in a sense that Joey Logano is a cautionary tale for the next generation of drivers coming into the sport.
Presently, there’s Ryan Blaney. He has already built a great fan base, especially through social media, for only racing full-time in the Cup series for two seasons. I can tell from watching and listening to him that he has the determination of a future champion.
Basically, Team Penske has found a driver that balances out its other drivers in Blaney, as he possesses determination and has popularity.
Palmer : Young guns need to win races. Chase Elliott, William Byron, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Austin and Ty Dillon, and Ryan Blaney are the future of the sport.
Sturm : These next few years in NASCAR will be very paramount for the future of the sport. We’re currently seeing NASCAR go through a generational change as some of the older veterans start to retire and get replaced by new faces. I believe there is a ton of talent entering the sport that will prove to be very beneficial if people allow them.
Among the ones that come to mind are Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Alex Bowman. These five guys have more talent in their pinky than I do in my whole body and I think if NASCAR can figure out how to market them to all generations, they will see the sport grow immensely.
Copple : This season is a rebuilding season of sorts for the sport. With big name drivers like Dale Jr., Danica Patrick and Matt Kenseth stepping away from the track after last year, not to mention others like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart who have also stepped away, so many fans are left without a driver to cheer for every week. Those drivers had such huge fanbases and brought so many people to the sport just by themselves. Once they left, many of their fans did too.
In this case, NASCAR really needs to promote this season. Not just by running “hey, this race is this weekend” commercials but getting the drivers involved. Fans already know the veteran drivers. They already have the guys they are going to root for. The key here is promoting the young drivers. They need to get Bowman, Byron, Elliott, Truex, all of these young 20-somethings out there promoting the sport.
Sports fans my age don’t really care about the Johnsons or the Harvicks of the world. In this case, it’s not a connection made right away, especially if they are just a casual fan and don’t necessarily have someone they cheer for every week. We want to see people our age succeed. That’s the key. And hey, pair the young guys with the veterans for some events – that would be entertaining!
Hull : This year is a huge change for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but mostly because there are a lot of new young drivers. A lot of the young drivers, such as William Byron, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott can help give appeal to new fans and drivers.
I also see Alex Bowman having his share of fans because of the number of people who supported him when he got the ride with Hendrick. These drivers can bring a lot of new fans in, which could help the sport a lot.
Bowman : The last few seasons have seen a slew of veteran drivers retire or move on to different areas of the sport. Some fans are loyal to a manufacturer or a team. Others just simply had a driver they preferred to follow, maybe based on personality and/or ability on the track. For those who are driver loyal, it seems to me that if they had another driver they liked, they would already root for them.
So this may be an opportunity for the younger, newer drivers to the series to add some fans to their roster. Personally, I think Bubba Wallace is going to win a lot of people over in both the personality and talent departments. But in reality, it’s up to all drivers to market themselves to gain new fans and help the sport.
Cassidy : I love the attention that Daytona 500 pole winner Alex Bowman is getting right now. Throughout social media, I have seen tons of Dale Jr fans accept this young driver as their own. Additionally, Bowman attracts a younger fan base with this fresh look in racing. I believe this driver has a great mix for success in upcoming years due to this fan base.
Acero : NASCAR has a handful of drivers to rely on that can bring new fans as well as maintain current ones. Such drivers capable of such would be Bubba Wallace.
Additionally, a down to earth fan friendly guy is Daniel Suarez, who has been given a thumbs up by many fans both new and existing. I can see Blaney, Elliott, and a few others bringing new fans into the sport. Ultimately, NASCAR is in great shape driver-wise.
Hobbs : As much as I like Kyle Busch, I disagree with his statement that there is too much marketing around the younger drivers. The young kids (Blaney, Wallace, Elliott, Larson) know what the younger fans like these days, and they are up on their social media, which is what everyone is on.
In terms of veterans of the sport, Keselowski has been one of the best with his fan interactions. Fan interactions are key to getting the long time fans of the sport to feel appreciated. This also goes for Kyle and Samantha Busch who have been improving their fan interactions.
Shoppe : I see NASCAR doing all they can to promote the young drivers to the fans despite Kyle Busch hating the idea for whatever reason. The sport may be losing many of the faces they have counted on for the last decades.
However, the names of today and the future to come are nothing to be disappointed with! There’s the “people’s champ” Chase Elliott, the villain in many fans’ eyes, Kyle Busch, and a pair of young guns filling the seats of fan favorites, Alex Bowman and William Byron. Lastly, we can’t forget the new face of not only Richard Petty’s No. 43 Chevy but a Drive for Diversity graduate in Bubba Wallace.
Conley : The top of that list has to be Chase Elliott. I think the old school fans are looking at someone they can tie in to their memories of the sport.
With Bill Elliott being the most popular driver for a 100 years, it gives them that tie in. Plus the No. 9 connection will be enticing to fans.
Also, I think Ryan Blaney is a driver that appeals to everyone. If Bubba Wallace can find success, he will certainly be good for the sport.
Stage 2: Patience vs Aggression in the 60th Annual Daytona 500
Sunday’s Clash showcased some of the exciting racing that seemed absent at Daytona in recent years. Based on the happening in this exhibition race, will patience or aggression win out in the Daytona 500?
Lucas : With how low these cars are riding for Speedweeks, I’d definitely say patience will win out for the Daytona 500. Of course, if you start in the back, you’re going to have to be somewhat aggressive about getting into a position to make a winning move.
The winner of the 500 will either be extremely lucky to survive, or will make a calculated final lap pass for the win. Either way, you better tune at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday!
Palmer : It’s going to be an interesting Daytona 500. The aero package has these cars crazy loose so 40 drivers out there in a draft coming off those turns should produce some wrecks.
