Trackside Duo: September 21, 2013

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

The Chase contenders were separated from the pretenders last Sunday in an never-ending day at Chicagoland. Chase contender Matt Kenseth’s victory further enhanced his championship case while Chase pretender Joey Logano didn’t come out of the gates hot in his Chase debut. It was only the first race, but a tone was set for the remaining nine weeks. Who can remain a contender will be determined this weekend as the Cup Series takes on the Magic Mile in New Hampshire.

Hot topics arose following Chicagoland and who better than the Trackside Duo to break down the first Chase race.

1) Matt Kenseth demonstrated his prowess with a commanding victory at Chicagoland. He was one of the favorites coming into the Chase, but could he now be considered the overwhelming favorite to take home the Sprint Cup trophy?

Alanis: Jimmie Johnson will be a huge factor against that theory, and Kyle Busch’s performance in Chicago shows that he means business this year also. Johnson will for sure be there at the end to challenge Kenseth, and if Busch can have solid performances throughout the Chase, he’ll be there as well; so I wouldn’t put Kenseth’s name on the trophy yet.

Jason: His win definitely proved his contending status. As of now, he may not be the overwhelming favorite, but he and his team proved that they are all in for the championship. Jimmie Johnson still may be the favorite, but Kenseth has one of the best shots to challenge him throughout the Chase

2) Some drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano didn’t start out the Chase on the right foot, as poor performances at Chicagoland may plague their championship run. Do you see these drivers rebounding for a decent Chase finish?

Alanis: While I initially saw Earnhardt Jr. and Logano finishing in the single digits of the Chase ranks, I now see them finishing in the double digits. One poor finish can ruin a Chase run, but neither Logano nor Earnhardt Jr. were in my championship favorites originally anyway.

Jason: Between the two, Logano has the best chance at a recovery. Momentum pulled he and his team into the Chase and it is likely what will pull him to a decent finish once the season concludes.

3) When it comes to fielding a competitive race team, sponsors are everything in NASCAR. With NAPA announcing their leaving of Michael Waltrip Racing and Martin Truex Jr. at the season’s end, where does Truex Jr.’s future lie?

Alanis: Though Michael Waltrip said that he wouldn’t hold Truex back if he finds a deal with another race team, it’s late in the silly season. Unless a team plans to field an additional car, basically all of the competitive rides are unavailable. There’s the No. 78 car, but I don’t see Truex at Furniture Row Racing next year. Waltrip plans to keep his three-car team even without the NAPA sponsorship, and I see Truex back in the No. 56 in 2014.

Jason: I don’t see Truex Jr. heading to any other team. He and Michael Waltrip have had a great relationship and MWR’s top priority will be finding a new sponsor for that team. His best chance at success will be with MWR and going anywhere else will essentially take him out of contention for a long time.

4) New Hampshire is typically one of Clint Bowyer’s best tracks. He’s won in the September race there before and could do so again on Sunday. Despite the recent events, do you see Bowyer contending this weekend?

Alanis: Bowyer has been through a lot in the past couple of weeks, but he’s a consistent driver behind the wheel. I don’t see him fighting for the title this year because of the microscope he’s been put under since Richmond, but that won’t stop him from contending for the win in individual races, so he’ll have a legitimate shot on Sunday.

Jason: It is a tough call, but I think a good run will be in store for the No.15 team this weekend. This race is one of Bowyer’s best and proving that on Sunday may not be too tough of a task. Distraction may prevent him from winning, but you will definitely see his car up front throughout the afternoon.

5) Throughout the Chase, we will give our predictions on the season’s final standings based on events from the previous week’s race. Based on Chicagoland’s events, how have your championship predictions changed?


Original predictions:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Carl Edwards

4.) Kevin Harvick

5.) Kyle Busch

6.) Kasey Kahne

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Joey Logano

9.) Jeff Gordon

10.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11.) Kurt Busch

12.) Greg Biffle

13.) Ryan Newman

Predictions following Chicagoland:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Kyle Busch

4.) Carl Edwards

5.) Kevin Harvick

6.) Clint Bowyer

7.) Kurt Busch

8.) Jeff Gordon

9.) Kasey Kahne

10.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11.) Joey Logano

12.) Greg Biffle

13.) Ryan Newman


Original Predictions:

1) Jimmie Johnson

2) Kyle Busch

3) Kasey Kahne

4) Matt Kenseth

5) Carl Edwards

6) Joey Logano

7) Clint Bowyer

8) Kevin Harvick

9) Ryan Newman

10) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11) Kurt Busch

12) Jeff Gordon

13) Greg Biffle

Predictions following Chicagoland:

1) Jimmie Johnson

2) Matt Kenseth

3) Kyle Busch

4) Carl Edwards

5) Kasey Kahne

6) Kevin Harvick

7) Joey Logano

8) Clint Bowyer

9) Ryan Newman

10) Kurt Busch

11) Jeff Gordon

12) Greg Biffle

13) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Follow Alanis on twitter @alanis102495 and follow Jason @NascarJason

trackside duo


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