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Bump and Run: Practice at Daytona road course, driver graduations

Andy Petree reacts to the 1-2 finish for RCR in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, saying they've been able to hold their own during the pandemic and that the crew and drivers can carry that success into the playoffs.

NASCAR does not plan to have any practice before next month’s Cup race on the Daytona road course. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are lobbying for some practice time. Is it needed? (Note: NASCAR announced Tuesday afternoon there would be no qualifying or practice the rest of the season in any of its national series)

Dustin Long: This is a case of what’s best for the fans and what’s best for the teams. Denny Hamlin raises a valid point by questioning what the race might be like since it is a new course -- and could possibly have an added chicane to slow the cars -- and most drivers have not run on the configuration. However, the cost to prepare a second car for this event in case the primary car is wrecked in practice or qualifying is not something teams want. They voted against having a practice session. Still, this seems like a time when practice would be good. I like Hamlin’s idea of practice without a backup car and if you wreck in a short practice session, you finish last in the race.

Daniel McFadin: I feel it’s needed. This is a course that no NASCAR vehicle, Cup, Xfinity or Truck has been on. Holding the Cup race without any sort of on-track prep makes the race more dangerous. This isn’t like lining up at Darlington or other tracks and dropping the green. NASCAR should want to send its top drivers into the safest possible scenario. You don’t want a historic race to be a fiasco because team owners didn’t want to spend the money on one-time costs. If anything, Hamlin’s idea about a team being scored as finishing last if they wreck in practice has merit to it.

Dustin: For a different viewpoint, check out what Brian Murphy, a fabricator at Stewart-Haas Racing tweeted about building backup cars and the impact on teams and crews …

Brad Keselowski advocates a system where drivers could graduate to Cup and be removed from Cup if they’re involved in too many on-track issues. What are your thoughts on this concept?

Dustin: Clint Bowyer had a good take on this. He said if a sanctioning body does well with preparing drivers up the series ladder, then it shouldn’t have to worry about removing them because of numerous on-track issues. Is that realistic when money can buy rides? Maybe not but it’s a goal for any top motorsports sanctioning body.

Daniel: I think a graduation/demotion system would be too complicated and unrealistic given the business structure of the sport. But NASCAR needs to take a hard look at how it approves drivers for the Cup Series. When testing is basically banned, the minimum needs to be bolstered. Should someone with 10 Xfinity starts and only two lead-lap finishes, like Quin Houff at the end of 2018, be given the OK to go Cup racing? I wouldn’t be in a rush to give my stamp of approval if I were NASCAR.

Dustin: If there ever was a graduation format, what track should host the “ceremony” and what would it be like?

Daniel: Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie Gossage already has a graduation outfit tucked away in his closet for the occasion from his many high school graduation ceremonies for young drivers. I’d expect plenty of pyro and an embarrassing montage on Big Hoss.

Dustin: Who would be the special guest? Got to have a special guest for this event, right?

Daniel: Actor Jim Rash, who portrayed the … eccentric Dean Craig Pelton on the cult classic NBC sitcom “Community,” about a wacky community college and the misfit students who attended it.

The past two weeks have seen drivers who were outside a playoff spot win to secure a postseason position. If the streak continues Thursday at Kansas, who would you think is the best candidate to shake things up?

Daniel: Tyler Reddick is the easy pick for me here. He’s coming off a second-place finish at Texas which is his second career top five, tying him with Cole Custer. One of Reddick’s two Cup starts last year was at Kansas, where he placed ninth after benefitting from pit strategy.

Dustin: You took the easy pick Daniel. I’ll take the best pick. Erik Jones. Yes, this hasn’t been a memorable season for him but he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four Kansas races.

Daniel: Hopefully Jones’ sixth-place showing at Texas is a sign of things to come. It’s been his only top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track this season.

Dustin: No better time than now to turn things around for Jones.