NASCAR: Four Turns with ESM’s Eastern Speed Board; Daytona

ESM’s NASCAR experts return to debate the hot topics heading into the final Cup Series regular season race at Daytona.

ESM’s panel of NASCAR experts is back to debate the sport’s hot topics as the Cup Series ends its regular season in spectacular fashion in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC). The Xfinity and Truck Series likewise inch their way toward the playoffs with respective events on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and Sunday afternoon (12 p.m. ET, FS1).

Which do the four turns take the ESB this weekend? Read on for their predictions and thoughts…

Turn 1: For the first time in NASCAR history, Daytona will host a regular season finale, eschewing its traditional July 4th spot. Thoughts?  

Geoff Magliocchetti: I was a bit wary of the prospect in the beginning. July 4th weekend at Daytona was a fun, midsummer tradition in the win of the MLB All-Star Game. It felt almost sacrilege to deny The World Center of Racing an American tradition. But, looking at the standings, it’s impossible to deny just how smart it was to give the unpredictable Daytona the final race of the regular season. Daytona desperation is a new kind of chaos, one that can create pulse-pounding moments in the grandstands and behind the wheel. It’s insanely poetic as it is that three drivers at the end of the playoff picture are separated by only nine points. But combine that with Daytona’s propensity to produce unexpected winners…remember Justin Haley last season?…and we could see an unexpected playoff man rise to the occasion. If you think drivers go all-out to win February’s Daytona 500…the first race of the season…just imagine what they’ll do to win a race that determines the NASCAR playoff bracket.

Dylan Price: I love the move. Daytona is always the most unpredictable track on the circuit. Yes, intense bubble racing is fun, but what about everyone remotely close to the bubble giving it their all for a win. Everyone has something to prove with the playoffs a week away. Who knows, we may even see a driver come out of nowhere to make the playoffs for the first time in their career.

Nathan Solomon: I think that having Daytona as the season finale is overall a good move. It gives anyone that isn’t already in the playoffs a chance to get in with a win and puts more pressure on drivers and spotters. It should also boost ratings since it’s, well, Daytona. On the other hand, someone could get lucky and win and take away a playoff spot from someone already in the hunt. But, the new playoff format has always favored wins, and a win gets you in.

Turn 2: Yet ANOTHER win for Kevin Harvick at Dover; where’s he going to rank in terms of the greatest drivers ever when all is said and done?

Geoff Magliocchetti: What Harvick has been doing since the return to the track is not a Hall of Fame case. That was probably happening long before this season began. Instead, it’s a case to be included in the top ten greatest drivers off all-time. One cannot effectively tell the story of American auto racing without Kevin Harvick. The start to his Cup career…replacing the late Dale Earnhardt…was enough pressure to live up to as it was. He had made a strong impact on both the Cup and the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series levels. But for him to go out and continue to not just run strong in, but straight up dominate, race in this new era of no practice or qualifying is nothing short of extraordinary. He’ll perhaps need another championship or two to truly warrant consideration for NASCAR’s “Mount Rushmore”, but the second could very well come this fall at Phoenix.

Dylan Price: Harvick has written a hell of a chapter in the book that is his career in 2020. With seven wins and still 11 races to go, Harvick is on pace to contend for the record books in terms of single-season wins in the modern era (since 1972). Not only that, but he and Denny Hamlin are the clear favorites for the championship.

Nathan Solomon: Harvick will no doubt be one of the best the sport has ever seen, and likely a unanimous first ballot hall-of-famer when it comes time. He seems to get better and better each year at Stewart-Haas. His seven wins are so impressive, and all have come after the coronavirus stoppage. This year is a big year for him, as another title would certainly cement his legacy. If he keeps racing for a long time, he may be one of the winningest drivers in history.

Turn 3: Three years, still no win for William Byron. What do you make of his Cup career thus far?

Geoff Magliocchetti: To call Byron a downright “bust” would be cruel. His Cup Series debut has been laden with expectations. The hype alone can derail otherwise promising careers and only exacerbate struggling careers…remember Casey “The Next Jeff Gordon” Atwood under Ray Evernham? Additionally, his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is not Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet, but rather the declining No. 5 that Kasey Kahne left behind with a fresh coat of (Axalta) paint. Thus, it’s not fully appropriate to get down on Byron, who has also been a constant victim of bad luck. But it’s fair to say he could be on some sort of hot seat next season (his fourth at the Cup level and third with Chad Knaus) if he doesn’t get a win. Such a finish at Daytona would certainly go a long way in soothing some concerns.

