Track Smack: Is a 600-mile race too much?
May 22, 2014, Holly Cain, Kenny Bruce and Alan Cavanna, NASCAR.com
Editor's Note: Track Smack is a weekly feature that will showcase a panel of NASCAR.com experts providing their analysis from the previous week, while also looking ahead. In this edition, NASCAR.com's Holly Cain, Kenny Bruce and Alan Cavanna examine NASCAR Hall of Fame criteria, what a successful Memorial Day weekend double looks like for Kurt Busch and whether NASCAR still needs a 600-miler on its schedule.
1. With a nod to NASCAR Hall of Fame voting week and the difficult decisions and varying criteria, where do drivers such as Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race winner Jamie McMurray stack up in the big scheme of things? He's now won a Sprint All-Star Race, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, but not a Sprint Cup championship. Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman are in similar situations.
Alan Cavanna: I think they end up being Hall-of-Famers for a few reasons ... Racing is all about winning, especially in big moments. Daytona and the Brickyard are two of the sport's crown jewels, and winning both during a career is a rare accomplishment that should be celebrated. Fans remember those wins more than others.
Kenny Bruce: Jamie's got seven "points" wins. Granted, they came in some of the sport's biggest events (Daytona, Indy) but when looking at Hall of Fame numbers and only numbers, I can't say they stack up with someone such as Harvick (25 wins) or Newman (17 wins). Impressive, yes. Hall worthy? Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Holly Cain: It's interesting because most feel Mark Martin is a sure Hall of Famer, but yet he doesn't have a Cup title or a Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400 trophy. Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace didn't win the Daytona 500.
Sounds like volume of wins maybe speaks louder to the voters than where you win or the size of your trophy.
Bruce: As a Hall of Fame voter (had to throw that in there), I know having a Daytona 500 victory carries a certain amount of weight. Looking at choices, the first thing that comes to mind is number of titles won; then number of races won; then which races. A victory in the 500 is a factor when making comparisons, but not the only factor.
Wallace won a title and a slew of races. Martin was extremely successful and not just in Cup. Plus, he came extremely close to winning the title on a number of occasions.
Cavanna: Kenny, eventually you and are your esteemed colleagues are going to run out of champions to induct. When that happens, seeing a D500 and B400 win on someone's resume will get more and more important.
2. This is a big weekend in racing. And for the first time in a decade we have a driver, Kurt Busch, attempting to compete in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 this Sunday evening and the Indy 500 earlier on the same day. What does Busch need to do to have his feat considered a success?
Cain: I was a little surprised to see it's been 10 years since someone tried this (Robby Gordon), and that of the four NASCAR drivers to give it a shot recently, only Tony Stewart completed all 1,100 miles (in 2001) of the two races. But I think a top-10 in both races for Kurt would be tremendous! Tony had a third at Charlotte and a sixth at Indy.
Cavanna: I think he needs to be running at the end of the 500. To me, it doesn't matter what he does in the 600. He's a Cup champion and proven winner. We know he's one of NASCAR's best drivers. But finishing the Indy 500 in his first attempt in an Indy car would be an outstanding feat in my mind.
Cain: Kurt has really been fast at Indy and he's won the Coke 600 before. It actually ruined Chip Ganassi's shot at a "team double" (in 2010) -- Dario Franchitti won at Indy and Kurt edged Jamie Mac at Charlotte to give Penske that win. Seems like Memorial Day weekend always brings out the best in Ganassi and Penske teams.
Bruce: First of all, I think what Kurt has done so far in preparation for the Indy 500 qualifies the effort as a success, although I'm sure he's hoping for more than that. He needs a good run in the 500 for it to be memorable; no one recalls those who fell out early. If he were running better on the Cup side, a decent finish would round out the day. But given his recent Cup results, I think he needs much more. Top 10 or better would be my guess.
Cain: There have been years at Indy where running at the end would almost get you a top-10.
Bruce: Good point. There's something to be said for survival.
Cavanna: Exactly, Holly. That's why I think just being around at the end would be a huge success for Kurt. That alone would gain him a newfound respect in the racing world.
Cain: He has been very impressive at Indy and, like you said, Alan, really doesn't have to prove anything on the Cup side. However, the whole point of doing two races in one day is to make a statement and I think the difference between just "racing them" and really competing is important. He's with premier teams in both events. I actually have high expectations.
3. Speaking of the Coca-Cola 600, does NASCAR still need a 600-mile race on its schedule?
Cain: I understand the history and tradition of the 600 miles and that it makes this race different. But I would argue there are already too many 500-mile races, so I wouldn't object to changing this one. Although I realize I may be in the minority.
Cavanna: NASCAR doesn't NEED a 600-mile race. But it does need traditions. And the tradition, for decades now, is to run 600 miles on Memorial Day weekend. For that reason alone ... you keep it.
Cain: Valid point, Alan, and that pretty much sums it up. However, that's a long and late night. I'm curious what the drivers and fans really think.
Bruce: Every year we hear some complaints about the 600 being outdated and unnecessary. But the fact that it's the only 600-mile race on the schedule, has tremendous history behind it and pushes teams to their ultimate limits makes it worth keeping it around. We see 500 milers, 400 milers, etc. every other weekend. This is different. It's about those extra pit stops, it's about driver endurance. The cars may be bulletproof today, but the drivers are another matter.
Cain: Wow, Kenny. Good stuff. And I agree with the nod to traditions ... however, seems to me like there's been some change to tradition on the schedule in recent years.
Bruce: I enjoy variety. There are fans that enjoy road courses on the schedule and fans that would rather see those races go away as well. But it adds to the skill sets required by teams to be competitive each and every weekend.
Cavanna: If anything, why not reduce the number of 500-mile races on intermediate tracks? That makes going 600 miles even more daunting of a task. Perhaps the "extra 100 miles" has lost its luster a bit.
Cain: I like that idea, Alan. And I know I can't be alone.
Bruce: If the cars are going faster, why does it still take so long to run the same distance? I've never been able to figure that one out. Seems like from a time standpoint, it would take less.
Cavanna: No one said there would be math, Kenny. Ask Ryan Newman.