Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in NASCAR this week:
Turn 1: Now that Martin Truex Jr. has won a race, who will be the next driver to break a long winless streak?
Ryan McGee, ESPN.com: I had already written this whole thing about Kyle Larson and was moving on to Turn 2 when a voice in my head whispered "Wrong Kyle, dummy!" Kyle Busch has gone through his comeback checklist nicely and got his first post-accident top-10 last weekend. I think he wins at Kentucky one month from now.
John Oreovicz, ESPN.com: Frankly, none of the Cup series drivers who haven't won in more than a year looks on the verge of visiting Victory Lane soon. The most likely is Kyle Busch. Beyond KB, who hasn't won in his past 34 starts dating to Auto Club Speedway in March 2014, the numbers grow quickly. Jamie McMurray (54) seems to come up big when you least expect it, so he's a likely candidate. Truex has shown almost every week this year that RCR is providing Ryan Newman (66) with cars capable of winning. Tony Stewart (76) would be the most popular breakthrough winner.
Bob Pockrass, ESPN.com: Kyle Busch. He hasn't won in 34 races (that doesn't include the 11 he missed for injury this year), and that ties the longest winless streak of his career. He might not win right away, but he'll win this year. Most of the other wins will be by those who already have won a race or the winless Hendrick duo of Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.
Marty Smith, ESPN Insider: I guess this depends on each individual's definition of "long winless streak." Kyle Busch hasn't won in 34 starts. For him, that's an eternity. And after coming back from breaking his legs at Daytona, he's been very fast and very engaged. He'll get a victory very soon -- I predict Kentucky or Loudon in the next several weeks.
Turn 2: Tennis and golf are in the midst of their majors. What kind of prize could be offered to revive a concept like the Winston Million? Which four races would you include?
McGee: I think the prize is exactly that: a Winston Million. Win three of the four and get a big check. The simplicity of that formula was always genius. Winston and NASCAR tried to spice it up with the No Bull 5 program, but that can get tough to follow, as can the Xfinity Series' current progressive slots-style Dash 4 Cash. Sprint Cup could bring back the Winston Million sponsored by Sprint or, even better, a new big sponsor, make it $5 million and make the four races the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500 at Darlington. The only change there would be replacing Talladega's Winston Million slot with Indy. That would help pump some life back into the Brickyard and would also add some pop to Darlington on the weekend that college football starts and the week before the Chase begins. You don't want to award the cash during the Chase, when the championship should be the only focus.
Oreovicz: It would have to be a big prize of at least $10 million, whether paid up front or in some form of deferred compensation, like the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup. In terms of format, I'd emphasize variety. Naturally the Daytona 500 would be part of the package. Then I'd include a short track, probably Bristol; a road course -- let's make it Watkins Glen for the action level; and a finish at Texas Motor Speedway, where Eddie Gossage would be the ideal promoter for such an event.
Pockrass: An automatic spot in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup would be a nice prize if a driver could win these four races: Daytona 500, Charlotte in May, Indianapolis and Darlington. That would mean more than a million dollars. That would put a driver in position for several millions of dollars, he would not have to worry about early Chase miscues.
Smith: An automatic final-round Chase berth for any driver and team who wins these races: Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. If a driver was to win all of those races in the same season, they'd more than deserve a chance to win a championship on the final Sunday of the season.
Turn 3: IndyCar is entering the second half of its season. Is its compact schedule a good thing?
McGee: It doesn't bother me like it does so many other people. Racing folks hate to hear this, but once football starts in September and the MLB postseason and NBA regular season begin in October and November, motorsports are moved to the back burner, That hurts, but that's just how it is and it's bad for everyone, but it's an especially dramatic drop-off for anyone not named NASCAR. I think IndyCar should instead focus on shifting the start of the season. Waiting until the last weekend of March, when every other major series has already been racing for weeks and/or months, is a mistake. Hit it hard right out of the 24 Hours of Daytona, and for heaven's sake, try running an oval before Memorial Day weekend!
Oreovicz: It's a terrible thing, on many levels. For starters, IndyCar has become a part-time industry, with most teams laying off much of their staff during the six-month offseason. With no racing and a lack of new cars or technical development to keep track of, it's difficult to maintain fan interest for six months. And I don't buy the argument that television ratings drop significantly when football season starts. The Tudor United SportsCar series ran two tape-delayed highlights packages on network TV up against the NFL last fall and got similar or better ratings than it did for similar broadcasts during the summer. Racing fans want to see as much racing as possible, and many prioritize watching motorsports on TV over any stick-and-ball sport. I agree with series management that starting the season in February would be ideal, but it needs to be in the USA. IndyCar's current schedule is "last in, first out," and although it doesn't need to switch to the polar opposite, the series needs to be in action at least eight months of the year. I'd start the season the week before or after the Daytona 500 and run until late September.
Pockrass: A compact schedule is a good thing in many ways, but to go six months without a race seems a little long. The teams have employees, and how much time do they waste with nothing to do in the offseason when they could be improving or rebuilding cars if the season went longer? Finishing before football season is smart, but the season needs to then start in early February, if possible. It didn't help this year that the March 8 date at Brazil was canceled.
Smith: Yes. But it doesn't have the television deal to support a lengthy schedule. NASCAR does -- and its broadcast partners aren't going to accept contraction. I believe contraction -- a less-is-more concept -- would benefit the longevity of the sport, though.
Turn 4: Jeff Gordon isn't having a spectacular ride into the sunset so far this year. Can he and the 24 team rebound and score the walk-off championship his fans are desperately hoping for?
McGee: Yes, but my confidence is waning. No one wishes that NASCAR had stuck with the 2014 rules package more than this guy. His team's generic weekend at Pocono, the place where he's busted slumps in recent years, was a bit alarming. The Chase format allows him to struggle now and still win his way in, so I don't think he's in any real danger of missing the postseason. But it's becoming pretty obvious he isn't going to win a pile of races this year. He's going to have to top-10 and top-5 everyone to death, à la Ryan Newman 2014. The No. 24 team hit its stride in April, but has since lost it. Yes, it can rediscover success, but the hourglass is running out of sand in a hurry.
Oreovicz: It hasn't been an easy or fun year for the No. 24 team, and the testy radio exchanges between Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson at Pocono are an indication that the strain is starting to show. Gordon is obviously frustrated that his last season isn't going as well as hoped, and he hasn't been happy with the way this latest specification of Cup car drives from the start. He'll probably make the Chase and may even win a race, but at this point, Gordon can't be considered a legitimate championship contender like he was in 2014.
Pockrass: They can because of the Chase format, but it appears unlikely with the inconsistency and overall lack of speed the team has shown this year. Its best chance at a title appears for it to do what Ryan Newman did last year -- string top-10 finishes enough to make it into the third Chase round and then have your best stuff over the final four weeks. Newman nearly pulled off the upset for the championship.
Smith: They can, but they'll have to improve to do it. It's still early. We're just past the halfway point of the regular season. He's 10th in the point standings and averages a 20th-place finish. That's not a deceiving number -- they're not running very well. But they can. People forget these drivers are still learning an entirely new car -- again. Communicating how it's performing and reacting isn't easy. But it takes just one win to change the season's fortunes and approach. Look at Carl Edwards. He won Charlotte on fuel mileage and was immediately able to switch into Chase-prep mode. It is a monstrous relief for him and his team. They now have the opportunity to be much better prepared for the playoffs. Gordon won Michigan last August. Maybe this is his weekend.