Dylan Price: To this point, William Byron has not even close to filling the shoes left behind by Jeff Gordon. Byron has yet to tap into his true potential and finds himself on the bubble of the playoffs this year. Rick Hendrick and Gordon supposedly both think very highly of Byron. With that said, on track production is needed and that means a win or at least consistent finishes. So, I’d say Byron is at a point where he’s underperforming and could find himself looking for a new ride if he doesn’t step up by the end of next season at the latest.

Nathan Soloman: William Byron needs to step it up a little bit in he wants to stay at Hendrick for a long time. That all starts this weekend if he can secure a birth into the playoffs. Has he had some bad luck? Yes, he absolutely has. But that’s no excuse since he’s in the same cars that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon had extreme success in. Byron could use a win at a track like Daytona and has won a Duel race there in the past. Could luck finally be on his side this weekend?

Turn 4: Which driver outside of the top 16 has the best chance to steal a playoff spot at Daytona?

Geoff Magliocchetti: The thing about this Daytona field is that there are so many talented drivers that can steal a playoff spot. Perhaps the most attractive underdog driver is one who has no chance at the playoffs…Ross Chastain is back in a Cup car, taking over the same No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Haley navigated to victory last July. Chastain, who is competing for Xfinity Series points, was running well in the same car during February’s Daytona 500, but a late crash took him out of contention. He has run two other races in the No. 77, finishing on the lead lap in the latter at Indianapolis. A strong run at Daytona would give him some well-deserved exposure and a chance to impress potential suitors for a new, better-equipped ride next season.

Dylan Price: I have a lot of guys I’d love to eye with this pick. I really would love to see an underdog come from out of nowhere and win. Especially a back of the pack guy like Corey Lajoie could use a career-defining win. Still, outside of the top 16, one guy sticks out to me: Erik Jones. Jones is now without a ride for next season and he’s racing like a man with nothing to lose, and that’s scary. Jones could win this race and likely lock down a top tier ride for next season, so I’ll go with him outside of the top 16.

Nathan Solomon: Jimmie Johnson is outside the top 16, but could still easily make it in on points. However, I see either Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or Ryan Newman stealing a win to get into the playoffs. Both are known to be pretty good plate racers, and now they have one final chance on the last day of the regular season. Plus, what an awesome story it would be for Newman to win his first plate race back at Daytona after his horrific crash in February.

Predictions

Race Cup Xfinity Trucks
Geoff Magliocchetti Ryan Blaney Ross Chastain Sheldon Creed
Dylan Price Martin Truex Jr. Brandon Jones Matt Crafton
Nathan Solomon Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ryan Sieg Grant Enfinger
Standings
Rank Points (behind) Wins
1. Geoff Magliocchetti 288 3
2. Nathan Solomon -3 1
3. Dylan Price -36 0

NASCAR: Four Turns with ESM’s Eastern Speedboard, Michigan/Road America

NASCAR’s “silly season” just got a whole lot zanier. The Eastern Speed Board covers it all in their latest edition.

The NASCAR offseason’s moves and shake-ups are often referred to as “silly season”. 2020 as a whole could well be described that way, but Joe Gibbs Racing put a particularly impactful twist on the upcoming proceedings.

JGR announced the Thursday that Erik Jones would exit the team’s No. 20 Toyota, which appears set to be filled by Christopher Bell. A former Xfinity Series standout in a Gibbs Toyota, Bell has been working with JGR satellite team Leavine Family Racing in his first full Cup Series campaign. He became available when LFR was sold earlier this week. The team’s No. 95 Toyota will run the remainder of the 2020 season before shutting down operations. This leaves Jones, a two-time Cup Series race winner and 2015 Truck Series champion, without a ride heading into 2021.

Additionally, Brad Keselowski had an incredible week on and off the track. Sunday saw the 2012 Cup Series champion win his third race of the season at New Hampshire Motorspeedway. Less than 24 hours later, it was revealed that former free-agent-to-be Keselowski would continue his endeavors in Team Penske’s No. 2 Ford for at least another year. This removes Keselowski from the No. 48 sweepstakes, as the legendary Jimmie Johnson is prepared to step away from the Hendrick Motorsports vehicle.