Sturm : Aggression. 100%. The Clash wasn’t even a points race and we saw some of the drivers get extremely aggressive like they were racing for the championship. With the new package making huge runs and passing easier, I think we’re going to see a lot more boldness among the pack and unfortunately, a lot more wrecked cars at the end of the race. I think we’re in for a wild Daytona 500.
Copple : The Clash was entertaining to say the least. These new body styles on the cars are proving to be a big factor at Daytona. I think the 500 is going to be one of the more exciting ones we have seen in a while.
With so many new faces on the track, along with our many veteran drivers, anything can happen. I think we are going to see aggression on the track from mile 1 to mile 500. A Daytona 500 win kicks off your season on a high note and drivers want that. I think we are going to see a lot of lead changes and yes, the big one, before the 500 miles are up.
Hull : While there was some exciting moments in Sunday’s Clash, you still saw a lot of drivers being conservative. I think you will see more of the same in the 500.
With the young drivers, you will see a lot of aggression because well they are young and eager to win. With the veterans, such as Jimmie Johnson, you will see patience. It will be interesting to see how this race goes Sunday.
Bowman : Daytona is all about staying out of trouble until you can make a move. I would like to say that patience in the beginning paired with aggression in the last handful of laps is the recipe for success. Some drivers and crew chiefs stick with a plan to either be out front or in back most of the race.
The one thing everyone agrees on is that you don’t want to spend the majority of your time riding around the middle – that’s just asking for trouble. I’ll place my bets that the person leading when the white flag waves will not be the one leading when the checkers come out.
Cassidy : Patience is key at Daytona. The Clash showed us that drivers can come from the back to win with Brad Keselowski pulling into Victory Lane on Sunday.
With the fast speeds, a win will require the driver to keep a safe space of mind during these 500 miles. The ability to be calm gives drivers a good advantage to think rationally at each decision and hopefully avoid “The Big One.”
Acero : You can expect a little bit of patience and aggression throughout the 500. I see this starting out as a patience race as drivers geta feel for the new aero package. In the end, aggression will be seen towards the end of stages, and of course, coming to the checkers, so expect both!
Hobbs : Sorry, the Olympics was on and too much precedence for me. The very little I did see, the final three laps, goes against this statement. So, that would lead to an unexciting race of single file running. I hope that is not the case.
Shoppe : The Clash has given us all hope for a great Daytona 500 this weekend! A favorable new plate racing package, a field of beautiful new race cars, and lots of excitement and build up for the 70th year of NASCAR racing!
I expect to see a lot of patience and aggression in the “Great American Race” on Sunday with patience winning out in the end. Contenders must time their move to the lead wisely. Timing is everything as it might be too early to try to get out front like we saw in the Clash with Ryan Blaney trying to get a run on Brad Keselowski.
Conley : That’s a tough question, especially with the way the cars have been set up, the impound through qualifying, and the new zero ride height rule. Crew chiefs have been in a state of confusion so far this week.
If it’s a “senior” driver, it’s going to be patience. However, the aggression from a young gun could pay big dividends if they are willing to risk it all. I think this 500 will be a good mix of new and old style racing.
The new TPF team dropped the hammer in these first two stages of our Daytona 500 preview! Before winning time arrives, let’s review last season’s results with our race and points reports from the 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway!
Track Talk does more than previewing races. Fantasy racing plays a big role with our weekly series!
Points matter no matter the race or track. This prediction may make a difference this November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Without further ado, here’s our championship picks!
Tiongson : Kyle Larson learned about battling for a championship last year. In 2018, he graduates with a Cup championship.
Sturm : Kyle Larson wins this year’s championship.
Hobbs : After his incredible performance in 2017, Kyle Larson will do a bit better in 2018 and land up top the podium!
Acero : Going with Kyle Larson for the championship.
Palmer : My championship pick for 2018 is Kyle Busch.
Bowman : It’s way too early to pick this! On a whim, I will say Kyle Busch.
Shoppe : Kyle Busch scores his second Cup championship this year.
Conley : Rowdy times are coming in 2018 with Kyle Busch’s second title.
Lucas : Jimmie Johnson wins the title because the Camaro is a game changer just like last year’s Camry was. The GOAT will not be denied his eight crown in 2018.
Hull : This is tough to say right now, but I think that Jimmie Johnson will get his eighth championship.
Copple : Martin Truex Jr is going to go for win his second Championship!
Cassidy : Erik Jones takes the Cup title in 2018.
Winning time has arrived on the first real Track Talk of 2018! Check out our picks for Sunday’s 60th Annual Daytona 500!
Tiongson : While this Speedweeks hasn’t been kind to Kyle Larson, Driver 42 will win the Daytona 500!
Sturm : Brad Keselowski takes his first Daytona 500 this Sunday!
Shoppe : Brad Keselowski makes Michigan happy with a Daytona 500 win.
Conley : Brad Keselowski scores Roger Penske’s second Great American Race win.
Lucas : He’s been pretty aggressive at Daytona in the past. Also, he has won about everything there is to win at Daytona. Starting on the front row in second place, going for his second 500 victory, I’m going with Denny Hamlin as my 2018 Daytona 500 pick.
Bowman : Denny Hamlin delivers at Daytona.
Acero : Look for Denny Hamlin in Daytona’s Victory Lane.
Copple : My pick for the Daytona 500 is Chase Elliott.
Cassidy : Chase Elliott wins the 500 on Sunday.
Hull : Kyle Busch is my pick to win the Daytona 500.
Hobbs : I wish I had a bowl, with balls of each driver’s numbers, and did it that way. But, that would take too much time. I wanna see how Chase Elliott fares this time around.
Palmer : My Daytona 500 pick is going to be Kevin Harvick.
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. For you, Spock!