The Chase is just around the corner and as it quickly approaches, wins come into play as a big concern. Winning going into the Chase can be just as important as winning in the Chase. Bonus points are crucial and without them, you better have good finishes because wins can give you the slight advantage you need to win the championship.
Besides Chase talk, this time of the year also brings up the talk of silly season and who will end up where as well as reflections on the first half of the year. Rumors are always swirling about potential driver moves and the most magical memories are remembered from a wild first part of the season.
Leave it up to the Trackside Duo to come in and give their cold, hard opinions on some of the most controversial topics. In this week’s edition, everything from the Chase to road courses are discussed to give fans an insight to what may lie on the road ahead.
1. Clint Bowyer has quietly moved up to second place in the standings after Daytona. However, he has yet to get a win this season which could hurt his Chase chances. Do you see Bowyer competing for the championship this season?
Alanis: Consistency is key; we saw that with Carl Edwards tying Tony Stewart in the standings in 2011, with Tony having 5 Chase wins and Carl having only one win, which came in the regular season rather than the Chase. But, like we saw in 2011, wins ultimately win out. The tiebreaker for wins gave Tony the championship and left Carl in second. While it’s highly unlikely to challenge for a championship without wins, it’s not impossible, and Clint could certainly pull off that feat.
Jason: To have any chance at competing for the championship, he’ll need to win at least two races before the Chase. Without any wins going into the Chase, is like kissing your championship hopes away before you even begin to chase it. In this points system, wins are most important and it would very rare to see someone take the championship without at least 2 wins. All Bowyer needs to do is win and if he can do that, he may be around in Homestead.
2. Road courses are one of the most popular forms of racing. The events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen are always some of the most popular. If you could attend one Cup road course event, which one would you attend? Also, if NASCAR were to add a road course event to the Chase – including tracks not currently visited by the Cup series – which track would you like it to be on?
Alanis: If I had to choose, I’d probably visit Watkins Glen. While I prefer watching road courses on TV so I can see the entire race, I like the atmosphere at The Glen. When it comes to putting a road course in the Chase, Montreal is the first to come to mind. The fans, the excitement, and the whole aura around Montreal is something I really like to see, and altogether, it makes the race more enjoyable.
Jason: I’ve attended the races at Watkins Glen numerous times and they are always some of the best. The facility is wonderful and a racing feeling fills the air at the track. If I had to put a road course in the Chase, I would put it at Road America. That track is very unique and it would be a great test of a driver’s skill in the Chase. To be a true champion, you should have to be successful at all kinds of tracks and Road America would suit the road racing aspect of tracks perfectly.
3. Many drivers have their contracts up at the end of this season. Going into silly season, Ryan Newman’s name has been thrown around a lot since many don’t see him returning to Stewart-Haas Racing. Where do you see Newman in 2014?
Alanis: With Kevin Harvick taking Ryan’s spot in 2014, Ryan could have a spot at Richard Childress Racing, or even with Furniture Row Racing depending on what Kurt Busch’s plans are going into next season.
Jason: Sponsorship will be what determines where Newman ends up. If Stewart-Haas can secure a decent sponsor for the season, then they will keep him. Tony and Ryan have a great friendship so we know that they are working as hard as they can to get the sponsor so Newman can stay. If it doesn’t work out in the end, I really don’t know where he’ll go. RCR may be an option, but I’m not sure how well he’ll fit in. For his career purposes, trying to find a sponsor for Stewart-Haas is very important right now.
4. With the Cup race at New Hampshire coming up this weekend, it could be one where a driver in need of a win could grab. Which driver do you see having the best shot at victory this weekend who is in need of a win before the Chase?
Alanis: Kurt Busch has been on a roll lately, and it seems as if he’s getting better and better at staying out front for the entire race. Going into a track where Kurt has solid stats, he could easily be a contender for the win. If not Kurt, Denny Hamlin could make a charge at a New Hampshire win. Since returning, Denny has consistently run well and had incredibly bad luck. If he can avoid the bad luck this weekend, I wouldn’t rule him out.
Jason: The driver I believe has the best chance at victory may not need it to make the Chase, but he does need it to be able to compete for the championship. And that is Clint Bowyer. He has always ran well at the track and with zero wins this season, getting a few bonus points for the Chase is extremely important. If Clint can’t pull through this weekend, then Denny Hamlin will be a contender. He needs a win to have any Chase hopes, but if he can’t win now, then he likely won’t be in the Chase this season.
5. The first half of the season is usually considered over by around the time the July Daytona race comes around. What have been the three most surprising events to you so far this season?
Danica Patrick getting the pole at the Daytona 500: I never saw that one coming, that’s all I have to say.
The cable cam falling on the track at the Coca Cola 600: That was probably one of the most random things I have ever seen, and NASCAR handled the situation incredibly well under pressure by allowing teams to work on their cars under red flag.
Max Papis slapping Billy Johnson at Road America: Okay, okay…I’m picking this one mainly because it’s hilarious.
Matt Kenseth’s success with JGR: We knew Matt would do well with his new team, but what we didn’t know is that they would be so successful so early. No one would have predicted four wins before the season’s halfway mark and now we’re considering him a championship contender, huge surprise.
Denny Hamlin’s injury: No one would have expected one of the top drivers to have to sit out with an injury. He was my championship pick this season and I never considered him getting injured and barely having a shot at the Chase this season.
David Ragan winning at Talladega: I know, its Talladega and anything could happen, but for Front Row to win with David Ragan? That surprised me. The team is always around at Daytona and Talladega, but for them to win was just incredible.
Follow Alanis on twitter @Alanis102495 and follow Jason @Nascar_Jason_.