Zooming in on the Unknowns: Five questions for Michigan and Gateway

Credit: Jared C. Tilton

The top-three NASCAR series all return for action this weekend, with the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series at Michigan International Speedway and the Camping World Truck Series at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. 

That provides a lot of storylines throughout the weekend, including drivers pulling double duty and trying to predict the end of the regular season and the start of the NASCAR Playoffs. 

Are there any drivers racing multiple events this weekend? 

Yes, three drivers will pull “double duty” this weekend at Michigan and Gateway. 

Darrell Wallace Jr. and Tyler Reddick will race in the Cup and Xfinity events at Michigan. Wallace will drive the No. 61 Toyota for Hattori Racing Enterprises, replacing Austin Hill, who will focus on the CWTS Playoffs kicking off this weekend at Gateway in Madison, Illinois.

Josh Berry will actually pull triple duty after Thursday’s announcement that Corey LaJoie won't pilot the No.7 on Sunday due to COVID-19 protocols. Berry will begin his weekend in the No. 25 for Rackley W.A.R on Friday night and sub for Michael Annett, who continues to recover from recent leg surgery, in the No. 1 Chevrolet on Saturday at Michigan.

Reddick is entered in the Xfinity Series for Our Motorsports, piloting the No. 23 Chevrolet. 

Will Kevin Harvick snap his winless streak at Michigan? 

It’s hard to believe that last year’s leader in wins has no victories this season, but Kevin Harvick has the chance to break his winless streak and make history this weekend at Michigan. 

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has snagged at least one victory every season since 2010, when he won three times while driving for Richard Childress Racing. Harvick has remarkable stats at the two-mile track, including five wins, 15 top fives and 21 top 10s. He also has won four of the last five races. 

A win this weekend at Michigan would tie Harvick with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott in most consecutive wins at the track. Elliott holds the record with four straight wins with the 1985 and 1986 sweeps. Harvick would tie by adding to his victories in 2019 and both races of the 2020 doubleheader weekend. 

Will there be retaliation by Denny Hamlin against Chase Briscoe after Indy? 

Two races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season, and Hamlin has secured a spot in the Playoffs, but rookie Chase Briscoe has not. Hamlin was visibly upset with Briscoe after the driver of the No. 14 Ford spun Hamlin in an attempt to gain the lead, despite being black-flagged by NASCAR for cutting across the track earlier in the same lap. 

Hamlin voiced his displeasure and stated he didn’t think Briscoe did it with any ill intent, which made it seem like it would be water under the bridge. However, audio was revealed of a member of Briscoe’s team stating that Briscoe would receive a penalty, which he said didn’t occur. 

With nothing to lose and everything on the line for Briscoe, who must win to compete for the 2021 championship, Hamlin could retaliate and pay Briscoe back for his actions at the Brickyard. 

But the real question is, will he? My gut tells me no, simply because Hamlin and Briscoe haven’t had any prior on-track incidents. However, I wouldn’t expect Hamlin to be too understanding should Briscoe need a break that Hamlin could give him in the future. 

Who is an early dark horse championship pick ahead of the beginning of the NCWTS Playoffs? 

Todd Gilliland. Gilliland consistently makes late moves to put himself in the best position possible for wins and good finishes. Despite only having two career wins to his name, the Front Row Motorsports driver has 23 top-five and 47 top-10 finishes.

With one win this season at Circuit of the Americas, Gilliland also has an 8.4 average finish through 15 races so far in 2021. 

Gilliland holds top-10 finishes at every track left this season, so he has the potential to secure his way into each round of the playoffs. His best chances come at Gateway, Las Vegas, and Martinsville. 

Where should Kurt Busch land for 2022? 

One of the key questions left as the season progresses is who Kurt Busch will drive for in 2022. At 43 years old, the former Cup champion is still a threat to win races against his fellow competitors. He has a lot of knowledge that could be beneficial for a young driver and fairly new organization that’s looking to add something to their resume. 

First-year team 23XI Racing fits the bill in both categories, after starting its operations with driver Bubba Wallace. Wallace hasn't met the expectations that were placed on the 27-year-old before the season began, but that doesn't mean the potential isn’t there. Wallace has been on the receiving end of some unfortunate circumstances and has made his own mistakes that could have been avoided. 

If 23XI wants to build on its future with Wallace, Busch is the perfect candidate for him to learn from as the Next Gen car arrives. If Monster Energy follows Busch to 23XI, the sponsor question is wrapped up, so there isn’t any reason why Busch shouldn’t be there. 


Zooming in on the Unknowns: Five questions for Michigan and Gateway  Zooming in on the Unknowns: Five questions for Michigan and Gateway Reviewed by Courtney Horn on Friday, August 20, 2021 Rating: 5