RELATED: See the Chase Grid " Download your own We asked members of the NASCAR.com editorial staff to fill out their Chase Grids. Even @nascarcasm got involved. See below for our sleepers, championship picks and even a few doodles. Click on the individual grids to make them larger. Zack Albert Kenny Bruce Holly Cain George Winkler Brad Norman @nascarcasm
RELATED: Updated Chase Grid " Driver standings We hope you enjoyed some rest and relaxation during the off week for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. Because starting this week things are about to get real -- real fast. With just two races remaining until the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set, there are still some spots up for grabs. Ten drivers are locked into postseason berths, but that means six openings are still available -- five if you're penciling in Kyle Busch , who has four 2015 wins but is 29th in points. Of the winless drivers who'd be in the Chase if it started today ( Jamie McMurray , Ryan Newman Paul Menard , Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer ), which one is most likely to lose his spot? Conversely, of the drivers currently outside the top 16, who is most likely to win their way into the postseason party? NASCAR.com editors George Winkler and Maggie MacKenzie are here to give their opinions. Check out their take, then vote in our poll and let us know your view in the comments section below. Winkler : Hey Maggie, hopefully the pressure won't get to you like it might get to some of these drivers. These are tense times indeed. One driver I'm skeptical about making the Chase is Paul Menard . Despite his heartwarming hometown win in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Road America , Menard has visited Victory Lane only once in his Sprint Cup Series career. Qualifying for the Chase based on points is a dangerous way to live, especially when you consider Menard is just plus-19 points from the cutoff line. Throw in the fact Menard hasn't had much success at Darlington or Richmond (one top-10 finish in 25 races combined) and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fall out of contention. MacKenzie: George , looks like we, once again, find ourselves in a head to head debate . You're right, tense times are upon us with the Chase looming in the near future and drivers are scrambling in last chance efforts to earn a coveted Chase berth. The clock is certainly ticking and I'm starting to feel the pressure -- are you? You've got a valid point about Menard and although I do think it is likely for him to fall out of the top 16, I'm going to have to pick a different driver. I think Clint Bowyer will be losing his spot before Menard does. Bowyer currently sits in the last spot on the grid, 17 points behind Jeff Gordon in the 15th position. Bowyer's safest bet for securing a spot in the Chase would be with a win since getting points is clearly not his forte this season. Unfortunately, the odds are against the driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota as he hasn't visited Victory Lane since 2012 at Charlotte. Winkler : There's no clear choice outside of the top 16 for a driver making it into the Chase. It's going to take a special day and a pressure-packed win for any of them to get the job done. Kasey Kahne came through with the equivalent of a ninth-inning home run last year when he qualified for the Chase with a win at Atlanta in the second-to-last race of the 2014 regular season, and he could be the one to do it again. RELATED: Kahne proves bubble driver can make Chase Even though there's no reason to look at his recent performances and feel confident about the pick, there are some silver linings. He finished sixth at Richmond earlier this season, and he has a driver rating of 104.00 in the past five years at Darlington. MacKenzie: Ah, I like where you are going with this one, George . Although I don't think any driver outside of the grid has a great chance of entering the top 16, I, too, think Kahne could go for the repeat and get himself a last-minute win. And how great of a story would that make? The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been pretty vocal about how disappointing the past few races have been for him and he knows he needs a win . He has proven that he can work well under pressure after last year's Atlanta win so I say that if there is any driver who can snag a last-minute victory, it would be Kahne. MORE: Kahne knows he must win to earn Chase berth
