Debate: NASCAR's burning questions

Originally Published: May 27, 2014
ESPN.com

Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in NASCAR this week:

Turn 1: Should the Indianapolis 500 consider a move to Monday to allow as many drivers as possible from other racing series to run?

Ryan Hunter-Reay
AP Photo/Darron CummingsRyan Hunter-Reay passes Helio Castroneves in the 2014 Indy 500.

Ed Hinton, ESPN.com: No, because you can't expect the best-attended race in the world to give up a holiday as a rain date. Best to move one race or the other to Saturday -- probably Indy, because the 600 is more physically taxing on drivers and should be last. Unlikely both would be rained out, so whoever needed Monday could take it. No one would love to see the F1 drivers at Indy more than I, but they wouldn't commute from Monaco even if their sponsorship obligations -- and their disdain of ovals -- didn't preclude it. And let's stop this notion that Charlotte rules the day. In my book, and in attendance, Charlotte is hurting at least as bad as, and probably worse, than Indy. It is slipping back to second or third in the world's eyes. Charlotte is out of clout.

Brant James, ESPN.com: No. The Indianapolis 500 was first and, frankly, it's more important. If there is to be a move, it should be by the Coca-Cola 600. The Indy 500 is one of the greatest races in the world. No offense to the fine folks in Charlotte, but the 600 isn't even the most celebrated race in Sprint Cup. Indianapolis has a half century head start and NASCAR can't buy or out-market that. Time for NASCAR to budge.

Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine: Not only no, but hail no. If a race is going to be moved, it should be the 600. But NASCAR's lack of cooperation on this has always baffled me. They are the first ones to congratulate a driver on the day of their double attempt, but don't do much to accommodate. I think it was two years ago when I asked Brian France about moving the start time of the 600 even just 30 minutes to make room for more doubles. He acted like I'd asked if NASCAR would consider holding a race at the Kremlin. The Indy 500 is still the Indy 500 and Sunday is still its day.

John Oreovicz, ESPN.com: I'd go the opposite direction and move it to Saturday, but for reasons other than attracting other drivers. It builds in an extra rain day during the holiday weekend for the 500, and it would give the IndyCar Series drivers and crews a much-needed day off before the two back-to-back races that immediately follow the hectic three weeks just spent in Indianapolis. The one-offs like Kurt Busch make for a nice storyline, but the Indianapolis 500 schedule shouldn't be built around them.

Marty Smith, ESPN Insider: Absolutely not. The Sunday before Memorial Day is the greatest day in motorsports. Dawn to dusk, it is Racer Christmas. Don't ruin perfection. The day's tradition is far bigger and far more important than any one person's involvement. I appreciate that day so much as a fan. No reason to even have this discussion.

Turn 2: Which winless driver from a power team is next to get into the win column? Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle, Waltrip's Clint Bowyer, Hendrick's Kasey Kahne or Gibbs' Matt Kenseth?

Hinton: This is almost a no-brainer. Kenseth winning is as surely just a matter of time as Jimmie Johnson's situation was. The rest are sure to flash at times, but otherwise iffy to win in regular season. Other than Kenseth, Bowyer seems likeliest to grab one.

James: Matt Kenseth. He's led the third-most laps in the series and he's in the neighborhood. And at second in points, it's not like he's lost. He'll get one soon. Maybe at Dover.

Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesMatt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson

McGee: I know that Kahne and Kenseth are particularly good at this weekend's stop, Dover, and I think they may end up with the most wins out of the foursome by season's end. But the least sexy pick out of the four might also be the best pick to win first. The Biff! Look at the tracks coming up. Greg Biffle has multiple wins at Dover and Michigan, won at Pocono in 2010 and nearly won there one year ago. He's also had three top-10s in his past four trips to Sonoma. But he better get it now, because he's awful at Kentucky and his lone Daytona win was in 2003

Oreovicz: Certainly it's got to be Kenseth, who is there or thereabouts every week. His stat line of nine top-10s in 12 starts, with only one finish lower than 13th, looks like 2003 all over again, and you get the feeling that it's a matter of "when" not "if" Matt breaks into Victory Lane. For Bowyer, Kahne and Biffle, it's the other way around -- we're talking about if they can do it instead of when they will.

