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NASCAR Roundtable: Evaluating the All-Star Race aero package

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NASCAR Roundtable: Evaluating the All-Star Race aero package
May 25, 2018, 10:08 PM

On this week's NASCAR Roundtable, our team evaluates the aero package used for the All-Star Race, which resulted in a massive increase in green-flag passes.

Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Discount Tire and Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, Toyota Camry 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank spins
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS and Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS and Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion Hawk/Carlisle
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Express Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS
Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford Fusion Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Stewart-Haas Racing Fan Club
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's celebrates his win
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's M&M's Red Nose Day, Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's, Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry ARRIS
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA AUTO PARTS Patriotic
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro Nationwide and Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA AUTO PARTS Patriotic
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion PPG
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Fusion PPG
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro DC Solar
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Credit One Bank
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries
Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Interstate Batteries

What did you think of the rules package NASCAR implemented for the All-Star race and should it be used again this season?

Jim Utter: Both visually and statistically, the all-star race aero package was a resounding success. I have not seen a more competitive and entertaining all-star race from beginning to end in my 20 years covering NASCAR. The all-star race has produced many memorable moments, but rarely has it ever been a competitive event from start to finish (including the preliminary races). It would be a disservice to fans for NASCAR and its teams not to get this package on the track for more "tests" this season - both for the entertainment of the fans and to help fine-tune any areas they may still need work in preparation for more wide-spread use in 2019.

Nick DeGroot: I am so torn. It produced great racing and is perfect for the All-Star Race, but I also don't want every race to be a plate race. The racing was certainly better, but NASCAR is at a crossroads here. You're either sacrificing the purity of the racing for the show or the entertainment value of the show for the purity of the racing. As Kyle Larson said, I wouldn't mind it implemented at select tracks, but not everywhere. 

Tim Southers: Often times in NASCAR when fans like something the fans usually hate it, but in this instance I think the reaction has been mostly positive on both sides of the isle. I don’t know if it should be used everywhere, but watching the race last week was the most entertaining All-Star race I’ve seen since the days of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Tom Errington: The evidence is clear: from zero green flag passes to 38 is deeply impressive and shows why this package should certainly be considered as part of 2019's revamp. But if NASCAR is serious about that, it has to be trialled on every type of track the series has in order to get a true picture of how it will perform.

Kevin Harvick continued his winning ways in the All-Star Race last Saturday night. Do you feel he can become the eighth driver to sweep both races? The others to have done it: Darrell Waltrip (1985), Davey Allison (1991), Dale Earnhardt (1993), Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2003), Kasey Kahne (2008) and Kurt Busch (2010).

Jim: Absolutely. Regardless of the new aero package used in the All-Star Race, Harvick had already been one of - or the most - dominant driver on intermediate tracks so far this season. It would not surprise me to see Harvick put in the type of performance we've seen in recent seasons at Charlotte by Martin Truex Jr. Harvick and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, adapted well to the new conditions in the all-star race but they have already mastered the rules to which everyone returns to using this weekend.

Nick: He definitely can get the job done, but he's not my pick this weekend. The 600 is not your standard race. It can be unpredictable, has produced a lot of first-time winners and a lot can change in those final 100 miles. He'll be a threat, but I don't think the sweep will happen this year.

Tim: I don’t bet on races (yet), but I would say that Kevin Harvick has to be the odds-on favorite for this weekend for sure. While Kyle Busch has been strong as well with three wins this season, the way Harvick is running now, we might see a domination in the 600 much like Martin Truex Jr.’s performance at Charlotte a few years ago.

Tom: I'm not sure there's anything Kevin Harvick can't do right now. Even with the challenge of a radically new aerodynamic package, Harvick managed to win. Stewart-Haas Racing and Harvick are in a real sweet spot that's it hard to see where the bump in the road will be.

The Coca-Cola 600 race is the halfway point of the regular season and this gives drivers 13 more opportunities to qualify for the playoffs. Who are some drivers who you think will win their way into the playoffs in the second half of the regular season?

Jim: I still expect at least two Hendrick Motorsports drivers to win win their way into the playoffs and right now I would still go with Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, although William Byron has perhaps run the most consistent of them all and could still pull off a victory. Other drivers I could see winning are Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and I would not be surprised to see A.J. Allmendinger come away with another road course victory this season.

Nick: Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson top my list, but thanks to dominant performances by both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, there are a lot of big names yet to win. One team that may not get a win is Hendrick Motorsports and that would be a shock. All four drivers qualified outside for the 600 as the entire organization continues to struggle with the new Camaro.

Tim: I think Kyle Larson is poised to pick up multiple wins this season and if he can get the gremlins and bad luck away from his car, I think he could win at least two races before the end of the regular season. I also think Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could get back into contention at Daytona in July. Ryan Blaney is another driver I think has a chance to score a win too.

Tom: Kyle Larson is surely set to follow Joey Logano's lead of turning around frontrunning pace into an elusive victory. Other drivers who you would expect to find victory lane would be Brad Keselowski. Other Penske and SHR's non-winners so far including Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney will certainly have the machinery to do so. It will be interesting to see if Chase Elliott will finally turn those successive second places into a win, but that may require a sizable Chevrolet turnaround.

There have been quite a few drivers score their first NASCAR Cup Series win at Charlotte in the 600. Who do you think could be the next first-time winner this weekend?

Jim: After his strong performance in the All-Star Race, I would have to go with Daniel Suarez. It's been somewhat of a slow start for Suarez's sophomore season in the Cup series, but he has become much more competitive in the last five to six weeks and they certainly showed with his runner-up finish last Saturday night. A lot of drivers came and went from the top-five throughout the event, but Suarez was one of the few that remained there virtually the entire race. Should he have that same ability with his car this weekend, he could easily come away with his first Cup series win.

Nick: Definitely Daniel Suarez. He was near the top of my list even before he nearly won the All-Star Race last weekend with three top tens in the last four races. He also rolls off near the front of the field for Sunday's race.

Tim: I must agree with Jim and Nick on this one. I think Daniel Suarez has shown steady improvement this season and I feel he could surprise everyone and get his first Cup Series win this Sunday in the 600. I think the All-Star race was a good indication of how much he and his team have improved this season.

Tom: Elliott's made a point of Charlotte being crucial due to the presence of sponsor Hooters, but it's hard to see NASCAR's most notable driver without a win turning it around here, which applies to team-mate William Byron and Alex Bowman as well. All have shown promise fleetingly in a difficult car. In truth, it's hard to see a first-time winner this weekend.

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