RELATED: Complete Sunday schedule " Kes takes Darlington pole Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their predictions for one of the most prestigious races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series calendar: the Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Zack Albert Kyle Busch : The tradition returns? Kyle Busch leading piles of laps at Darlington has some heritage, too. Kenny Bruce Jeff Gordon : A five-time Southern 500 winner, Gordon secures a spot in the Chase in his final Darlington appearance. Holly Cain Kevin Harvick : Coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the previous two races, it's time Harvick re-visits victory lane for a proper Chase send-off and his second straight Darlington win. MORE: Darlington throwback paint schemes Brad Norman Kurt Busch : The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has three career poles, but no wins at Darlington. That changes Sunday as the No. 41 notches a momentum-building win with the Chase looming. George Winkler Kevin Harvick : Fans looking for a surprise winner to shake up the Chase won't get it because Harvick has been just too good all season and is in prime position (third in lineup) for a repeat performance at Darlington. Pat DeCola Martin Truex Jr . : Sure, Truex started the season with 13 top-10s in his first 15 races and only has two in the nine events since, but it's hard to picture the No. 78 team not regaining its strength as we roll into the Chase. With a low-downforce package at Darlington that would seem to favor Truex -- a vocal proponent of as little downforce as possible -- a Southern 500 win for the Furniture Row Racing driver seems like more than just a dark horse pick. RJ Kraft Kevin Harvick : No Cup driver has repeated at Darlington since Greg Biffle did in 2006, and Harvick will as he also sees his string of oh-so-close calls for a third 2015 victory come to an end at the “Lady in Black." Jessica Ruffin Brad Keselowski : Pole-sitter Keselowski's speed during practice and qualifying at "The Lady in Black," coupled with his strength with the low downforce rules package at Kentucky tells me he is going to be a force to be reckoned with on Sunday night. Kathy Sheldon Joey Logano : He loved the low downforce package at Kentucky, finishing second with it. He's on a roll with two wins in the last three races. And he found some speed in practice at Darlington, breaking into the top 10 in early practice.
See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: Senior writer Kenny Bruce discusses the origins of the Darlington throwback program ... George Winkler and Maggie MacKenzie debate about which driver is most likely to crash the Chase field, and which one is most likely to fall out. TUESDAY: Kyle Larson gets honest about his Chase chances ... We'll talk about the Southern 500 returning to Labor Day weekend ... Then with football season quickly approaching, RJ Kraft draws up some great comparisons and talks about which drivers are similar to some of the NFL's quarterbacks ... We will revisit all the throwback paint schemes set for Darlington in a gallery ... @nascarcasm drafts up a Facebook page using his wit and comedic puns. WEDNESDAY: Paint schemes will be on display this weekend at Darlington Raceway , and we'll have them all in Paint Scheme Preview ... As Kevin Harvick holds the points lead and has secured himself a Chase berth, senior writer Holly Cain wonders if he is even better this year than he was last year ... High 5 presents the best NASCAR content from around the web. THURSDAY: Driver Reports is back this week and highlights the 16 drivers who currently have a spot in the Chase ... Kathy Sheldon drafts up some Darlington dreams from drivers before they are set to hit the track on Friday for practice. FRIDAY: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series gets on track at Darlington Raceway with a couple of practices ... 8 Tweets highlights the best from social media in the past week. Also coming this week: Kenny Bruce will cover Bill Elliott getting inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame on Thursday.
NASCAR.com's Kathy Sheldon and George Winkler discuss developments RELATED: Dillon on wreck at Daytona: 'You feel like Superman' A pair of frightening wrecks the past two weekends, one involving Austin Dillon at Daytona and the other shaking up Ben Kennedy at Kentucky, have kept safety at the forefront of NASCAR discussions this season. While safety -- of both fans and drivers -- always is a priority for the sanctioning body, it has been of particular concern this season after Kyle Busch suffered a broken leg and foot in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona. And it has been a subject of much debate among drivers, officials, fans and analysts. RELATED: Safety improvements at Daytona Is the current course working? Kathy Sheldon and George Winkler discuss the issue for NASCAR.com this week. Post your own thoughts in the comments section below. Sheldon: One would naturally think that speed is Job No. 1 for NASCAR, but really safety has been a primary concern for years. The sanctioning body has worked hard with tracks to identify problem areas such as the unprotected area where Kyle Busch wrecked in February. The Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier technology has been a huge success. And NASCAR has been quick to respond to all race-day safety issues, not just those affecting drivers. Catch fences have been improved to shield fans, and speedy action was