The season to date has flashed by in the blink of an eye. As the season has rolled on, so has the controversy and the drama usually picks up around this time of the year. With the Chase approaching, teams are doing everything in their power to give their driver a shot at the championship. The drivers also work for that shot by going for broke on the track. It’s always one of the most exciting times of the year so that means escalated storylines all around.
This week featured lots of interesting storylines which got the Trackside Duo hot. In this edition, they lay out some opinions on silly season, the remainder of the season, and pick their Cup drivers for the future.
1. The race at Loudon was much different than the races usually are there. Action was seen throughout the afternoon and it shaped the wild finish. What do you believe contributed to the atypical event?
Alanis: Everyone’s jockeying for position, and more importantly, for wins. This year, there are many strong teams on the bubble for making The Chase and as we wind down the regular season, we have people competing for wins not only for bonus points, but for wildcard spots in The Chase. For guys who virtually can’t climb into the top ten in points with so few races left, it’s all or nothing – win or go home – at this point, and it’s making for some short tempers and interesting races.
Jason: This race was the first one at New Hampshire with the Gen-6 car and as we have seen so far this season, the first race tends to be a bit wild and that’s exactly what we saw Sunday. With track position being even harder to obtain at the track now, drivers needed to make up ground and rough up the other guys a bit to advance their position. New Hampshire can be called Martinsville on steroids and that basically sums up what we saw in the race.
2. With the win, Brian Vickers has now done just about everything in his power for a full-time ride next year with MWR. The team wants him there, but the believed sponsor Aaron’s has yet to commit. What do you believe they’re waiting for and do you see them even coming on board for a full-time ride for Vickers?
Alanis: The sponsorship with Aaron’s at MWR will all depend on their timeline with Chase Elliott. We can all infer that eventually, the Aaron’s Dream Machine will move their Cup affiliation over to Hendrick Motorsports and Chase. Whether Aaron’s comes on board or not will depend on how much funding they want to put into NASCAR over the span of the next few years. Being 18 years old in 2014, Chase will either be full time in Nationwide or the CWTS, and Aaron’s will fund his car first and foremost. If Aaron’s does come on board with Brian as well, the partnership will be fairly short lived, depending on how soon Chase makes his way up to Cup.
Jason: Vickers has been proven time and time again that he can compete with this team and why Aaron’s has now committed sponsorship is beyond me. Their longtime partnership with Michael Waltrip will probably pay off in the end when they come on board, but I don’t believe there are any other factors holding them back. They could be waiting since next season is still a long ways away to make any deals, but I think they’ll jump on board before 2014 hits.
3. Rowdy and the apparent ogre in the garage area, Ryan Newman, have had a war of words ever since Sunday’s race. This has been a really hot topic within fans, but it may have been taking out of context. What can you take away from Kyle’s comments and do you believe it was just said in the heat of the moment?
Alanis: Well, we all obviously know how Kyle feels about Ryan’s job situation now. But Kyle’s explanation of the comments on Twitter basically communicated that he regretting saying that and it was a heat-of-the-moment issue because he didn’t appreciate how Ryan raced him at New Hampshire and various other times during their careers.
Jason: All of this sprung off of a racing deal since the racing is so tight at New Hampshire and what Kyle said was indeed just a heat of the moment deal since tempers do flare at short tracks. Likely now Kyle regrets saying what he did about Newman’s job, but I don’t believe Ryan really cares what he said so this situation will pass just as others like this have in the past.
4. This coming off week is much needed for some drivers who need to make some progress once the season moves on at Indy. Which drivers will benefit most from the off week to make headways once the cars are back on track?
Alanis: Kurt Busch took a big hit in the points standings during what was going to be a really good day at New Hampshire when he wrecked with Ryan Newman. Given his luck this year, the off week will be a good chance for him to move past it and focus on the last few races before The Chase to either climb his way up in the points or get a wildcard win.
Jason: Brad Keselowski will come back much stronger after this off week. Although he currently doesn’t need to make up any progress, he really wants to get a win and some bonus points for the Chase. A good run at New Hampshire will allow his team to carry momentum heading into Indy, and once Indy passes, he goes to Pocono and Watkins Glen where he usually runs well. Wins are on the horizon for the champ so he can gain a chance to repeat once the Chase arrives.
5. Race Hub did an interesting feature last week with a draft of drivers under the age of 30. If you were to assemble a team of drivers they had available for the next ten years, which three drivers would you select and why?
Jeb Burton: Every time Jeb has gotten behind the wheel of a truck this year, he’s blown me away with his talent. Developing that kind of talent over the next ten years will leave him as a force to be reckoned with.
Chase Elliott: It’s clear that Chase is on a path to success in the Cup Series, given his racing success to date and his development deal with Hendrick Motorsports. He has the talent and the right assets to take him straight to the top.
Kyle Busch: Having a veteran who knows the cars in all three series as well as Kyle does will be beneficial to young drivers as they develop. They need someone to go to when they have a question about a track, what lines to run, handling, etc. And not to mention, Kyle’s racing record isn’t too shabby either – once he gets to where he can carry his regular-season success through The Chase, he’ll have a Cup title in the bag.
Kyle Busch: As we have seen already in his career, he can race and race well. Once he hits his prime soon, he’ll be able to contend for championships each season and I expect him to turn into a Jimmie Johnson-type driver. His career will continue for awhile so he would be one guy that any team should invest in over the next 20 or so years.
Kyle Larson: This kid can race. Another year in the Nationwide Series next season will prepare him for a Cup run and as soon as he hits the Cup level, he’ll be taking off. He has proven he can race with the best and when he ran door to door with Kyle Busch at Busch’s best track in Bristol, he turned a lot of heads. Soon this kid will be the talk of all of NASCAR and he’s our sport’s next superstar.
Alex Bowman: What he has done this year has been phenomenal. He has taken his small team that lacks the equipment of the bigger teams and brought them to the same level. In a few years, teams will want this guy since his talent level will only continue to rise. If you put him on a good Cup team, the sky would be the limit.
Follow Jason on twitter @NascarJason and Alanis @Alanis102495
By Alanis King and Jason Schultz