|David Morgan: NASCAR Editor at Motorsports Tribune
Camping World Truck Series
1. Let’s kick off with the Truck Series, what a season it has been for Christopher Bell who won his first Truck Series title, he is about to race full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next year which is the series standard below the Cup Series, how he will be able to utilize the off season to put his chances of winning the Xfinity Series Championship & potentially move to Cup after the years Kyle Busch Motorsports and the Toyota Racing Department has invested in Bell?
DM: With the momentum from the Truck title, he’ll go back to the Chili Bowl to defend his title there before buckling down and getting ready for his first full-time Xfinity season. With the strength of Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota in that series, there’s no doubt he’ll be a serious contender for the championship to give JR Motorsports and Chevrolet a run for their money.
As far as his future, he’s definitely destined for the Cup Series at some point. Whether that’s for Furniture Row in their second car or for JGR proper remains to be seen.
2. I’m impressed by the performances by both Ford Truck drivers Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe this season, I know that Brad Keselowski Racing is now defunct but I now heard that we’ll see Cindric and Briscoe both sharing the 60 Roush Fenway car next year in the Xfinity Series, I was wondering if Team Penske would’ve seriously considered hiring Briscoe or Cindric to drive the 12 NXS car full-time to accelerate their development, why Roush Fenway and Team Penske have decided to field a full-time developmental team by rotating three young drivers with the 60 car rather than not seeing Cindric driving the 12 Penske NXS car and Briscoe driving the 6 or 60 Roush NXS car full-time?
DM: That’s puzzling to me as well, but Roger Penske has a method to his madness, so I’m not going to question the decision making there. They very may well be taking a wait and see approach with those young drivers to see how they do this season before pulling the trigger on a full-time ride for either of them. Sponsorship has to come into play there too. If the funding isn’t there, they’re not going to do it.
3. Before leaving the Trucks, what’s your favourite moment through this year’s Truck Series season plus any driver/team updates happening right now apart from the closure of BKR and what we are going to expect when the Truck Series new season resumes in two months time?
DM: Definitely all of the guys finally getting their first wins or making a return to victory lane after a long absence. Including Kaz Grala at Daytona, John Hunter Nemechek going back to back at Gateway and Iowa, Bubba Wallace winning at Michigan, Cindric’s dramatic win north of the border in Canada, Parker Kligerman at Talladega, Ben Rhodes at Vegas, Noah Gragson at Martinsville, and Briscoe finishing off the season with a win for BKR at Homestead.
I think 2018 will be more of the same with the influx of young drivers in the series all looking to make a name for themselves, while the veterans try and hold onto the ground they have.
4. Moving on to the Xfinity Series, William Byron has done outstanding on the race track especially having been given some advice by Denny Hamlin after falling just short to Hamlin in the Summer NXS race at Michigan and then he went on to win four more Xfinity wins before taking out the title, now he’s about to drive the 24 Hendrick Chevrolet at Cup Level on a multi-year deal, how is William going to ensure that he’s able to show the intent to what our fans have expected in order to deliver regular Top 5/10 Finishes, being in victory lane & booking your spot in the playoffs because this ride has huge shoes to fill after the lay-off of experienced driver Kasey Kahne?
DM: There will definitely be a learning curve for William next season as he’s never driven a Cup car, but if there’s anything we’ve learned in his short tenure as a driver is that he is a quick study. With Darian Grubb as his crew chief, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him competing for top-10 and top-five finishes as the season progresses, especially if the new Chevrolet Camaro body is going to deliver the competitive boost Hendrick Motorsports is hoping for.
5. Another driver who I feel sorry after the Xfinity Series finale is Elliott Sadler, he finished runner in points four times now over the past six years. I know he didn’t win any races at all but he did show consistent intent throughout the NXS Season and if Ryan Preece wasn’t involved in a wreck with Elliott, he would’ve won the Championship instead of William Byron, how is Elliott going to move on from that Homestead meltdown and focusing on finally stepping to the plate once more if he wants to take out the Xfinity Series title?
DM: It’s not a guarantee that he would have won the title if Preece hadn’t been there since he still had to deal with Byron, but the past is the past and with Sadler being the veteran that he is, he’ll be ready to rock and roll when Daytona arrives. JRM has a stacked stable once again this year, so I look for all of them to be competitive from the drop of the green flag in February.
6. Before moving to Cup, what’s your favourite moment this season in the Xfinity Series and with the rule changes being made such as limiting Cup drivers in the NXS plus the use of composite bodies & aero ducts, how is the competitiveness of this series will play out next season, are we’re about to see more Eligible Xfinity Drivers win races or is it limiting Cup drivers in the Xfinity Series is going to stagnate the standard and development of this series downhill?
DM: Favorite moments this year in the Xfinity Series were all of the young guys stepping up and finding a way to win over the Cup Series interlopers on more than a handful of occasions. Byron, Preece, Clements, Reddick, Bowman, and Cole Custer all getting their first wins signals that the talent pool of up and coming drivers is stout and these guys should all be stars in the years to come.
