Roundtable: Are there too many rules in NASCAR? –, Edition: Global

Our team of experts debate some of the biggest topics in NASCAR this week.

It seems almost every week there is a rule that creates conversation by fans and drivers about NASCAR’s rules and amount of them or ‘changes’ in rules. Do you think NASCAR has too many rules and do you feel they have been inconsistent in any way with some of their recent calls?

Jim: First of all, NASCAR only has “too many rules” when people don’t like the rule that’s being enforced. Many of the same people who think there are “too many rules” are often the same ones who say “NASCAR needs to make a rule” for so-and-so after an unexpected issue arises that hasn’t been dealt with before. Is NASCAR inconsistent on applying rules? Absolutely. But so is every other professional sports organization. Fouls called early in a basketball game are rarely the same as the ones called late in a game. In football, I’ve been told by several insiders that holding to virtually be called on every single play, but of course it isn’t. As long as a rule is subjective and not objective, there will always be criticism of how its applied.

Lee: I don’t think there are too many rules, however, before a new rule is implemented, NASCAR must do a better job with the role out. If fans are still discussing the efficacy of a rule on Monday rather than the entertainment value of the race, then the sanctioning body has a problem. 

Nick: Although there are a handful of rules I find unnecessary, such as the infraction Truex was nailed for at Kansas, the problem is not the number of rules. The real issue is communicating them clearly. Truex seemed baffled by his penalty and he is far from the only example of someone confused by a ruling this year. NASCAR doesn’t make these rules up on the spot, but not all the drivers and teams seem to be on the same page as series officials when they try to enforce said rules.

Tim: I think fans don’t realize how many rules are in all sports, however NASCAR does have a history of making adjustments or changing rules during the season. That doesn’t happen often but it’s also not a bad thing in my opinion. Once NASCAR realizes there might be a problem, they’re not afraid to make adjustments to make things right or better. I agree with Jim Utter in that a lot of fans might not like rules if it goes against their favorite driver, causing most of the outrage.

Matt Kenseth didn’t advance to the Round of 8 in the playoffs. Do you think he’ll land a ride next year or do you think this will be his last season in the NASCAR Cup Series as a full-time driver?

Jim: If Kenseth ends up a full-time driver in the Cup series next season it would be a surprise to me, simply because I’m not hearing a lot of discussion about (absent the arrival of an unexpected sponsor). Given his age, it’s not surprising that Kenseth’s career could be coming to a close. The reason people find it so surprising is because he is still competing for wins and championships.

Lee: If Kenseth hasn’t come off of his asking price, he could find himself on the sidelines. With the recent economic shift in driver salaries, the 2003 Cup champion might indeed be driving a school bus next season. Had the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing seat remained opened, it would have been easy for Kenseth to ride it into the sunset with that team. But with JGR at the top of its game and Furniture Row Racing downsizing in 2018, Kenseth will have to settle for a second-tier operation.

Nick: At first, I thought he would definitely find a new home, but now I’m not so sure. There are very few rides left and if he were to secure a ride, it’s highly likely that it will be a step-down from JGR’s level of equipment.

Tim: I must admit, I’m surprised that Matt Kenseth’s career could be coming to a close. I know the landscape of the sport is going through an adjustment, but it’s a shame that a driver with his resume is not being allowed to go out on his own terms. They guy can still drive, it’s a shame there appears to be no seat for him next year.

Martinsville Speedway will host the NASCAR Trucks this weekend. Once again, there will be several young drivers including several current and former NASCAR Next drivers. Of the ones scheduled to compete, do you think any of them can win this Saturday? Drivers entered include: Harrison Burton, Jeb Burton, Gray Gaulding, Todd Gilliland, Austin Hill, John Hunter Nemechek, and Ben Rhodes.

Jim: Several of them could win. Among them, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and certainly Jeb Burton. I also like the new pairing of Mike Hillman Jr. and Harrison Burton in the No. 51 Toyota at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I think HIllman will bring a lot of winning experience to that team, which uses several talented young drivers.

Lee: Clearly, the Burtons will be the local favorites. Rhodes hasn’t had a top 10 since his debut in 2014, however, he won the pole then led 42 laps last spring. But Nemechek has eight starts — the most of the NASCAR Next crowd—and has three podium finishes in his last four starts.

Nick: As Jim said, several. John Hunter Nemechek, Jeb Burton and Ben Rhodes are already proven winners and i’m excited to see what the Burton cousins can do on home turf.

Tim: I agree with my colleagues in that several of these drivers could get a win this weekend. Personally, I would enjoy seeing Jeb Burton get his second truck win considering the ups and downs he and his family has gone through over the past couple of years. I think if he had a little more experience I would pick his cousin, Harrison Burton, to pick up the win now that he has a two-time NASCAR championship-winning crew chief leading him in Mike Hillman Jr.

Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski have shown marked improvement in their performance during the NASCAR Playoffs for Ford. Do you think any or all of them can make it to Homestead as part of the final four?

Jim: My picks at the start of the playoffs included Harvick in the Final 4 but I also mentioned Blaney as a long-shot candidate. Ford in general has really stepped up its game as the season has drawn to a close. If Blaney and the Wood Brothers can continue with the type of solid runs like they had at Kansas, they will be very formidable the next few weeks. Martinsville, in my opinion, is going to do a lot to separate the championship pretenders from the contenders. 

Lee: Harvick has started displaying speed over the last few weeks. His average qualifying effort for the playoffs is 7.6 and 245 of his 812 laps led this season have come in his last six starts. In the Round of 8, Harvick has just one win at Martinsville, no wins at Texas but Phoenix has been his playground of late. In his last 10 starts on the one-mile raceway, he’s scored six of his eight-career wins and has just one finish outside of the top 10. However, Harvick’s best average finish is at Homestead-Miami Speedway (6.9) where he’s completed every lap and won the 2014 race along with the Cup title.

Nick: I’m sure we’d all love to see Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers battle for the championship at Homestead, but he is the least likely of the trio to do so. Kevin Harvick would be my pick, but you can never underestimate Brad Keselowski. When his back is against a wall, he tends to be able to step up and meet the challenge.

Tim: I thought Harvick would be a contender all year long and I’m pleasantly surprised with what Ryan Blaney has been able to do in the playoffs, especially last weekend in Kansas. The good thing for Harvick is he’s always been good at Phoenix while Blaney has won on short tracks. I think it would be a longshot for Blaney to advance to the Championship 4 with a win at Martinsville, but it’s possible.

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