NASCAR Pre-Race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN)

Will This Stretch Create More New Winners?

Counting this weekend, 3 of the next 4 races are either the 1st or 2nd time the Cup Series has visited these tracks. The only outlier is Sonoma next Sunday. That’s why I wonder if we could add to the tally of more new race winners this season by time we head to Atlanta in July.

It’s hard to gauge much off the upcoming races when there’s virtually no past history there and even if there was, this new car was going to change it up anyways. Still, even with a new car, you at least had laps turned on the track to help you. For most drivers in the garage this weekend, this will be their first time turning laps on the St. Louis area race track.

Then, you go to just the 2nd road course of the year next week in Sonoma. After that is a rare week off before picking up in Nashville to close out the month of June. Then, you get the 2nd race at Road America which could look like COTA or Sonoma before the return trip to Atlanta for which could look again like Daytona or Talladega.

That’s why I think you can make a strong case that we may see another 2-3 new winners in this next 5 race stretch.

Why Do Only The Best Win At Gateway?

For some reason, you don’t see many fluke names win at the World Wide Technology Raceway. 

Why is that?

One of the reasons why is due to the nature of Gateway being towards the end of the season in INDYCAR and midway in NASCAR. Normally, the best drivers by time we get to World Wide Technology Raceway are the ones vying for wins on a regular basis.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 05: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, walks the grid during practice for NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Can Hendrick Motorsports Pick Up Another Inaugural Race Victory

Jeff Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400. That was the start of what is a nice run of Hendrick Motorsports picking up wins in 1st time events. If you go back to the 2020 season, there’s been 7 new tracks on the schedule. Hendrick drivers have won 4 of them including 3 just last year.

Does that give them the leg up in Sunday’s first trip to World Wide Technology Raceway?

I’m not so sure. In those 4 wins, 3 of them were on road courses. It was no secret, HMS was at the top of the list when it comes to road course favorites. So, for them to win the first time out on one, it was almost a shoo-in.

On ovals, Joey Logano has won 2 of the 3. However though, 1 of the 2 was on dirt and the other in a football stadium. That’s why I feel like this race is more wide open than ever.

Can WWTR Be Here To Stay?

A lot of folks on the NASCAR world will be getting a nice introduction to World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend. While this isn’t the first time NASCAR has invaded the St. Louis area, it’s the 1st time the Cup Series has though. That’s why NASCAR country is truly all about to find out and witness why the folks over there at WWTR are bar none some of the best there are in the business today.

These folks take it seriously. They promote, promote, promote. I’ve been hearing commercials here in Indy for months for this race. They know how to sell tickets and create a carnival type atmosphere for an oval event. It’s a big reason as to why annually this is one of the more highly anticipated stops on the INDYCAR schedule.

You get concerts, pyrotechnics, rides and more for a weekend that will arguably feel like one of the biggest on the NASCAR schedule. In saying that, expect a packed house and one that will be a hit this year. The questions now is, how long can they keep this date?

Year 1 isn’t the hard sell, it’s years 2, 3 and 4. How do you keep the fans’ attention and wanting to come back. Sometimes, it’s out of the tracks hands. They can promote and give you everything that you could ever want or dream. If the racing is lousy and the weather crappy, the attendance naturally dwindles.

Lets hope that the racing is as good as the atmosphere is outside of the fences because WWTR is about to hit a home run.

DOVER, DELAWARE – MAY 16: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 NationsGuard Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Reser’s Fine Foods Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on May 16, 2021 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

What Will Track Look Like?

World Wide Technology Raceway is a hybrid of multiple tracks on the NASCAR schedule. The longer straightaways with sweeping corners are closely like Martinsville and New Hampshire. The size of the straight are more like New Hampshire.

The thing is, the turns are completely different on each end. One could say Turns 1-2 are more like Phoenix or Richmond while Turns 3-4 more rounded and fast.

The different shaped ends make this track also a mini version of Darlington too which is why landing the setup right here is going to be challenging.

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