What’s the takeaway from everything? ESM’s NASCAR experts on the Eastern Speed Board investigate…

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Turn 1: Big week for Brad Keselowski; thoughts on his new deal?

Geoff Magliocchetti: To quote Newman…the postal employee, not the driver…what took you so long?

Keselowski finishing a Hall of Fame career in Rick Hendrick’s No. 48 always seemed too good to be true. Besides, as cool as it would’ve been to see him finally earn a ride at Hendrick Motorsports, it wouldn’t have felt right. Images of Keselowski in No. 48 gear would’ve been included on the same lists and galleries of Brett Favre in a New York Jets jersey or Teresa Weatherspoon in Los Angeles Sparks colors. It’s rare to see any driver end their career in the same car that began it. Keselowski has been, in another Seinfeld reference, Penske material for all of his full-time Cup career. It’s nice to see that one of NASCAR’s longest-running partnerships will continue. For Keselowski to earn his new deal after a dominant weekend joining Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin as the only three-time winners this season makes it even sweeter.

Dylan Price: I think this was something that made too much sense not to happen. Brad would’ve been a fit in the 48, but he’s been putting up impressive showings in the 2 for Penske. He could ultimately bolt next year if Austin Cindric is ready and he doesn’t want to stay with Penske any longer, but I believe this was a move that made sense for both parties and I’m glad it got done.

Nathan Solomon: I’m happy to see Brad Keselowski signing an extension with Penske. He just seems like the right man for the car and it makes sense to keep him as the driver. He’s obviously been very successful driving the No. 2 car, winning a championship, and a lot of races along the way. I had a lot of trouble seeing anyone but Brad in the car. Congrats to him on the extension, and I bet he will remain at Penske for the rest of his career.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Turn 2: RIP Leavine Family Racing. How does Christopher Bell’s upcoming sub-in for Erik Jones shake up the “silly season” landscape?

Geoff Magliocchetti: Drastically, and this might only be the beginning.

First off, Leavine Family Racing will be missed. In an era more or less dominated by “superteams”, the group had formed a solid single-car foundation with their No. 95 Toyota. Their evolution from start-and-park squad to respectable racer (particularly with Bell and Matt DiBenedetto behind the wheel over the last two seasons) was nothing short of impressive.

Bell’s departure and the subsequent demise of his No. 95 team alters the landscape for both veterans and newcomers alike. For one thing, if JGR wanted to bring up Harrison Burton, their satellite squad in LFR is no longer there. Ditto, perhaps, if Stewart-Haas Racing wants Chase Briscoe to drive the No. 14. Now pending free agent Clint Bowyer has one less ride to turn to if he wishes to continue his career. Sure, Bell benefits from the get-go, but it could end Jones’ career of contention before it truly begins. Look no further than the case of Daniel Suarez, who went from Xfinity Series champion at Joe Gibbs to racing for the underfunded No. 96 at Gaunt Brothers Racing in just five years.

But that might not be a problem now that Gibbs’ maneuvering has set a new plan into motion. We already have vacant spots at JGR (No. 20 Toyota), Hendrick Motorsports (No. 48 Chevrolet), and Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 42 Chevrolet, currently piloted by fill-in driver Matt Kenseth). Time will tell just how many ripples the bombshell of the Jones/Bell switch made on the Cup Series surface.

Dylan Price: First, I am very disappointed to hear that LFR is shutting down because I felt they had the potential to be the next Furniture Row-esque “come out of nowhere and win it” team.

Christopher Bell being out of a ride truly changes the “silly season” landscape. He’s one of the highest potential young drivers in NASCAR. At this time JGR views Bell as the much stronger option for the No. 20 machine. That has officially put Erik Jones out of a ride, who would make sense in a number of places. He could be a fit with the No. 48. He could also go to Stewart-Haas if a ride opens there. That could then jeopardize the future of either Clint Bowyer or Aric Almirola. So, it’s safe to say that Bell losing his ride and joining Joe Gibbs just changed EVERYTHING.

Nathan Solomon: Christopher Bell wasn’t on the market for very long as, within days of LFR’s announced shut-down, Erik Jones was dumped for him. So now Jones is the free agent looking for a new ride. All the same options I mentioned ion the previous question are still on the table. There’s an opening at Hendrick and an opening at Stewart Haas. Additionally, the No. 42 will be vacant for Chip Ganassi, and that could be another option for Jones. I think a lot in “silly season” now depends on whether Clint Bowyer will get offered an extension for Stewart-Haas.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Turn 3: Keselowski’s return to Penske assured he will NOT take over the No. 48. So the question is…who will?

Geoff Magliocchetti: The favorite right now is probably Jones, but I’m going to throw a curveball here…Noah Gragson.

In some ways, Gragson’s potential ascension to the Cup Series mimics that of Keselowski’s…a talented driver at multiple levels whose aggressive racing style might rub some guys the wrong way (just ask Harrison Burton after the Xfinity Series event at Kentucky this year) but has the potential to impress both Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. while piloting a car for JR Motorsports. Gragson has certainly posted results worthy of a Cup ride. He was the runner-up in 2018’s Truck Series ledger (racing a Toyota owned by Kyle Busch) and has been a premier name on the Xfinity level with wins at Daytona and Bristol this season. A fiery rookie may be the ultimate counter to the mild-mannered, stoic Johnson, but such a contrast would be one of 2021’s most intriguing storylines.

Dylan Price: All signs now point to Erik Jones. who’s now out of a ride. I love Erik as a racer and I think he would fit well within the current trio at Hendrick Motorsports. I think he also is the kind of high potential driver that Rick and Jeff Gordon (who owns part of the 48) would really want within the organization.

With that said, I don’t think he should drive the No. 48 car. I think the car should switch back to No. 5 for Jones. Still, nothing is for certain and a guy like Matt DiBenedetto or Kyle Larson could be a surprise hire.

Nathan Solomon: There are a few options on who could drive the No. 48 next year. Erik Jones is the newest free agent, and with his time at Gibbs, I could see him driving that car. Clint Bowyer is also a free agent, but I don’t really see him driving for Hendrick, especially with his age.

The other option could be to turn to one of the guys at JR Motorsports such as Noah Gragson or Justin Allgaier. There’s also a pair of guys driving for Kaulig Racing in Justin Haley and Ross Chastain who would love an opportunity in a Cup Series car that has a chance to win every week.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Turn 4: NASCAR has instituted some new changes, including new starting lineup and restart policies as we approach the playoffs. Thoughts?

Geoff Magliocchetti: While I disagree with the full-time “choose cone” being instituted at this stage of the season (the start of 2021 would’ve been more optimal), I’m eager to see how it plays out over these crucial final stages of the season. The All-Star Race was a good place to introduce it, but we didn’t get to see it truly go into action, to see a driver pick up several spots by choosing the lesser popular lane. Such a strategy could be the ultimate difference between advancement and elimination in the playoff chases this fall.

As for the lineup, consisting of a weighted system of standings and finishing positions/top speeds from the prior event, it’s great to see some welcome unpredictability added to the opening gride while ensuring that the best cars get the optimal starting position.

Dylan Price: I think it’s the right move. It really makes sense to do in my opinion in terms of adding value to the races. As seen in the All-Star Race, it makes for much more exciting restarts and incites much more competitive racing. To put it in NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller’s own words, the sport “felt it was an important addition to the restart procedure”.

Nathan Solomon: I really enjoyed the choose cone rule used in the All-Star Race, and I’m glad it’s being adapted in most races. It allows the driver to choose where they think is the best for them and their car, not just the traditional way of odd position numbers start inside and even numbers start on the outside, It adds more strategy, and potentially on-the-fly thinking. It will make the racing better and pit road safer, as drivers will be less likely to play games on pit road to jockey for starting positions. Kudos to guys like Austin Dillon who pushed to get this added to NASCAR.

Michigan/Road America Predictions

Race Cup 1 Cup 2 Xfinity Trucks
Geoff Magliocchetti Kevin Harvick Kyle Busch Austin Cindric Austin Hill
Dylan Price Joey Logano Alex Bowman AJ Allmendinger John Hunter Nemechek
Nathan Solomon Brad Keselowski Chase Elliott Daniel Hemric Grant Enfinger
Standings
Rank Points (behind) Wins
1. Nathan Solomon 212 1
2. Dylan Price -4 0
3. Geoff Magliocchetti -20 1

NASCAR: Four Turns with ESM’s Eastern Speedboard, New Hampshire

As the NASCAR Cup Series circuit hits Loudon, ESM’s Eastern Speed Board talks Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and more.

