Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in NASCAR:
Turn 1: The quality of racing is good. The product is good. Attendance and ratings? Not so much. How does NASCAR fix this problem?
Ricky Craven, ESPN NASCAR analyst: The quality of the racing in 2016 has been nothing short of excellent, but its effects will be lagging. This year's weak numbers are a reflection of last year's product. Long term, we have to consider shortening the races. Preserve the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Brickyard 400, Southern 500 and Bristol night race (500 laps) as our "big five." All other races can be shorter.
Ryan McGee, ESPN.com: Have the R&D center build a DeLorean and go back to 2003?
John Oreovicz, ESPN.com: The answer I come up with is: Make less worth more. NASCAR has oversaturated the market in every way. Too many races. Too many long races. Too much commercialism. Too much television coverage -- do we really need to see every second of on-track action on TV? Not to mention the many hours of additional programming. NASCAR has reached a point where the supply exceeds the demand, and a balance needs to be restored.
Bob Pockrass, ESPN.com: First by improving the product on the track. The racing has been good in 2016, and the finishes have been great. NASCAR needs to keep building on that and not be afraid of more rule changes that take away downforce as teams engineer it back into the cars. NASCAR needs to keep enhancing the race experience with as much fan interaction with drivers as possible, especially Friday and Saturday, when their on-track time is minimal.
Turn 2: Will there be a first-time winner in Sprint Cup this year? If so, who?
McGee: Yes. I think we'll have a couple. I still think the return to cars that are more like 2014's will have Larson back up front soon. You can't deny what Austin Dillon and Elliott have done to this point. And Stenhouse has to win at some point, right?
Oreovicz: There are at least three drivers capable and in position to do it -- Elliott, Blaney and Larson. Elliott will probably be the popular pick, but I'm going with Blaney, who looks impressive every time out in the Wood Brothers (nee Penske) Ford.
Pockrass: Yes. Dillon seems to be knocking on the door, but Elliott has been real impressive and has a team used to winning. Either of those drivers winning a race would not rank as a surprise. Right now, I'd lean toward Dillon. But ask that question next week and I might give a totally different answer.
Turn 3: Is Kyle Busch dominating the Xfinity Series -- again -- a problem? If so, is there a viable solution?
Craven: I have no problem with Busch competing in the Xfinity Series -- in a maximum of 15 races. His presence in the series on a limited basis helps the series, but his week-to-week participation hurts it. In 2013 and '14, he competed in 26 of 33 events, and that's too many. No full-time Cup driver who qualified for the previous season's Chase should be allowed to compete in more than half of the events in a lower series. It's simply too conflicting for the health of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series.
McGee: His job isn't to make the races exciting; it's to win by as big of a margin as humanly possible. He's not going away. Aside from totally restructuring the finances and sponsorship, there's no way to make him or any other Cup guys go away.
Oreovicz: It's a problem. By disqualifying them from competing for the Xfinity championship, NASCAR has done pretty much everything it can to take away Cup drivers' incentive to run Xfinity races. Busch keeps doing it anyway, and he keeps drubbing the field. In one respect it's good that he gives the Xfinity drivers a top-notch yardstick to measure themselves against. But every race he wins denies those Xfinity drivers accolades and publicity that could ultimately help them advance to the Cup series.
Pockrass: His problem isn't necessarily winning; it's the domination that certainly seems to rub fans the wrong way. I still believe the best system would be to limit the number of races a Sprint Cup driver can compete in -- I'd say eight and they all have to be in the same car -- but it can be 15 if that car runs the entire season with a non-Cup driver in the other 18 events. That would encourage a sponsor, which is already paying more to sponsor a Cup driver in Xfinity, to begin an association with a young driver by paying just a bit more (because young drivers are cheaper) to sponsor a car for the remainder of the season.
Turn 4: Speaking of Kyle Busch, when does he finally win a Cup race?
Craven: Don't know, and it doesn't matter because he didn't win last year until late June, then went on to win his first title. Fact is, Busch and the No. 18 are the best in the series right now -- four races, four top-four finishes. Qualifying is perhaps the most critical component to the success in the series. Busch has qualified in the top four in three of the four races.
McGee: If not this weekend, Bristol. And if all else fails, there's always Kentucky.
Oreovicz: He'll end the suspense this weekend at Auto Club Speedway by winning the Cup race in addition to the Xfinity race.
Pockrass: Busch wins Bristol in April.