50 Thoughts and Questions as the 2016 NASCAR Season Revs Up

by Ryan Isley

It’s that time of year again – where NASCAR ends its winter vacation and heads to Daytona to get back on track for another season. This year instead of doing a lengthy prediction series or post as I have done in the past, I decided to come up with a bunch of different random thoughts and questions that are on my mind as we head into the 2016 season.

There will also be championship predictions for all three main series.

In no particular order…


  1. I am not sure that I am smart enough to completely understand or explain the new NASCAR charter system. And I am not sure that it will remain in place without being tweaked over the next few seasons.


  1. It is still strange to me that a driver could basically win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship by having five good weeks out of 36.


  1. NASCAR did the right thing by adding a Chase format to the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.


  1. If NASCAR is going to keep the current Chase format or any format in which the final race is essentially a championship race, they should rotate the final race between a number of different tracks instead of just having the race at Homestead every year.


  1. If Jimmie Johnson doesn’t win his seventh Sprint Cup Series championship this season, will there be a shakeup at Hendrick concerning crew chiefs even with Chad Knaus signed through 2017?


  1. Will Kyle Busch be able to put together another great season, or was last year a product of being up against it and needing to be great every week?


  1. Danica Patrick goes through crew chiefs as fast as the Cleveland Browns go through head coaches, as she will be on her third crew chief in four years with Billy Scott taking over for Daniel Knost.


  1. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. needs to decide if he wants to be a successful NASCAR driver or a celebrity boyfriend. And I am not sure at this point that the former is possible even without the latter.


  1. Is it possible that Danica Patrick has become the better driver in the relationship between herself and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.?


  1. I still believe that Danica Patrick should run the Indianapolis 500, even if that means skipping the Coca-Cola 600.


  1. I am afraid that the final five seasons of Tony Stewart’s career are going to overshadow how great of a driver and champion he has been, especially with the casual fans.


  1. The financial burden of sponsoring a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team will be painfully obvious this season, with many big name drivers having split sponsorships, possibly more than ever before.


  1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a major sponsor take its advertising money elsewhere following the 2016 season the same way GoDaddy did following 2015.


  1. I love the direction that NASCAR television is starting to take after NBC came into the fold last season with Rick Allen, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton and FOX adding Jeff Gordon this season.


  1. I wish every athlete that went into broadcasting was as good as calling events in the sport they participated in as Jeff Gordon has been so far, including his calling Xfinity Series races last season.


  1. How will Jeff Gordon handle not being on the track and instead being in the booth calling races after a few weeks?


  1. Will Jeff Gordon speak out against drivers that he has had personal encounters with and also will he handle the drivers at Hendrick Motorsports with kid gloves?


  1. I think that by the end of the season, Jeff Gordon will start getting the itch to drive once again and will agree to race the 2017 Daytona 500 for Hendrick Motorsports in a fifth Hendrick entry to the race.


  1. How many times will NASCAR change the qualifying rules this season or will they stick with the rules that are in place at the start of the season?


  1. The Sprint Cup Series has had five different champions in the past five seasons. I expect that to be six different champions in six seasons this year.


  1. It could be a tough rookie season for Ryan Blaney in the Sprint Cup Series. The 22-year-old will drive the No.21 for Wood Brothers Racing but will have to qualify for every race on time because the team does not have a charter for the car.


  1. Until NASCAR implements a concrete rule about restarts and restart zones, expect there to be more controversy this season.


  1. The new “NASCAR Overtime” rules will be something to keep an eye on. I have a feeling that they will be adjusted at least once during the season and then discussed again before 2017.


  1. How will Chase Elliott handle his first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and will he have a better debut than the past two Xfinity champions (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Austin Dillon)?


  1. Tony Stewart will be missing out on the 2016 Daytona 500, but I would be surprised if he has raced his final Great American Race.


  1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aric Almirola have a breakout season like Martin Truex, Jr. did in 2015.


  1. 2016 will be an interesting season for Clint Bowyer. He is with HScott Motorsports for one season before heading over to Stewart-Haas in 2017. The single season move was made necessary when Michael Waltrip Racing closed its doors following 2015.


  1. Will NASCAR make the penalties for cheating harsher to keep drivers and teams from trying to gain an advantage just to gain entrance to the Chase?


  1. I can’t believe it has been 15 years since Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona.


  1. I like NASCAR cutting the starting field for the Sprint Cup Series from 43 cars to 40.


  1. The Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway will once again be one of the most anticipated and watched races of the year, no matter the series.


  1. I am starting to wonder if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will ever win a Sprint Cup Series championship. Of course, that means he will probably win it this season.


  1. NASCAR needs to come out with a definitive rule on Chase eligibility concerning drivers that are injured or miss races for one reason or another instead of dealing with it on a case-by-case basis.


  1. Most people wouldn’t be able to name last season’s Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year. It was Brett Moffitt.


  1. How many minor infractions will Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson try to get away with this season before NASCR does more than slap them on the wrist?


  1. Multiple drivers – including Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson – will get their first career Sprint Cup Series wins in 2016.


  1. Danica Patrick will not get her first career NASCAR win in 2016.


  1. Even with a new driver in the mix, it still feels like Kasey Kahne is the forgotten driver in the Hendrick stable.


  1. How will NASCAR police the “have at it, boys” mentality this season?


  1. The NASCAR Xfinity Series is in good hands with drivers like Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Dakoda Armstrong, among others.


  1. A Sprint Cup Series regular will once again lead the Xfinity Series in wins, once again drawing the ire of many, including myself.


  1. After a tough sophomore season, I expect a good season for 2014 Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson.


  1. The Chase is supposed to emphasize winning, yet the last Sprint Cup Series champion to lead the series in wins was Brad Keselowski in 2012 with five wins. He tied with Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin that season. The last champion to lead in wins outright was Tony Stewart in 2011.


  1. How will the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota affect Martin Truex, Jr. as he tries to build on his strong 2015?


  1. With drivers like Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr. and Paul Menard not under contract past 2016, will any of them have team changing announcements before the end of the season?


  1. Chase Elliott will run away with the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year award.


  1. The four drivers who will compete for the Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead are Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.


  1. Cole Custer will win the Camping World Truck Series championship.


  1. Bubba Wallace will be the Xfinity Series champion, beating out Erik Jones.


  1. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2016.


Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryanisley23@gmail.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

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