Turn 1: How important was it that NASCAR was the first major sports league to return and how do you think they handled/are handling racing in these trying times?

Geoff Magliocchetti: It was tremendously important for NASCAR to be the first North American sports league to make its return. What was truly brilliant was the fact that they never truly stopped, remaining in the public consciousness through the iRacing Pro Invitational Series. When it was finally safe to trade-in pixels for asphalt, NASCAR succeeded even further.

The circuit was able to provide hope, giving a struggling public welcome normalcy every weekend, if only for a few hours at a time. Impossible to contain in a bubble setting, NASCAR has succeeded while traveling to its usual locales, with minimal reported positive tests of COVID-19 as they’re able to keep their seasons running. The fact they were able to hold an All-Star Race (albeit with a shift from Charlotte to Bristol) with a select number of fans should go a long way in showing just how well NASCAR was able to navigate a difficult situation. If only MLB had taken notes…

Additionally, NASCAR managed to go beyond the vicinities of the racetrack in addressing the current event on a national scale. The series and its drivers could’ve taken the easy way and out and sweep involvement in the national conversation under the rug and stick to racing. Instead, they embraced making a message by dealing with it at a point when everyone would be watching (prior to the start of the Atlanta race). When a mere thought of a threat of racist violence emerged against Bubba Wallace during the Talladega race weekend, NASCAR stood behind him and made it clear they would have his back. Wallace himself became a prominent voice in the ongoing conversation about race in America.

One could argue that perhaps not everything was handled perfectly in this process (i.e. labeling the Wallace incident at Talladega a hate crime before the FBI investigation was completed). But thanks to strong leadership and decent handling of the process, NASCAR is in a better place than it was at the start of the season.

Dylan Price: It was vital for NASCAR to be one of the first major sports to return in terms of making up for lost revenue and ratings, despite that  I had no expectation they would be one of the best to do it. NASCAR has had hiccups like a positive test for one of its biggest stars in Jimmie Johnson, but even he was back racing in a week’s time.

NASCAR has navigated the pandemic impressively and set a good precedent for other sports to follow. NASCAR also ended up timing their return fairly close to the social uproar that we experienced in June. This allowed NASCAR to truly prove how far they’ve come in terms of diversity and inclusion, and thus reinvigorate their reputation in the public eye.

Nathan Solomon: I think that it was huge that NASCAR was the first major sports league to return. Ratings are up and new people are discovering the sport and realizing that it’s so much better than their reputation shows. I think they are handling racing well for the most part, but you can tell that fewer people are complying with the coronavirus rules. It’s hard to not get excited and celebrate when you win or have a good pitstop, but people need to be following mask rules to potentially slow the spread of the virus in the NASCAR community and not look bad on TV.

This Saturday night, the UFC makes it's long anticipated return to Las Vegas with UFC on ESPN 9 which will be headlined by a welterweight contest between former champion, Tyron Woodley,
Mandatory Credit: Gerry Broome/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network

Turn 2: Thoughts on Jimmie Johnson’s IndyCar experiment? Can he make an impact in a new endeavor?

Geoff Magliocchetti: It’s great that Johnson finally got his long-sought opportunity to pilot an IndyCar in this topsy-turvy season. While there’s nothing wrong with going the broadcasting route in post-retirement endeavors (as his contemporaries Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon have), opting for a new form of racing in an interesting, new thought. Perhaps we could once again see the rise of racing 1,110 miles on Memorial Day if Johnson’s willing to make a Charlotte cameo after his full-time NASCAR retirement. Auto racing of all forms enjoyed a nice little kickstart in the wake of resuming in the midst of the pandemic. If Johnson’s endeavors in IndyCar can help IRL keep some of that momentum, everyone wins.