taken after a pit road fire at Richmond to ensure fire retardant gear protects crew members effectively. Let's not forget the HANS device, which was made mandatory following the horrific wreck that took Dale Earnhardt's life in 2001. NASCAR is quick to address problems and is working effectively to ensure the safety of competitors and fans. The current method of assess, study and implement works quite well. Winkler : Kathy, those are great examples of how NASCAR has reacted to situations with safety improvements that have made the sport better. But what tends to happen after these flashpoint moments like the Austin Dillon wreck at Daytona is there will be a segment of the population that perceives NASCAR isn't doing enough to get ahead of the curve. However, as anyone who has ever stepped foot in the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, can attest, the sanctioning body is continuing to look at potential areas of improvement even before incidents happen. Just this year NASCAR added a seventh safety belt to the driver's seat, and now the belts connect to the seat instead of the car, providing a snugger fit. That seventh belt allows more head clearance for the driver if the car were to flip over like it did in the Dillon wreck. So sometimes it's just a matter of getting the word out so people are aware of the improvements. Sorry for the plug, but we have an entire area of our site devoted to such information called Inside Track . Sheldon: George , I agree that often the flashpoints tend to overshadow a lot of the work going on. The fact is, when safety measures are working, it's what you don't see that proves the improvement. Before the latest seat belt changes, we saw composite materials come in for seats. Now it's common for drivers to tweet photos of their seats being "poured" -- they are shaped individually for drivers and made of material much stronger than the old aluminum versions. And those seats are installed meticulously. Austin Dillon 's team member Tommy Wallace talked to NASCAR's partner NBC about safety after Dillon's frightening wreck at Daytona, and his takeaway was everything worked: The only piece of equipment that broke loose in Dillon's tumble down the frontstretch was the radio. It's Wallace's job to ensure Dillon's seat is installed securely, and he explained that more than three dozen bolts inside the cockpit keep the seat leg braces steering column, seat belt mounts and other equipment in place during rough wrecks. Those pieces all worked at Daytona, holding Dillon safely in his belts and inside the roll cage, even after coming to rest upside-down. Winkler : That's amazing, all the work that goes into some of the things we take for granted when we're watching the race. But with all the safety improvements that have evolved over the years, we'd be mistaken if we didn't think more could be done. And NASCAR admits as much. As NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said last week on SiriusXM Radio , in regards to the Dillon crash, you never want to see the car get in the air or into the catch fence. And he followed up by saying NASCAR would be working on it. That's good, that the sanctioning body isn't resting on its laurels and trying to say everything is fine. There's always room for improvement, and as we've seen in other sports, too, nobody is immune to safety issues that crop up from time to time. The leagues that continue to work through these issues, and refuse to bury their heads in the sand, will be the ones that thrive. Sheldon: The roof flap technology that helps keep cars on the ground is now 11 years old, and I agree more needs to be explored on that front. Keeping fans safe always must be a priority. It will be interesting to see how things like new see-through composite materials can be adapted for spectator safety. Some people have suggested Plexiglass at the tracks recently. Any hockey fan can attest, Plexiglass has its own issues. But the fourth generation of Gorilla Glass that soon will protect our smartphones, along with similar products, may spur bigger-scale uses. Part of NASCAR's mission is staying at the forefront of technology. You can bet the sanctioning body will keep working to find better solutions, from design to materials, in every facet of the sport, including car interiors, rules packages, catch fences and barrier technology. Everyone in the industry got some scares this year, but the sky is not falling. Work is always underway to improve safety. Winkler : No, the sky is not falling and thankfully nobody was seriously hurt in either of the crashes we recently witnessed. But it's important that voices continue to be heard, from fans, drivers, teams, tracks, and even from people like us, journalists. There can never be too many voices when it comes to safety. So the next time somebody like Kyle Busch chimes in and gives an opinion that " there's no sense in grass " at any of the tracks, don't look at it as him stirring the pot, but rather as him feeling comfortable enough to speak his mind in a sport that is receptive to change. That's the beauty of times like these, seeing people come together for the greater good. Now, if what you say comes true about the Gorilla Glass, you can bet I'll race you down the steps to be the first to pound on the glass when my favorite driver whizzes past. Kathy, you better bring your running shoes for that. