Time to cycle through the transmission for another edition of Four Gears.
This week, our NASCAR experts talk whether Mid-Ohio bettered the case for more road courses in NASCAR and whether Justin Mark’s win was more on him and Ganassi or a stroke of luck. We also discussed possible themes that other tracks can do with Darlington’s throwback weekend as a model and rated the first year of the race to the XFINITY Chase.
FIRST GEAR: Did Mid-Ohio strengthen the argument for road courses in NASCAR? If given the chance to practice more in rain conditions on road courses, would the racing get any better, à la Formula One?
Honestly, yes. It’s a different venue, for one, and it’s something different from what we’re normally used to. You can never go wrong with road courses in NASCAR, and considering Mid-Ohio had all the elements that we look for in a race (strategy, an underdog winner, excitement, so on), I think the current fixation on 1.5-mile race tracks is pointless. Bring Road Atlanta, Lime Rock, or even Laguna Seca into NASCAR. Fans would come running. — Joseph Shelton
Different is better. Saturday’s race, if anything, was different. The racing reminded me kind of like an old Bristol race – carnage everywhere, a thrill a second as the TV crews barely had time in parts to show all of the action. If the cars practice more in the rain and Goodyear brings a better rain tire, it would be just as exciting without all of the run-offs. — Michael Finley
I’m not too fond of racing in the rain, not just from this past Saturday, but from my years of following Formula 1. With that said, that was pretty damn entertaining to watch. It doesn’t so much strengthen the case for road courses, because road courses already have a strong case, as much as it shows that doing the five-year sanctioning agreements with the tracks was an incredibly stupid idea. Hopefully, the road course racing over the next four years shows NASCAR that it needs to move away from two-date races at some tracks and move to some more road courses. — Tucker White
SECOND GEAR: Prior to winning at Mid-Ohio, Justin Marks had only two top-10s in the last two years, with a career-best finish of sixth at Mid-Ohio in 2014. Was this win all about Marks and his Ganassi team, or was this just a stroke of luck?
Marks is an exceptional road racer. It does help that he’s gotten a lot of seat time in the No. 42 this season, considering he’s in better equipment than when he first started. Luck had a hand in his win, but Marks has had career days on road courses, and he had the car to beat in Mid-Ohio. — Joseph Shelton
Kind of both. Marks got lucky with the rain, but there’s no doubt he had more skill than most to drive those big stock cars in the rain. — Michael Finley
I’d say it was 30 percent Justin Marks and 70 percent luck. He’s a great road racer, but that rain made it damn hard to drive without spinning out multiple times a lap. — Tucker White
THIRD GEAR: The throwback theme for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway has now turned into a big deal that we hear about all year long. What are some other themes we can approach, and where would be a good track to hold them at?
This is a tough one, honestly. The throwback weekend for the Southern 500 is great on all fronts in regards to the fans and personalities who truly appreciate the nostalgia as well as merchandise sales. There is no better place to celebrate throwback weekend than at Darlington, for that matter, which was the sport’s Daytona before Daytona was built. I don’t think there’s any way this could be topped. — Joseph Shelton
It would take a lot to get through movie licenses and Hollywood red tape, but it would be awesome to see a race at Auto Club with all movie cars. Movies such as Stroker Ace, Days of Thunder, Ricky Bobby could be represented through paint schemes, along with cars promoting new movies in general. Heck, maybe even somebody could run the Elvis car from the 1967 flop Speedway. — Michael Finley
I would say movie themed cars for Auto Club Speedway, but I can’t imagine it being so easy to do with licensing and copyright red tape. I’m not sure something similar could be done at another track. — Tucker White
FOURTH GEAR: With the XFINITY Series regular season all but wrapped up, how would you rate the first season of the XFINITY Chase?
Ha. A joke is what it is. I still can’t wrap my brain around what the logic in developing a Chase system for the XFINITY season was. Poor idea, considering only three XFINITY regulars (Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Erik Jones) have won a grand total of five races in 2016. — Joseph Shelton
Mostly terrible. Two-thirds of the XFINITY field eligible to compete in the Chase will be in it. That’s 66 percent of the eligible field. Ryan Reed, a driver who has all of three top 10’s in 21 starts, is all but locked in. That’s ridiculous. Meanwhile the “win and in” marketing NASCAR uses is a joke in this series when a grand total of three eligible drivers have won. Either do the Chase right and handicap non-series drivers to a certain amount of starts while cutting the fat off the Chase grid or don’t have a Chase at all. — Michael Finley
I compare it to Blues Brothers 2000. It was something that nobody asked for and nobody demanded. Yet someone in the big mahogany offices down in Daytona Beach got the idea to take a series that was already suffering an identity crisis and make it even more like the Sprint Cup Series with a Chase.
To make it even worse, they didn’t keep Sprint Cup drivers out of the XFINITY Series. Whatever speck of hope it had of succeeding was killed with that decision.
Only three, count them, three, XFINITY regulars have won a race this season. The rest have been won by Cup drivers or one-off XFINITY drivers.
With that, I rate this season a 1/10. — Tucker White