Dylan Price: I think Johnson is at a point in his career similar to where Tony Stewart was when he left NASCAR. He’s crossing off bucket list racing endeavors and that begins with Indy Car. It’ll be very intriguing, even for the casual race fan to see how Johnson fares in an Indy Car if he were to truly go down that route, even for a race or two. With that said, I don’t see Johnson having a huge amount of success in an Indy Car if that’s the route he wants to take, simply because it would take a pretty decent amount of time for him to really break in and he’s at the end of his racing prime.

Nathan Solomon: It’s really cool that Jimmie Johnson finally tested an IndyCar. 2020 is his last season as a full-time NASCAR driver, so maybe he’ll try out some different series at different tracks that NASCAR goes to. My prediction is that within the next few years once coronavirus has come and gone, he will try to run the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 Memorial weekend doubleheader.

Turn 3: Kyle Larson has expressed interest in returning to NASCAR. When do you think he’ll get that 2nd chance?

Geoff Magliocchetti: Let’s be clear: Kyle Larson was wrong. His far too casual use of a racial slur was troubling. It felt like he was always going to get another opportunity, anyone who felt he shouldn’t have faced any punishment was completely misguided. Losing an elite ride at Chip Ganassi was the right move.

As a white male who has never, and likely never will, face racial violence, it’s not up to me to forgive Larson. But, if social media is to be believed, Larson appears to be working to right his wrongs, working with organizations like The Sanneh Foundation (a Twin Cities-based group that “serves the holistic youth development needs of the increasingly diverse…metro area) and also attended the funeral of George Floyd.

Larson is probably going to back sooner or later, perhaps as soon as next year. At no point should anyone say he “went through” anything (i.e. Riley Cooper), but he’s apparently doing what he can rectify an ugly situation of his own doing. Perhaps the biggest question will be whether Larson truly wants to recommit to a full NASCAR slate. He’s had big success on the dirt track circuit and, while he’s expressed interest in returning, who knows if he’ll want to leave the home he’s made in the dirt.

Dylan Price: The question to me isn’t about whether or not a team will give Larson the opportunity because some lower teams and even some teams like Stewart Haas are already rumored to be eying him. The situation really dissolves down to two key factors. The first and most important being sponsorship.

Kyle Larson is still a name that will attract sponsorship because of his talent and reputation. Still, what he said was something that sponsors could deem unforgivable or at the very least could be something that needs more time to be forgotten.

The second factor is that Larson is happy racing on dirt tracks right now. He hasn’t finished worse than sixth and he’s reiterated consistently how much fun he’s having doing it. I think Larson will be back within the next year, but it will likely be a controversial return.

Nathan Solomon: I bet that Kyle Larson gets a second chance this winter. He clearly made a huge mistake and deserved punishment, but people deserve second chances at things in life. He may have to start with a low budget team and work his way up to build trust, gain sponsors, and attract a manufacturer.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Turn 4: We’re 19 races into the season and Kyle Busch STILL hasn’t won a Cup Series race. When is that win coming…if at all?

Geoff Magliocchetti: You have to think to that Busch’s long-awaited victory is coming sooner rather than later. Every race he runs is like a New England Patriots game in the new century: no matter how badly the odds are stacked against them, whether it’s a 28-3 lead or being two laps down at the midway mark, they almost always seem to figure it out. New Hampshire could be the place to do it, as he’s finished no worse than 12th over the last four races. With time dwindling toward the postseason, it would be wise of Busch to get a win before he goes to defend his championship. Expect a win at some this August.

Dylan Price: I really can’t see Kyle Busch not winning a race in this season. As much as I’d love to see him stay out of victory lane, it’s hard to count him out. He’s one of the most talented racers in this generation, yet he’s struggled to adapt to the changing circumstances surrounding the sport as they navigate the pandemic. I believe he’ll figure it out, but time is dwindling for him to stake his claim as a contender before the playoffs.

Nathan Solomon: It’s definitely alarming that Kyle Busch hasn’t been able to win a race this year. Unlike Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, having do practice is not helping him at all. When NASCAR has their upcoming doubleheaders at Michigan or Dover, look for him to get a win in the second race of each weekend.

New Hampshire Predictions

Geoff Magliocchett: Aric Almirola
Dylan Price: Denny Hamlin
Nathan Solomon: Joey Logano

Standings
Rank Points (behind) Wins
1. Nathan Solomon 168 1
2. Geoff Magliocchetti -14 1
3. Dylan Price -14 0

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags