Every Sprint Cup season, the two road course races always seem to bring up discussion. Especially at Watkins Glen, the hot topics following the race are centered around what surprise punches it threw at the upcoming Chase. The Chase picture is being set, and in the next four races, it could easily be thrown a different way.
In this week’s edition of the Trackside Duo, the playoffs are centered in the discussion along with a unique road course challenge. The twists and turns this season has made are what have brought up all the hot topics the Duo takes on.
1) Brad Keselowski’s 2013 has been much different than his 2012, and it showed at Watkins Glen when he barely finished second to Kyle Busch. Brad said if it was last year he would have wrecked Kyle for the win, but he didn’t do that on Sunday. What’s so different about the champ this season?
Alanis: Winning a championship requires wins in virtually every situation, that’s how The Chase is designed. It could be that winning the Cup made Brad understand that being robbed of one win can result in losing the title, and he wouldn’t have wanted that to happen to him last year. Or maybe he just remembered that oil on the last lap in 2012 and figured he wouldn’t get Kyle fired up.
Jason: He’s being much more cautious in 2013. With the Chase approaching and his spot in it being questioned, he knows that taking a risk of wrecking someone and possibly himself could severely jeopardize his spot in the championship hunt. Not being in the Chase the year after he won the championship wouldn’t be something he would want to be tagged to his career so he’s balancing the risks and rewards at this point and the risk Sunday just wasn’t worth taking.
2) With the win, Kyle Busch now has 3 heading into the final four races before The Chase. Four would put him up with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth for a tie for the lead heading into the Chase. Do you think Kyle gets that fourth win and how will those three guys stack up after Richmond?
Alanis: Kyle’s best chances to tie Matt and Jimmie will come at Bristol and Richmond, but Matt and Jimmie have proven so far this year that they can dominate on any given weekend. Given the Wildcard rule, however, I feel like the battles for the win in these last four races will be pretty dicey between those on the bubble of making The Chase, therefore I predict that Kyle, Jimmie, and Matt will start The Chase with the number of wins they have right now.
Jason: Out of those three drivers, Kyle has the best shot at winning another race based on his past performances at the upcoming tracks. Bristol and Richmond could easily fall his way, but with many other drivers needing wins right now, I don’t see Kyle beating them. I do see Jimmie Johnson racking up another win however. He always is running up front and if he goes winless from Daytona to Chicagoland, it will be a shock. Johnson will lead the way into The Chase followed by Kenseth in second and Busch rounding out the top three.
3) Silly Season for 2014 rides was in full swing after the Watkins Glen weekend, as Brian Vickers will be in the 55 car and Juan Pablo Montoya will not return in the 42. Now that 42 ride is wide open, so who do you think will be in that car next season?
Alanis: The most reasonable candidate in my opinion would be Ryan Newman, unless Earnhardt Ganassi Racing would be willing to throw out a driver championship for the 42 car in 2014. While Kurt Busch is a free agent and could easily take the ride, he fits well at Furniture Row Racing; the team has proven to be a strong contender and the program keeps getting better, so there’s no legitimate reason to leave after just one year seeing as the team has so much potential. If EGR is willing to split the ride, a Mark Martin/Regan Smith split wouldn’t be out of the question.
Jason: The names that come to mind for that ride are some of the biggest free agents. It seems as Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch would be the perfect fit, but with Kyle Larson being the future of that organization, I don’t see either settling in long term there. If the team hired a part time driver like Mark Martin and allowed him to share the ride with Kyle Larson for 2014, that would be the best thing they could to do for the future.
4) SPEED will vanish once the weekend comes. Fans have loved SPEED for years and will definitely miss it. What is your favorite memory of the SPEED Channel?
Alanis: Brad Keselowski’s drunk interview on Wind Tunnel takes the cake. Need I say more?
Jason: No memory sticks out most to me, but I always loved their Speedweeks coverage and how excited it got everyone for the upcoming season.
5) Road course racing has many different aspects of each track to challenge the drivers. Some of the most popular sections on those courses include an inner loop, a paperclip turn, and a weaving esses portion of the track. If you were to design a road course track, what would it look like.
Alanis: The road course I put together is a mixture of my favorite (and some of the most famous) aspects of Montreal, Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Monaco, and Road America. I’m not a master of proportions so there’s no way to tell, but if it would work, I’d make the course 3-3.5 miles long.
Jason: Included in my road course are lots of technical turns. The main reason road races are exciting is because of all the technicality it takes to maneuver through the course. I also added some aspects that came to mind from Montreal and Watkins Glen. This course may not be possible to race on, but if I had to design one, this would be what it would look like.
Follow Alanis on twitter @alanis102495 and follow Jason @NascarJason.