The season to date has been a wild ride. Storyline after storyline keeps rolling in and for the first time in awhile, the passion for racing seems to be within every driver on every lap. With the storylines, comes debatable topics. Why this guy did that and that guy did this. Those sort of conversations spring up all the time. Why? The passion for racing has reached an all-time high. The season has only hit the halfway point which means many more hot topics will be rolling throughout the final 18 or so races.
Taking on the hot topics and dishing out what they think is the Trackside Duo. Below, you can see some of the latest matters in the garage that have the Duo steaming. Read what they think about everything going on in the passionate racing world.
1. Restrictor-plate racing can be exciting as well as nerve-racking (in a bad sense). Some fans see at as one or the other, or both. What do you see it as?
Alanis: When your driver is in a three-wide, four-deep pack into a turn, restrictor-plate racing loses it’s appeal temporarily. No one can deny, though, that plate tracks produce drama-filled, high-speed battles for the checkered, and for me, that outweighs the nerves caused by close calls involving your favorite driver(s).
Jason: Fans, drivers, and owners all see restrictor plate as nerve-racking. Fans however, also see it as exciting. Personally, I love the racing at Daytona and Talladega. It can make me nervous, but at the same time its extremely exciting since you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Nerves are apart of watching the racing, but they are also what fuels the excitement.
2. Matt Kenseth has been on a tear so far this season, by far his best season in a while. What do you think is the biggest difference for him at JGR compared to RFR?
Alanis: Everyone needs a fresh start every once in awhile. Before moving to Gibbs, Matt had been at Roush for 13 full seasons, and had gained a reputation of being a quiet yet successful driver. Changing it up a bit and working with new people has greatly benefitted Matt this year – giving him not only a new number, but a new atmosphere. The biggest difference, I’d say, was the one that greatly weighed on Matt prior to the Daytona 500 this year: the pressure to impress his new Gibbs team. All of Matt’s full-time Cup seasons before 2013 had been with Roush, and moving on from the team put Matt in the position to prove himself to a new group of guys. Needless to say, Matt has more than prove himself with the JGR staff, and it all started with his mindset going into Daytona in February.
Jason: Matt needed change. He spent his whole career with RFR and every year, it was mostly the same story. Win a few races and then not be good enough to compete for the championship. For the first time in many seasons, Matt was excited to get going. He was thrilled by the opportunity to have a new start and see what he could do with JGR’s equipment. After a few races, he knew he could win every week and that drove him to do better and push the limits, because at times, JGR’s limits are farther than RFR’s. There isn’t one difference that allowed him to succeed more at JGR, because it’s a combination of new “toys” made got to play with at JGR which allow him to be more free and that ultimately, has led to a better Matt.
3. Jimmie Johnson began the season hot, but lately he’s been on a roller coaster ride with many faults. What’s up with Five Time?
Alanis: The side of Jimmie that we’re seeing lately is one that I’ve personally never seen before. Usually calm, collected, and indifferent to adverse situations in racing, Jimmie stays consistently near the front no matter what he faces. Since the restart call at Dover, however, NASCAR has been getting under Jimmie’s skin and even causing some on-track retaliation from him to their rules. Whatever is causing Jimmie to let NASCAR affect his attitude and performance so severely is something unlike I’ve ever observed with him, and it’s definitely not a good thing.
Jason: When he started the season, he was on a roll. Knocking down wins and dominating the points standings. Lately, he’s been trying to play NASCAR’s game rather than the game that led him to success earlier in the season. After the restart issue at Dover, Jimmie’s been worrying too much about what he should do rather than letting his racing instincts tell him what to do. He fears getting black flagged for a bad restart and that has made him angry. Angry at what? Himself. Once he can go back to five-time champion Jimmie, he’ll be much happier and that will once again bring out his dominant side.
4. There are some big-name drivers outside the Chase as of now like Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman. Which of them do you believe may not make this year’s cut?
Alanis: Brad Keselowski: the champ will make the cut. No doubt in my mind.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff is barely out of the top ten, and it’ll be a close call on whether or not he’ll be able to knock someone out of a Chase spot. If he gets in, I’m willing to bet that it’ll be by points rather than a wild card for wins, but it all depends on how the drivers on the bubble perform as the regular season winds down.
Kurt Busch: While Kurt has run really well in his first year with Furniture Row Racing, most of the time he can’t seem to keep the momentum going for the whole race distance, for various reasons – usually ones out of his hands. His strikes of bad luck and fights back from adversity every week will likely prevent him from making the Chase if he can’t get a win under his belt before the end of the regular season, but I certainly won’t count him out of contention yet.
Ryan Newman: Ryan’s season has been too quiet. He isn’t consistently near the front, and it seems like he’s just riding it out for what is likely to be his last year at Stewart-Haas Racing. An unclear future can lead to a shaky season, and that’s what Ryan’s experiencing this year. Whether or not he makes the Chase will certainly depend on if he can get a wild card with a win or two, which I don’t see happening in 2013.
Jason: Brad Keselowski: His transition to Ford has been much tougher than he thought and his team has just not found the speed for most of the season. Brad got hot in August of 2011 by being much more competitive and finishing better. He will make the Chase because he’ll catch a winning streak sometime soon.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff got lucky last year, but he won’t be this year. The wild card positions will be much harder to obtain this year and one win, which he may get, will not be enough. No Chase for Jeff Gordon in 2013.
Kurt Busch: He’s been so close to victory this year only to fade at the finish. As he may look Chase eligible now, I believe he’ll fade towards Richmond. A win is possible for him before the Chase, but I just don’t think one win will get you in a wild card position this season.
Ryan Newman: Adjusting to the Gen 6 car this season seemed to be a problem for Stewart-Hass since their whole team didn’t get out of the gates running. Newman can put together the finishes to make up some ground, but now its a matter of too little too late. Two wins is what he needs and with New Hampshire coming up and Pocono where he runs well at, he could get it, but its a longshot.
5. After Kyle Petty’s comments about Danica Patrick last week on Race Hub, what’s your take on her? Is she just a big marketing machine, or could she one day be a legitimate contender race in and race out?
Alanis: Last season in the Nationwide Series, Danica proved on several occasions that she could seriously contend. Her move to Cup was strictly for marketing and money, and the blatant marketing aspect of the move subsided a bit with her pole at Daytona earlier this year. However, on most occasions, Danica can be found several laps down and completely out of contention. So yes, Danica is a substantial marketing machine – which is good for the sport from an outside view, but not so good for the sport when considering the perspective of avid fans who know she’s at the wrong level for her talent. But, to her credit, Danica proved to me last year that she is able to contend in the Nationwide Series and she should have stayed there to work on her skills rather than following the money trail up to Cup.
Jason: She came into this sport to race, but also because GoDaddy was willing to sponsor. A sponsor nowadays goes a long way. Other than the Daytona 500 pole and an eighth place finish in the race, she really hasn’t done much. Until she can learn the ways of stock car racing and get more experience at all the tracks, she’ll just be a marketing-machine. She showed last year in the Nationwide Series that she can race well, so one day the talent may be there, but for the next few years, she’ll only be counted on for marketing.
By Alanis King and Jason Schultz