The big question hanging over NASCAR for the past month and a half was this: When will Kyle Busch finally win?
He answered that question with a resounding charge to the checkered flag at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
As impressive as that performance was, it also revealed there are a lot more questions hanging over this 2017 Cup season. Expect some answers to come this weekend at Watkins Glen, the second and final road course race of the year.
Q. Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman all qualified for the playoffs with victories that fell somewhere between unlikely and shocking. Will anybody else barge into the playoffs?
A. If so, it will likely be this weekend, as multiple teams will try novel pit strategies to try to steal a victory. A victory this weekend by A.J. Allmendinger wouldn’t be as surprising as any of those, as he won there in 2014 and is always stout on road courses. But he would be the lowest-rated driver to win – he’s 27th in points.
Q. How many will Busch win?
A. It happens all the time in sports—when an athlete’s luck turns from bad to good, he or she goes on a tear. Busch’s winless streak even as he dominated races was so unusual that it led some in the sport to speculate that as soon as he won once he would follow that up with several wins. At Watkins Glen, he leads all active drivers with two wins and 195 laps led (101 more than the next best, Brad Keselowski).
Q. What, if anything, is wrong with Hendrick Motorsports?
A. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not had a winning car all season. Neither has Chase Elliott. Kasey Kahne has a win but it was because of a fortuitously timed pit stop, not because he had the fastest car. And while seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has three wins, he is otherwise having the worst season of his career.
Q. Where will Matt Kenseth land?
A. Silly Season is in full swing, and it does not appear that there is an elite car available for Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner. Kenseth, 45, told NBC that he is not ready to retire yet. He is driving the No. 20 Toyota this season for Joe Gibbs Racing, but he will be replaced next year by Erik Jones.
Q. When will NASCAR change its rules regarding pit crews?
A. Joe Gibbs Racing supplies the pit crew for the No. 78 team. After crew members from the 78 team argued with the crew chief of the 18 team at Indy, Joe Gibbs suspended two of them. Critics say that’s a blatant conflict of interest.
Q. Is Danica Patrick finally showing long-awaited improvement?
A. She has four top-15 finishes in a row and five overall, the most of her five-year career. She led 11 laps at Watkins Glen last year, the most she has led in one race in her career.