As far as the rule changes for next year, the Cup driver limits probably won’t have much of an effect in the regular season, but the playoffs is where the rule will definitely come into play, giving the Xfinity regulars the chance to fight it out amongst themselves. The aero ducts I thought put on a great show at Indy, so I’ll be interested to see how they do at other tracks.
Monster Energy Cup Series
7. It’s been a breakthrough season for Martin Truex Jr. who finally captured his first Cup Series Championship since the inception of Monster Energy took over from Sprint this year, When I saw him win at Homestead, it has warmed my heart especially with him dedicating this title to his long-time partner Sherry Pollex who has gone through a tough time fighting cancer, how was it like for Martin when he overcame perseverance and using that strength to win a record 20 stage wins and 8 visits in victory lane to take out the Cup Championship?
DM: After their five-win season in 2016, it was only a matter of time before Truex and Furniture Row made a run to the title. With the strength of Toyota this season, it was a forgone conclusion by the time the regular season ended that Truex was going to be a part of the Championship Four at Homestead.
Given their “Never Give Up” attitude and the way they kept focused despite everything they were going through off track, NASCAR has itself a worthy champion. Something tells me this won’t be the last time Truex is hoisting the championship trophy.
8. Not only we’ve seen Truex take out the Cup title but also we had to say goodbye to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick, why was this season became the end of their careers and how will these three will move on life after the race track?
DM: It’s just the continuation of the changing of the guard we’ve seen over the last few years with Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and now these three saying goodbye and hanging up their helmets. For some, like Earnhardt, he went out on his own terms, while Kenseth and Patrick were more or less forced out due to sponsorship woes.
At least, we’ll still see Junior around the track with his NBC broadcasting career and his interests at JRM.
9. Out with the Old and in with the Youth, I think that bringing a younger look with a huge crop of young talented drivers is the key of bring attracting a new audience to the sport over the next few seasons, why or why not will the next generation of young talented NASCAR drivers will match the desired success of what the current experienced group has performed over the last few years as now there’s no Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Dale Jr., Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers and Danica Patrick out on track now?
DM: The younger drivers all have the talent, that’s for sure. Now, they just need to find their voice off the track to energize the fan base with the loss of the older drivers leaving the sport. Guys like Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace are already doing that and I’m sure the others will find their place soon enough as well.
The veterans are still going to be the dominant force, but the younger drivers aren’t going down without a fight. Just look at the first time winners we had this past season.
10. What’s your favourite moment this season in the Cup Series and what do you expect how the Monster Energy Cup Series will play out from Daytona in February?
DM: It was heart-warming to see Truex capture the championship in the final race of the man that gave him his start way back when, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Aside from that, seeing Blaney, Stenhouse, and Dillon finally get their first wins and Kenseth win at Phoenix before his career ended was pretty cool.
This past season was one of the best in recent memory and I think 2018 will just be a continuation of that. So many storylines to look forward to next year, from Truex looking to defend his title, Jimmie Johnson and HMS trying to get back on track, and all of the fresh talent coming in looking to make some noise of their own. It’s going to be a fun year. Is it February yet?
11. We’ve seen Bubba Wallace finally get his wish by competing full-time in Cup next year with Richard Petty Motorsports, with that being said by the organization, are they about to fancy a switch from Ford to Chevrolet plus will that switch give RPM the opportunity to expand to two cars & Richard Childress Racing switch back to two cars with just Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman?
DM: That’s the rumor. Nothing official has been announced yet, but I’d be interested to see how that dynamic would work out if it is true.
UPDATE: Richard Petty Motorsports have officially announced today that they will be running Chevrolet engines from next year as well as forming an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, you can view my thoughts on the new deal here.
12. Let’s move to the media side, I’m personally excited to hear Regan Smith in pit road for FOX as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and maybe Danica Patrick in the booth/studio for NBC next year but what I’m gutted about right now is the journalism side of the sport where we’ve seen a huge number of lay-offs over the past year especially I saw a tweet yesterday by Eddie Gossage that Holly Cain, Kenny Bruce and K.Lee Davis were made redundant of their jobs, Why is the decline of journalism within NASCAR will affect young adults at College/University by wanting to write for the sport?
DM: It’s not just NASCAR that is affected; it’s journalism in general that is in a world of hurt. Every time you turn around, another round of layoffs is happening with quality people, including those you mentioned losing their jobs. It’s a shame that’s where we are these days and I hope things will turn around for the better in the near future.
13. If I want to keep up to date with your NASCAR articles, what are your social media accounts so I can follow you plus what are your plans over the Christmas and New Year Period?
As far as holiday plans, I’ll be spending time with family and likely covering some other sports stuff for the local paper here after the start of the new year before getting ready for the 2018 season.
Thank you David for your time.
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