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: Full series standings " Chase Grid Kyle Busch was literally just a few gallons from making it into the top 30 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings last week at Pocono Raceway. And since he already has four wins this season getting into the top 30 is one of the last hurdles he needs to clear in order to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . But what if Busch, who currently sits 13 points behind David Gilliland in 30th, isn't able to get into the top 30 by the end of Richmond, just five races from now? Would Busch deserve special consideration to be allowed into the Chase? Maggie MacKenzie and George Winkler debate the topic; feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below. MORE: What Busch needs to make the Chase " Busch runs dry at Pocono Winkler : Hey Maggie, hopefully you don't have any Ronda Rousey-style roundhouse kicks for me this week, but just in case you do, I'm going to come strong with this: Let the man in the Chase even if he doesn't qualify in the next five races. A championship is about watching the cream rise to the top, and it would be a shame if a driver with four wins couldn't be included in the postseason. It'd be like a 10-6 team missing the playoffs in the NFL because it's in a tough division while a 7-9 division winner in a weaker division is allowed to go. MacKenzie: You make some pretty valid points there George , but I'm going to have to disagree with you on some things. I promise I won't go all Ronda Rousey on you but don't expect me to pull a Ms. 34 seconds (aka Bethe Correia) on you, either. This is the biggest issue I have with the whole Kyle Busch -Chase debate: Rules are rules and if you start breaking them for one individual you have to break them for every single driver too. Yes "Rowdy" has made himself quite comfortable in Victory Lane with his cinematic-like comeback, but if he wants to get inside the coveted top 30 then he will have to continue his streak in these next five races. Kyle isn't asking for our pity, so why on earth are we going to give it to him? Winkler : I don't want to say it's pity, but there is precedent for NASCAR making last-minute tweaks under extraordinary circumstances. In 2013 Jeff Gordon was added as the 13th driver in what was then a 12-driver field because of the fallout from the Richmond scandal that contributed to Gordon dropping out of the field. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France stepped in and added Gordon to the Chase because in his words it was the right thing to do. I think it would be the right thing to do to include a four-win driver in the Chase so maybe a 17th driver would be an option. MacKenzie: I definitely agree with you on the whole Gordon thing Mr. Winkler , it was the right thing to do. But in my opinion, likening the 2013 incident with Kyle’s is like, not to sound too cliché or anything, comparing apples and oranges. Kyle fell victim to injury while Gordon was on the receiving end of a huge scandal. Both were horrible, but entirely different scenarios. Whether we like it or not, injuries happen frequently in professional sports. You have Curt Schilling with his infamous bloody sock, Tiger Woods' double stress fracture, the list goes on. Kyle took the time to rehab his leg and foot and is back, better than ever, so let's sit back and watch him continue doing what he does best and he will get into the Chase on his own.
We debate the format, location and much more The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is a non-points event that has seen its format change a bit over the years, but a win carries some weight and plenty of financial gain -- the winning driver gets $1 million. But does the event need a bit of a shakeup? Does holding it at Charlotte Motor Speedway each year make sense? What enhancements or adjustments could be made? Or does nothing need to change? Join NASCAR.com's RJ Kraft and George Winkler as they debate whether changes are needed. Kraft: Let's get this thing going. I'd like to see the eligibility opened up a bit and for fans to have more than one vote. In baseball, hockey and basketball, fans get to vote for the starting lineup, so let's give them more say in this exhibition event. Let's say they can vote on five spots since All-Star events are supposed to be geared more toward the fans. Even more than that, let's open the field up to drivers in all three series. Yes, they have to run in a Sprint Cup car, but wouldn't it be awesome to see Chase Elliott or Darrell Wallace Jr . or Erik Jones or Matt Crafton have a shot to take on the best of the best and win the $1 million prize? I also like the idea of having the two other national series champions automatically eligible for the field. An All-Star event is about having the very best in the field, while also allowing fans to see who they want to see, so let's make it a 30-car event. Winkler : RJ, I like the idea of bringing more power to the people, and the way you have envisioned it allows for more fan participation without completely turning it into a popularity contest. But something I'd like to mention is about the lap segments. I've always felt that things just start to get warmed up racing-wise around Lap 20 or 25, and the way it's set up now with the first four 25-lap segments, that's when it's time to stop. So I'd vote for fewer segments that last a bit longer to let some of the drama build. However, I love the final 10-lap segment as it is because it's like an extended green-white-checkered finish where you don't know what you'll see happen next. Kraft: Part of the reason, to me at least, that the All-Star Race does not have as much shine as it could is because it is held at the same track every year, and it's a track that already holds two points events a year. If you want to keep drivers close to home, how about some of the local short tracks in North Carolina, or bring back a place like Rockingham to hold this special event? If you want to keep the event on a track that already has a Cup races, then how about a rotating mix of Martinsville, Darlington, Bristol and Charlotte? Those sites are close enough that drivers would get close to the full two weeks at home. Another option: Since Kansas is currently the week before the All-Star Race, could holding the event at Iowa Speedway work, since the teams are already in the Midwest? People have been clamoring for Iowa to get a race in the top series, so maybe some short-track action in the All-Star event would be a perfect test to see if a points race should come to the track. Winkler : Those are all good ideas, RJ, especially Iowa since it's a gem of a track, but here are some reasons for keeping the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte. First, Charlotte is now considered the hub for NASCAR and as such deserves to host an event like this. The Hall of Fame is in Charlotte. The majority of the team shops are in Charlotte. Heck, you and I work in Charlotte, RJ, as do many others for the company. But most importantly the majority of the drivers call Charlotte home. The NASCAR schedule is challenging to say the least, and it has to be extremely difficult for the families of the participants. To be able to have two weeks where the teams are home is invaluable, and you can see it on the drivers' faces at the track. They seem so happy to be able to recharge, refresh and sleep in their own beds for a change. And since NASCAR has always prided itself on being a family-oriented sport based around its star drivers, it makes perfect sense to have the Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on back-to-back weeks in the Queen City. Kraft: That's a good point George . One addition to add a little more fanfare for the event would be something similar the MLB's Futures Game or the NBA's Rising Stars Game. Perhaps a 50- or 75-lap shootout event with some of the young drivers in the national series or perhaps the field is comprised of current NASCAR Next and Drive For Diversity drivers and some alumni of the programs. That would be a nice way to get those programs more exposure. Winkler : I'll take it one step further and ask: How about we add a celebrity race? Or what about a burnout contest judged by Blake Shelton and Shaquille O' Neal? Who wouldn't want to see that? But I think what everyone wants to see come back is the pit crew challenge. The precision and power that those guys show on a regular basis is amazing, and they certainly deserve to have their time in the spotlight. And to see all of these things in the same place, on the same night would make the event even more appealing than it already is. Kraft : Yes, pit crews are the unsung heroes and are often one of the biggest reasons for a driver being in position to win a race. It would be great to see them showcase their skills on this stage. Winkler : In closing, and this goes to all the mamas and papas out there, let's start the race earlier. The thing I always hear people say about the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is that it's a great family event, particularly for the young kids because it gives them a taste of what the sport is all about without there being a big investment of time. So why not start the race earlier so it doesn't go past the kids' bedtimes? I've got to tell you, if you keep mama happy, then everyone's happy -- because mamas usually hold those purse strings. Know what I'm saying, RJ? Kraft: Speaking from personal experience, George ? Nevertheless, that was well said by a family man himself. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 18 driver Chase eligible; but must meet two requirements RELATED: Busch gets waiver, is Chase eligible Kyle Busch got back in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 at the Sprint All-Star Race – faster than most expected after his foot and leg injuries in the season-opening XFINITY race at Daytona. And he was granted a waiver, making him Chase eligible. Whether Busch makes the Chase for the Sprint Cup depends on two factors: He must win a regular-season race; and he must crack the top 30 in the driver points standings. With two 2015 Sprint Cup points races under his belt and 13 remaining to meet those requirements, NASCAR.com began analyzing whether Busch can make it into the Challenger Round, which begins Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway . George Winkler and Kathy Sheldon have their opinions on whether Busch can make it four-for-four among his JGR teammates, who all have one win this season already. Do you think 'Rowdy' can cap off his quick recovery with a playoffs run? Tell us in the comments section below. Sheldon: Always fun to go H2H with you, George . Almost as fun as watching Kyle Busch push the limits on the track. Unfortunately, I don’t think his season will recover as fully as his body has -- and we’re all thankful he’s OK. Busch clearly has the talent and the equipment, and after Dover he has that first post-surgery wreck out of the way, which seemed to leave him unfazed. But that wreck, which gave him a 36th-place finish, all but doomed his chances of being in the top 30 in points after Richmond. He pretty much had one mulligan, and it’s used, through no fault of his own. That’s the problem, for me: Too may factors remain out of the driver’s control for Busch to achieve the 15.8th-place average over 15 races necessary to reach that 30th-place barrier. Winkler : If I were a betting man, and I'm not, the smart money is on Busch not making the Chase. Like you say, he's used up his mulligan and will be hard-pressed not only to avoid any bad luck but also to get the win he needs to advance to the Chase. That said, I have enormous respect for Busch's driving ability, and he's in top-notch equipment. This is a gut feeling, but I feel like when backed into a corner, the great ones react by overcoming the odds. Just look back to last year's Chase. Did anyone think Kevin Harvick was going to win the championship after his 33rd-place finish at Martinsville during the Eliminator Round? Probably not, but he pulled out wins at Phoenix and Homestead to get the job done. I think Kyle can be in that same class with Kevin -- and make a comeback for the ages (said in Jim Nantz voice). Sheldon: I’m not a gambling girl, either. But if I were, I’d put money on Busch getting a win, as well. But his bold checkers-or-wreckers approach to driving will cost him as he tries to climb out of this points hole. Even at Bristol, where he has five wins and 12 top-10 finishes, he wrecked out at the 2014 fall race and finished 29th in the spring race. And we have Sonoma in the next 13 races, where Busch has an average finish of 25th place over the last six races. Winkler : It's interesting that his average finish is that low in recent races at Sonoma, because Busch has been good at the other road course, Watkins Glen -- with two wins and eight top-10 finishes in 10 attempts. You mentioned Bristol, where Busch has five wins, but he also has four wins at Richmond to go along with a 7.4 average finish. However, Busch's best chance for a win might be at Kentucky, where he has an average finish of 4.5. While there are spots where Busch might not do as well as he needs to, there are plenty of others where he could boost that average and/or pick up a win. Granted, it's a tall order to make the Chase, but again, you gotta believe! Sheldon: George , I think we agree that Busch making the Chase would be a good thing. Fans would love it -- be they Kyle lovers or Kyle haters -- because no one likes to see a serious wreck injure a driver and we all enjoy great comeback stories. But one more factor out of his control is mechanical trouble. Teammate Matt Kenseth was bit by that bug at Dover, and an engine failure in the first trip to Pocono last year left Busch with a 42nd-place finish. Pocono beats up cars with bursts of speed off the corners and more shifting, as JGR crew chief Darian Grubb for Carl Edwards explains in this week’s Tech Talk . Counting that engine failure and two race-ending crashes between June and September last year, Busch was left with a 23rd-place average finish in the 13 races preceding the Chase. That won’t get him into the top 30. Winkler : Busch had some room to play with last year since he posted a win early in the season at Auto Club Speedway . He probably won't take as many chances this year given his current situation with the margin of error being so slim. As one of NASCAR's most talented drivers, he has shown he can have success on different courses. The only question will be whether he can maintain a high level of consistency, because he has proven, at least to me, that health won't be an issue. Yes, some fans would love it if Busch could make the Chase, but would Brad Keselowski ? That might be the real question we should be debating, but all kidding aside, their rivalry is yet another reason to root for Busch to make the Chase. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Would you rather watch under the sun or stars? RELATED: Junior prefers day races over night Last week while speaking at Charlotte Motor Speedway , it came out that Dale Earnhardt Jr . thinks the daytime is the right time for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. Junior had his reasons, and you can read them at the link above, but it got us at NASCAR.com thinking about which type of races we prefer. Some tracks shine at night, such as Bristol Motor Speedway for the annual night race there in the late summer, and fans look forward to the event months in advance. Meanwhile, other venues sparkle during the daylight. Like, how could we beat the day at Talladega earlier this season? Bright skies and that big American flag in the background. What could be better? Kathy Sheldon and George Winkler have their preferences as to which time they like races and are ready to debate. Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below. Winkler : Alright, Kathy. Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go debating. I'll start off speaking from the heart. My first live sporting event with my dad was a day baseball game in San Francisco between the Giants and Cardinals. And as a kid I remember just how bright and green that field appeared the first time I laid eyes on it. Had it been a night game, it would have been past my bedtime. So I empathize with parents who are bringing their sons and daughters to their first race. I want them to have the same bright experience I had because that is what will set them on the path to becoming a true sports fan. Sheldon: George , we share an abiding love for baseball, as well as racing. I, too, was a wee lass when my family took me to my first game at Wrigley Field -- a day game. I would argue all day long for more day baseball, but racing is different for me. Baseball fans usually spend less than 3-1/2 hours total at the ballpark. That's including player introductions, the national anthem, and buying souvenirs before or after the game. Out of 12 races so far this season, NASCAR fans have seen five events go past the 3.5-hour mark. Just the racing. The Coca-Cola 600 was 4 hours and 3 minutes -- of baking in the sun. The deeper we go into summer, the hotter those afternoon races get. Plus, remember many NASCAR fans travel to see races. Saturday night races give them a chance to get some shut-eye then make their way home on Sunday and not miss any work vs. driving late into the night Sunday or taking a day off on Monday. Winkler : Kathy, you make a great point about the travel for the fans being more convenient on Sunday after a Saturday night race. Those of us who work in the business certainly appreciate those Sundays off, too. But stepping away from the fan experience for a bit, let's talk about the actual racing. Junior thinks there's better racing during the day because the surface is hotter, the track is slicker and the groove is wider. These are some of the reasons I love watching the race at Auto Club Speedway , for example. With a racing surface that's wide open during the day, it gives drivers the chance to try different grooves and can lead to exciting moments and different strategies. Plus, those California views! Or Phoenix or Las Vegas for that matter. Can't see those at night! Sheldon: Sticking with the fan experience for one more second, what you can see at night is the fireworks on the track. Did you not think it was the coolest thing ever the first time you saw the brake rotors glowing on 43 cars going 150-plus mph? Only at night can you see the sparks flying when the exhaust or suspension pieces hit the pavement during braking in the corners or when cars make contact. As for better racing, I like seeing the strategy of which team can beat the changing conditions. Going from early evening setting sun track temperatures to cooler night temperatures is just one more facet in the battle of man vs. machine. This spring’s Texas race didn't lack excitement, with 29 lead changes among nine drivers. Winkler : OK, you're a tough cookie to crack, Kathy. So I'm pulling out the cranky old man material. I get up early in the morning and need to get on with my day. I don't have time to sit around in a parking lot waiting for these night races. I've got places to go, people to see, yards to mow, important stuff like that. These crazy kids these days getting extra time to get all "juiced up" for these races. I like to hit the ground running in the morning and I'm ready for a good, old-fashioned 1 p.m. ET start. Get 'er done, as they say! Sheldon: George , I'll hand it to you on being a family man. I've worked nights too many years. So I would still rather be hanging out in the parking lot after a race having a sandwich and one last beer (if I'm not driving) while waiting for traffic to thin out at midnight rather than getting up with the sun. Or better yet, camping! I'd say we agree you can't really go wrong when it comes to spending time at the track as a fan, but sign me up for those warm summer nights. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 78 gets his win, but the postseason is different RELATED: Truex breaks through for Pocono win " Drivers rally around Truex Martin Truex Jr. broke through for an emotional win on Sunday at Pocono that virtually assured the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet would be in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But now that he has secured a winner sticker for his car, is Truex considered a legitimate championship contender for the fall? In the latest Head-to-Head, George Winkler and Jerry Snow offer their views on Truex, who has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Read their opinions, then duke it out for yourself in the comments section below. Winkler : Hey Jerry, welcome to our virtual version of UFC's Octagon. I'd like to kick things off by saying that typically I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. Therefore, yes I'm buying into Truex being a championship contender. However, besides my penchant for being optimistic, another reason to believe in the No. 78 is because there hasn't been a reason not to believe in the No. 78 this season. Thirteen top-10 finishes in the first 14 races will do that for you. Plus, Truex has posted the most laps led in each of the past three races. His car has been fast, and his results have been anything but fluky. Snow: Thanks George , now let's rumble. Truex is one of the best stories of the season, but he's not ready for prime time. He has only three career wins and this is his 10th full-time season. Truex must develop an edge before he can be a champion. Right now, it seems like he's just happy to be here. Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the class of the field, and if you want to talk dark horses, I could see Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski (both have an edge) in the winner's circle at Homestead before Truex. I'm happy for him that he finally broke through this year, but I don't think anyone is ready to call Truex a "closer." MORE H2H: Will Kyle Busch make the Chase? Winkler : I'd also like to see Truex show some outward fire. But that doesn't mean he lacks an inner fire. Truex has been through some difficult circumstances during the past couple of seasons. First, there's his girlfriend Sherry Pollex's battle against ovarian cancer. Before that, there was the huge setback after the Michael Waltrip Racing dustup in 2013 when Truex lost his ride. To witness how he has weathered both of those extremely difficult situations with dignity and class tells me that he's tough enough to deal with the ebbs and flows of a championship Chase in the fall. Snow: Maybe this is his time, but my gut tells me different. I'm not suggesting Truex is void of mental toughness, I just don't think he hates losing as much as a Johnson, a Harvick or a Keselowski. Those guys couldn't care less about a top 10 or even a top five. Over his career, Truex has finished among the top 10 more than 30 percent of the time (108 out of 347 starts), but he's won less than 1 percent of the races he's entered. At this stage in his career, Truex is conditioned to be satisfied with top 10s; he's obviously still learning how to win races. At 35 years old, I don't think his window of opportunity is closed, but until I see a sense of urgency, I'm going to expect the same results. Winkler : There's no doubt it will be a challenge for Truex to compete with champions like Johnson, Harvick and Keselowski down the stretch. But there's something clicking with Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn. I think that relationship has rejuvenated Truex and was exactly what he needed at this point in his career. As we saw last year with Team Penske's drivers and Harvick, once they caught on to the new rules package they seemed to maintain an advantage throughout the season. Truex and Pearn have clearly honed in on something, and the only ones not playing catch-up are Harvick and Johnson. That is impressive for a one-car team based in Denver. Snow: Truex and Pearn have figured some things out, and it's been entertaining to watch an underdog outperform some of the icons of the industry. But can we really expect him to keep this up against the big dogs? Or looking at it another way, isn't it just a matter of time before some of the established veterans like Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards put it together? Truex has the talent to win a championship one day, but it won't be this year. SHOP: Truex Jr. gear " WATCH: Truex recounts long road back to Victory Lane FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule