Our experts import in on 4 of a biggest questions in NASCAR as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway this week:
Turn 1: Were we astounded by Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s preference to retire during a finish of a season?
Ricky Craven, ESPN NASCAR analyst: Not astounded during all. Everything Dale Earnhardt Jr. common with us Tuesday creates sense. Dale has had a unequivocally successful career, and finishing it on his “own terms” rather than surrendering to injuries, substantially dominated his thoughts during a time divided in 2016. Fulfilling his agreement and joining to Rick Hendrick appears to be a pivotal member to timid on his possess terms. I’m happy for him.
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring, what’s subsequent for a 88?
Picking a motorist to reinstate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a No. 88 is not as easy as simply employing a best driver. Sponsor activation will be critical, and eventually competence expostulate a train to a seat.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement evokes churned emotions
Dale Earnhardt Jr. pronounced he doesn’t like vouchsafing people down. Even in announcing Tuesday that he will retire during a finish of this season, Earnhardt hasn’t, Ryan McGee writes.
Ryan McGee, ESPN.com: A little, nonetheless not a lot. He’s been means to see a finish of a highway for a while now. As we wrote Tuesday, he’d had this review a lot over a final year with a lot of people. Last tumble we had him recount a open for a Battle At Bristol diversion on ABC. He unequivocally worked tough to make certain he had a review only right. we asked him since and he pronounced it was since he wanted to make certain when he was finished racing full time he’d be prepared for “other things we wish to do.” That’s a male who wasn’t utterly prepared to be finished racing, nonetheless he was positively meditative about it.
Bob Pockrass, ESPN.com: Slightly. we suspicion he was disposition toward perplexing to lapse nonetheless also had listened a understanding competence be “creative” in some ways in box he finished adult changing his mind. we am not surprised, though, that he pronounced he wanted to retire underneath his possess terms. You could tell that from a unequivocally beginning. we wouldn’t be astounded if a miss of evident success removing behind in a automobile had an impact on his decision.
Matt Willis, ESPN Stats Information: we wasn’t astounded by a preference to retire after this season, nonetheless a timing held me a small off guard. Why after a bad finish during Bristol in April, against to before a year or after a year? After many pondering, we satisfied that it’s a automobile owners in Junior, and his preference was timed to assistance a 88 organisation get a best accessible motorist for 2017 and to get a unite conditions underneath control.
Turn 2: Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer?
Craven: Absolutely! His contributions to a foe are immeasurable, with 26 wins and dual Xfinity titles. Those are considerable numbers, nonetheless it’s what he has finished over a statistics that matter most. Dale is a extensive envoy for NASCAR, and a defender of a foe going forward. His name will be synonymous with NASCAR for an eternity.
McGee: we consider he will be. Only 30 drivers have won 26 or some-more Cup races and all of them who are authorised for a Hall are already in it. By a time he’s authorised a foe won’t be like it was. Stats aside, his off-track impact positively rises alongside that of Petty, Gordon and his father. To me that’s a large factor.
Pockrass: Absolutely. When we consider about Hall-of-Famers, we consider to myself: “Where would a foe be though this person?” The answer? we wouldn’t wish to know.
Willis: My initial instinct was to contend no, since of a miss of a championship in a tip series. But afterwards we deliberate a fact that he’s won some-more than 25 races and mixed Daytona 500s. Other drivers to do that: Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Dale Jarrett. That’s a organisation of nine, a unequivocally name crew. The final doubt is how do we import a driver’s recognition and significance to a sport? When we take all that into consideration, that he’s one of a faces of this era in NASCAR, we consider he’s first-ballot.
Turn 3: Who should Hendrick Motorsports put in a No. 88 automobile subsequent year?
Craven: It’s equivocal worried to plead it deliberation 7 months of competing stays for Dale. we design many names to be floated for a seat, nonetheless nothing will reinstate a stream motorist in terms of recognition and participation during a track.
McGee: Anyone and everybody will be mentioned … including Senator Carl Edwards. we hear a cries for Kyle Larson, nonetheless we don’t consider that’s happening. And while William Byron is going to be great, he’s not nonetheless Cup-ready. So go after someone else from that increasingly outrageous organisation of young, cold dudes. If we had Mr. H’s organisation and money I’d be shifting in on one of those furious Twitter nights involving Ryan Blaney and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and seeking what those guys are doing in 2018.
Pockrass: No one. Change a series and let Junior Nation have it as their own. A maestro would be good since of a vigour replacing Earnhardt, so Matt Kenseth would be a good choice if Joe Gibbs Racing wants to make room for Erik Jones (or a lapse of Carl Edwards). If Hendrick wants to go young, these are 4 options: The proven in Ryan Blaney, a famous in Alex Bowman, a intensity in William Byron or a risk nonetheless important in Darrell Wallace Jr.
Willis: William Byron is a timber prospect, nonetheless there have been cautionary tales of putting a motorist in a automobile too early. Cast my opinion for Alex Bowman, who, after some early struggles, had plain runs final year stuffing in for Earnhardt, including a stick and 194 laps led during Phoenix, where he finished sixth. Want a low sleeper? Brad Keselowski‘s agreement is reportedly adult after this year, and he used to expostulate for JR Motorsports and was before a Hendrick developmental driver.
Turn 4: What can NASCAR do to continue Earnhardt’s retirement?
Craven: Invest heavily in a subsequent era of drivers. Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott, among many other immature drivers, will be pivotal to attracting new fans. The subsequent 7 months are vicious in terms of this movement.
McGee: Fly a Millennium Falcon to Kamino and see if they’re in a cloning business.
Pockrass: Find a approach to get Earnhardt as partial of a radio broadcasts. That will give his fans another reason to watch and some-more time to select a new driver.
Willis: Keep Junior as tighten as possible. The Junior recognition deviation is a genuine thing. Each of a final 5 seasons (and 7 of a final nine), a motorist using for his Xfinity Series organisation has won that series’ Most Popular Driver endowment (Keselowski, Danica Patrick, Regan Smith, Chase Elliott, Elliott Sadler). If/when JR Motorsports moves to a Cup Series, the drivers will have an present fan base.