Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in motorsports as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series makes its first visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway:
Turn 1: Did Joe Gibbs Racing make the right move by booting Matt Kenseth in favor of Erik Jones?
Ricky Craven, ESPN NASCAR analyst: In the long term, the right move. In the short term, Matt Kenseth could contribute more to JGR regaining speed. I have the highest regard for both drivers, but they are at opposite ends of their careers.
Ryan McGee, ESPN.com: Yes, but it still stinks. This needed to happen when it happened to allow time to secure sponsorship and all that, but why let it get awkward? Why make it weird around the shop, which folks tell me it was? Why create a situation where Kenseth has to have that uncomfortable time with the media last week? I'm thrilled for Jones and I think Kenseth will have a ride next season, but there had to be a better way to go about this.
Bob Pockrass, ESPN.com: Yes. It stinks for Kenseth, but with the car needing new sponsors, JGR should have an easier sell with the potential of a long-term relationship with Jones.
Matt Willis, ESPN Stats & Information: Although it's tough to see a driver like Kenseth lose his ride, especially one like Kenseth who has given JGR 14 wins, the timing worked out in that it gives Kenseth plenty of time to look for another ride. Plus, Kenseth is 45 years old, and Gibbs has to look out for its future, and Jones has really hit his stride in the Cup Series. Over the last seven races, Jones is fourth in terms of average finish.
Turn 2: Where will Matt Kenseth land?
Craven: Matt would be an asset to any organization. He trains hard and has at least two quality years remaining.
McGee: It feels like maybe Stewart-Haas, right? But I wish Hendrick Motorsports would put him in the 88, even if only for a season, while the youngsters destined for future HMS rides get a little more grooming at the lower levels.
Pockrass: Several pieces would need to fall into place, so this is just really a guess: Stewart-Haas Racing. Maybe the 10. Maybe the 41.
Willis: The No. 88 in place of his friend Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems like too easy of a fit. But I don't want to make this difficult. I think he rides out the rest of his full-time driving days at Hendrick until William Byron is ready to take over full time in that car.
Turn 3: Is Brad Keselowski correct in saying NASCAR needs a better car?
Craven: A better car in terms of drivability, maneuverability, eliminating aero push, yes, absolutely correct. Better in terms of making drivers comfortable? Absolutely not! I want to see drivers fighting for their life behind the wheel of these race cars, because fans pay to see unpredictability and volatility. They pay to be entertained.
McGee: I think as a member of the drivers council he's shamelessly lobbying for the drivers to have a voice as the next-generation model begins development. The current car was really an exclusive creation of the manufacturers. It certainly makes some sense for the people driving the cars to have some input ... but not too much. I love them, but what drivers like and what the people in the grandstands like has not historically been all that much alike. As long as the splitter vanishes, I think most parties will be happy.
Pockrass: Sure. But wholesale changes aren't the most economical thing to do these days. What should come from Keselowski's comments is the return of the discussion on whether to remove the splitter and resuming a minimum height rule.
Willis: I'm all in favor of anything that makes racing more exciting, making it so the cars aren't so aerodynamically dependent on clean air. But that's been an issue in NASCAR forever, and it's unlikely that a simple change will make it any better. But NASCAR should always be striving for a better product, and if Keselowski's comments push them to speed up development, then I'm all for it.
Turn 4: Next Wednesday is the Eldora truck race, now in its fifth year. Is it still a worthwhile show and date on the calendar?
Craven: It's just right. It's in the right series midyear and it has become a classic. I do believe there should be some discussion of the viability toward having a Cup race on dirt. I don't know if or when it could become a reality.
McGee: Absolutely! It has retained that stature because NASCAR has thankfully resisted the urge to replicate that night in Xfinity or Cup. At heart I'm still a TV producer, so I feel the pain of being bumped around the channel listings because of other programming. So I feel for the production truck, the series and the fans who will be searching for the right channel just like I'm always searching for TruTV during the NCAA hoops tournament or jumping around ESPN nets as college football games end up crossing over. But it'll be fun watching the bartender's reaction when I ask him to find a business channel.
Pockrass: Yes. And that comes from someone not so on board with it at the beginning. What makes Eldora special is it is unique and helps NASCAR connect with a different fan base. It's a shame that the race will be on Fox Business Network. Yes, it's on more homes than FS2, but it isn't going to be on in a sports bar and it's not a channel most sports fans will flip to -- meaning those who don't know it's on won't be exposed to it.
Willis: I've always really enjoyed this race, and love anything that adds more variety to the schedule. It's a worthwhile show because it's the only time this year I'll be able to watch a national series race on a dirt track. But last year we only got Kyle Larson from one of NASCAR's top two series dropping down to run. In addition to an all-star dirt track lineup, I'd love to see more big names run this race, despite my usual opposition to seeing Cup regulars moonlight in the Xfinity or Truck Series. I'd love this to be "the" dirt track event for all three NASCAR series.