Smith: Matt Kenseth is finally making better speed. He told me after the 600 that he's getting closer but still not quite where he was in 2013. He's great at Dover. And while I think Jimmie Johnson will be unbeatable at Dover (I just have that "dam's broke" feeling after the Charlotte win), Kenseth will have a say. He'll be fast when it matters, I promise you. Kasey Kahne will be good at Pocono. He's starting to make better speed as well.

Turn 3: Trevor Bayne will be making the move up to Sprint Cup next season. Who will have the most wins for Roush Fenway Racing over the next five years: Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle or free agent Carl Edwards?

Hinton: Uhhhhhh, that's not a terribly appealing set of options, because Roush Fenway has yet to re-emerge as a top-tier team. Assuming they keep Edwards, you have to go with him. Biffle might win here and there, but Bayne and Stenhouse don't even seem to be on the brink.

Carl Edwards
Daniel Shirey/NASCAR/Getty ImagesBristol winner Carl Edwards

James: The sensible pick is Carl Edwards as he remains in what should be the prime of his career. And if he leaves Roush Fenway, a Matt Kenseth-like renaissance would not be out of the question. Nothing like a little inspiration.

McGee: Edwards. I think Ford figures out a way to keep him in the fold. And I think Stenhouse and Bayne are still slipping on their way up the learning curve.

Oreovicz: My money is on Edwards. Jack Roush simply can't afford to lose him. With all due respect to Biffle, Edwards represents Roush Fenway Racing's strongest opportunity to win on a week-to-week basis, and he is their most frequent championship contender. Biffle has weekends where he is unbeatable, but not often enough to make him a title threat, and Bayne and Stenhouse haven't shown that they're Cup championship material. Roush needs Edwards to anchor his team.

Smith: It won't be Edwards. All indications among garage sources are he's leaving Roush. Biffle may stay around, he may not. Both of those guys have been at RFR their entire careers. Both are mulling whether they'll stay. Stenhouse is super talented and Bayne, given a decent shot, should fare well. Thing is, Roush is in a state of substantial transition. The team just released its lead engineer. That tells me they're searching.

Turn 4: We've always said it's hard to take stock of the Sprint Cup season until we leave Charlotte. So who makes up your top three right now, and why?

Hinton: You may have said that; I never have. I've always waited for Daytona in July. But if we must jump the green flag, then two-race winners Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano promise to win more before September. And now that Jimmie Johnson has broken through, he's on his way again. While we're jumping the gun let's go into the Chase, where winning will matter more than ever so that Harvick, Logano and Johnson are my early picks for three of the final four.

Kevin Harvick
Robert Laberge/Getty Images2014 two-time winner Kevin Harvick

James: Kevin Harvick: Despite some early-season mechanical problems that could have unwound his season early, he continues to crank out solid finishes every week. Jimmie Johnson: He's earned automatically renewing benefit of the doubt. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: He's had some down finishes after winning the Daytona 500 and his passive late-race tack at Talladega was controversial, but there is the sense he has the long view and long-term momentum to make a run for a title.

McGee: Kevin Harvick, because this format is all about winning and he's the guy who feels like he's in the best position to win races. Even when his stuff has fallen apart, he's fast. Jeff Gordon, because he's been the most consistent finisher all year. And finally, Jimmie Johnson, because, well ... scoreboard, y'all.

Oreovicz: 1. Kevin Harvick -- Fast everywhere, hungry, motivated. 2. Jimmie Johnson -- Still the man to beat for the Cup. 3. Joey Logano -- Coming into his own as a Cup driver with NASCAR's fastest-improving team.

Smith: 3. Joey Logano -- Fast. Everywhere. 2. Jimmie Johnson -- It took a minute to catch up to the new rules package. Johnson explained it to me this way: Winning last year's championship was the sole focus for the 48 bunch last fall. Meanwhile, Todd Gordon, Paul Wolfe and Rodney Childers were busy pounding on the new stuff. The proof is in the performance. The 4 and the Penske cars have been the class of the field all year. 1. Kevin Harvick -- I told you they'd be nasty.

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