Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weathering It All: Five Questions for Bristol

Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images
By Kristen Schneider

It seems like we don’t talk about Bristol Motor Speedway anymore.

That's mostly due to the horrible Tennessee weather that throws the weekend schedule for a loop – but there are some interesting storylines headed into Thunder Valley, like the repave and how the series will wring out the obstacles and put on two races.

Maybe it’s just my thought process. If you’re like me (a young woman who’s finishing up her third year of college and taming a quarter-life crisis), you might be too busy to keep up with everything going on. NASCAR chatter falls to the wayside with finals on the horizon.

Are you in the same boat? That’s why Five Questions is here to talk about the CMS date move, Justin Allgaier, and some more tidbits to keep in mind as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series fight off the rain at Bristol.

Why can’t fans get behind the Charlotte move? The world almost collapsed this week when NASCAR announced some start time changes to some fall races. Once of them was more noteworthy than the others; the October Charlotte Motor Speedway race will now be on Sunday. The "lone night race of the playoffs" is no more. Weather pushed the race to Sunday the past two years, and now it’s a permanent change. The response was mixed in the usual fashion – drivers and industry members love the move, and many fans dislike it. Daytime racing at Charlotte is better when compared to its nighttime equivalent, and the past two years support that claim. It’s hard to say this isn’t a good idea – so why are fans screaming that it isn’t? The change goes into effect this fall, which causes an issue for current ticket holders. People base vacations around these dates at least a year in advance. That seems to be the biggest grievance so far, and it’s a legitimate one. However, that doesn’t make the overall concept a bad move. Once October rolls around, fans will probably see the light.

Are back-to-back Dash 4 Cash wins in Allgaier’s future? After two 30th-place finishes to kick off the season, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier redeemed himself with a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. That win also earned him the first of four Dash 4 Cash payouts. A cool $100,000 is nice – but having two big checks is even better. His chances of doubling his bonus are high since the series is at Bristol; one win, five top-fives, and seven top-10s at BMS make him one to watch this weekend. He doesn’t have to win to get the bonus, but that would sweeten the pot. It’s hard to guess what he and his team brought to Thunder Valley (due to limited practice time). However, Allgaier’s record at Bristol signals a shot at another bonus.

With Blaney’s growth and competitiveness, are the times a-changing? One of the bigger stories of 2017 is Ryan Blaney’s surge to the front. He and the Wood Brothers Racing group put together strong runs but can’t clinch the finishes that reflect their progress. We all knew Blaney was talented before this year; his clean racing style and relationship with Team Penske prove he’s mature and capable. His presence at the front not only tells me he’s close to a win, but it also says that WBR is getting a lot better. Their program is stronger than ever. Throughout this season, we’ll see Blaney emerge as one of the ones to watch for years to come – especially with his talent and youth.

Who’s the next big name to test the NASCAR waters? Big things are happening in the IndyCar world, with F1 driver Fernando Alonso signing to run the Indianapolis 500 next month. This has the NASCAR world buzzing. The NASCAR family is left to wonder if bigger names would participate in the Daytona 500, and if so – who? The obvious choice is Lewis Hamilton, who has expressed interest in NASCAR’s biggest event. Also, the draw would be incredible. I wanted to include others who would jump in a stockcar, but Hamilton seems like the perfect fit. Let’s make it happen.

Do you have a few dollars to spare? It’s somewhat cliché to call the NASCAR community a "family," but we only say it so much because it’s accurate. The first time I ever met Sam Bass was at Darlington Raceway last fall, and he pulled me into the biggest hug as if we were life-long friends. Everyone in the NASCAR realm has a similar story. That’s just the person he is – friendly, kind, and always happy. Sam’s going through a rough battle with various health issues right now, and he needs a kidney transplant. However, you probably wouldn't know it if the tweets of support weren't abundant; Sam's a selfless man who weathers adversity well. It's admirable. If you can donate a few dollars, use this link to help Sam out. He also needs prayers and positive thoughts. Please give whatever you can – because people like Sam Bass are rare.

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