Heading into Indianapolis puts the championship run into motion. With no more off weeks, teams have got to stay upbeat if they want their driver winning the championship. Besides marking the championship ‘go time’, Indy brings in a boatload of storylines from the weekend without racing. It especially has brought in the Chase picture which can get very interesting, very fast.
With only 7 races until Chase time, the Trackside Duo is anticipating the start of it at Chicagoland. They’re trying to predict what will happen and what could change in this week’s edition of the Trackside Duo.
1. Indy is always hyped up as a big race, but some fans don’t believe it’s any more special than a race at a track like Dover. Do you believe that this race is still one of the biggest and where does Indy rank among your favorite tracks?
Alanis: Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a huge deal, just the venue itself, but the racing there is a parade when it comes to stock cars. All I can think about when we go to Indy is the fact that Nationwide and Trucks no longer visit Lucas Oil Raceway for commercial reasons and it makes me bitter, therefore I don’t thoroughly enjoy visiting Indy compared to other tracks.
Jason: When it first came on the schedule, it was a big deal, but now the glory has faded. The track is still a big deal, but the race has become one that isn’t looked upon as one of the biggest. Long green-flag runs that feature little to no side-by-side racing have fans yawning before the halfway mark. Indy ranks very low in my favorite track column because of the racing that goes on.
2. With the Trucks racing on dirt, the question comes up about whether they should have another race on dirt. Do you see that happening and being as successful?
Alanis: The Truck Series on dirt was a huge success, but the dirt racing needs to be kept to a minimum. This is a developmental series for Cup, and Cup doesn’t race on dirt. The tracks that the Trucks race on need to be similar to Cup tracks, no matter how much people dislike that fact.
Jason: The MudSummer Classic should be a once-a-year thing and I don’t believe they should add another dirt event. NASCAR nowadays isn’t about dirt racing, so why add more events that aren’t truly what NASCAR is about? The race was a huge success and adding another one at a different track and hoping for the same would be a long shot. Let’s keep this as a once-a-year thing.
3. How would you grade the Cup Series season as a whole so far and why?
Alanis: I’d probably give Cup an A- at this point. It’s been good; we’ve had some lackluster races and some truly exciting ones, but NASCAR must be commended on the Gen-6. It’s brought the beauty back to stock cars for the 2013 season, and that in itself has been awesome.
Jason: The season to date earns an A-. Overall, the racing has been fantastic with a few hiccups in there. At this time last season, I doubt we would have given the season the same grade which goes to show how much the Gen-6 car has brought to the table.
4. Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth seem to be locks as the championship favorites as of now. Who do you believe will be able to give them a run for their money come Chase time?
Alanis: Clint Bowyer doesn’t have a win yet this season, but he’s always lurking. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up there battling for the championship for the second year in a row.
Jason: If one driver could do it, it would be Kyle Busch. Ever since March/April he hasn’t been the talk of the garage, but he has been silently staying consistent. This year just seems right for him to contend, but it’ll take a miracle for him to top Johnson or Kenseth in the standings.
5. As the Chase approaches, the annual question of which tracks deserve to be in The Chase comes up. If you had to put together a Chase schedule, what would it look like?
Charlotte: The home track of NASCAR should be visited during The Chase, in my opinion. It gives most of the teams a chance to relax and not worry about travel for a weekend in order to gear up for the next ten races.
Bristol: The spring race often gets overshadowed by the Irwin Tools Night Race, and putting Bristol in The Chase would not only be exciting, it would ensure good ticket sales for both Bristol races.
Montreal: Fans have been vying for a road race in The Chase for forever, and Montreal produces a great crowd and atmosphere.
Talladega: Sure, a plate track can cost a driver a major hit in the points, but a plate track is necessary and Daytona can’t have three dates on the Cup schedule.
Texas: Drivers need to be tested on their intermediate-track skills, and Texas always does a great job of race promoting.
Fontana: Another large track with exciting racing to add to a diverse Chase.
Iowa: This place not only needs a Cup race, it needs a Chase race. Exciting racing and a good crowd – what more could you ask for?
Chicago: The Chase has – and needs – its fair share of intermediate tracks, but I’m fully against a Vegas Chase race. The awards banquet is in Vegas, and most fans will have to choose which one they want to attend if it involves extensive travel.
Martinsville: Short tracks stir up tempers. Why not stir up a few tempers before we head into the final race of the season?
Homestead: The Chase has to end at Homestead. It’s just a custom.
Atlanta: The Chase needs a good start-off track, so why not throw Atlanta in there to create some action? Fans love this track and it would draw a good crowd in.
New Hampshire: A Chase staple should remain in it since this isn’t your typical short track and it is a very tough passing track, therefore getting the tempers flaring heading into a road course.
Road America: In the Nationwide Series, this track has produced some wild racing and with the Chase needing a road course, this track is a perfect fit. Chase drivers would need to survive like never before and it would be a great obstacle for the champion to overcome.
Chicago: With so many mile and a half tracks on the schedule, a few have to be put into the Chase and Chicago has been a good one so far with great racing, so let’s keep it.
Dover: This concrete monster always throws a challenge at the drivers of who can endure the tough track the longest. Endurance is surely needed by a champion so keeping Dover in would be necessary.
Charlotte: NASCAR’s home needs to be in the Chase, the racing is wonderful and fans will come. Keep the night race as well so the it remains the only night race in the Chase.
Martinsville: Short tracks are a fan favorite and this one would produce some wild action making it a gateway into the next two races which would set up one heck of a finale.
Talladega: This track throws a wrench into the Chase and that makes it a track that cannot go away. By moving it closer to the finale, it makes it a very important race to finish to remain in championship contention.
Bristol: Of all the tracks, this one could pull off three races a year. A classic short-track race before the finale would make the final race a perfect storm of headlines.
Homestead-Miami: Over the years, this track has shown it can produce a great conclusion to the season. It is in a great market for a finale and NASCAR should keep it there.
Follow Alanis on twitter @Alanis102495 and follow Jason @NascarJason.
By Jason Schultz and Alanis King