Trackside Duo: September 29, 2013

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

The second Chase race at New Hampshire last weekend proved once again who the top championship contenders will be. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson each had a great race for the second straight week. These three will more than likely be the top championship threats, but one bad week could still ruin their chances. Dover could provide opportunity for each to succeed, but ‘Miles the Monster’ could also snap their chances at the Sprint Cup in half.

The Chase is quickly heating up and the favorites, along with the surprises, are emerging. This week, the Trackside Duo tackles the Chase storylines coming out of New Hampshire along with the idea of Nationwide regulars jumping to the Cup Series.

1) Different week, same story. Matt Kenseth proved at Loudon that his team doesn’t plan on backing out of the championship hunt anytime soon. Do you see Kenseth being able to remain atop the standings after Dover and/or potentially longer?

Alanis: Going into Dover, everyone knows that Jimmie Johnson is a huge factor. His numbers there are incredible, as he’s going for his eighth Sprint Cup win at the track this weekend. While I predict Johnson to outfinish Kenseth at Dover, it won’t be by enough positions to change the standings. Whether or not Kyle Busch finishes above Kenseth at Dover is up in the air, but again, unless Kenseth has race-terminating issues, neither Busch nor Johnson will be able to surpass him this weekend.

Jason: If it wasn’t for a blown engine at Dover in June, Kenseth may have been in victory lane that day. Dover is one of Kenseth’s best tracks, but it also happens to be one of his competition’s best as well. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson are always running up front at Dover and could easily contend with Kenseth if the race came down to that. If Kenseth doesn’t have a great day, he will lose the points lead, but a top-five finish, which he is capable of, could keep him on top for at least one more week. I see Kenseth running well and keeping his points lead for the third straight week.

2) Believe it or not, we have not seen Jimmie Johnson in victory lane since Daytona in July. With one of Johnson’s best tracks in Dover this weekend, do you see this race as being a vital one for the No. 48 team to perform well at?

Alanis: I don’t think the question is “if” Johnson will perform well at Dover, it’s how well he will perform. Johnson, 18 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, needs bonus points and wins to make up the deficit – especially if Kenseth continues to have dominating performances as he has so far in the Chase. While Johnson is a threat on virtually every track, his record at Dover makes the race vital when considering this year’s Chase. If Johnson isn’t in victory lane or contending for the win at Dover, I’ll be shocked.

Jason: Chase drivers know each race in the Chase is important, but a Chase race at one of your best tracks is the most important. Jimmie Johnson excels at Dover. It is arguably his best track. When his car is dialed in there, he’s dominating. This race is so vital because it’s basically a guaranteed good run for the No. 48 team. They count on Dover to be a race where they can gain the maximum amount of points. Just because he runs well there doesn’t mean he will in every single race, but expect to see the No. 48 in victory lane at the end of race on Sunday.

3) Two races into the Chase, is there one driver performing better than you expected coming into the playoffs? If so, how do you see that driver fairing for the remaining eight weeks?

Alanis: That person would definitely be Greg Biffle. Over the years I’ve noticed Biffle starting the season incredibly strong and his campaign gradually weakening as the races go by. I expected him to make the Chase and be far from the top of the board, but Biffle sits in fifth in the standings as of now.

Jason: Without a doubt, it is Greg Biffle. I predicted him to finish dead last in the Chase, but it is clear now that he won’t end up there. His team has been on their game and Biffle has attacked each and every lap he has run so far in the Chase. Keeping it up will be the hard part, but he is more driven than ever. Seeing Biffle compete for the Sprint Cup wouldn’t surprise me based on his start to the Chase.

4) Brian Scott announced this past week that he will be making his Sprint Cup Series debut at Charlotte in October and he also said that he hopes to run more Cup races in 2014. Do you think that Scott is ready for a Cup race, or do you see any other Nationwide Series drivers who are more fit for the jump to Cup than Scott is?

Alanis: When making the jump from Nationwide to Cup – or any series, really – there are a ton of factors that go into the move: development contracts, team loyalties, sponsorship money, etc. There are several other full-time Nationwide drivers deserving of Cup races, such as Sam Hornish Jr., Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler – all of whom are former Cup drivers. Scott, however, is making his first start in the Cup Series, so it’s only fair to see how he proves himself in Charlotte.

Jason: Every driver deserves a chance to show their talent on the track. Despite Scott’s lacking Nationwide Series performance over the years, he could excel in a Cup car, but the signs don’t point to that being the case. Only in select races has he been in contention for the victory in the Nationwide Series so he wouldn’t be my first choice to put in a Cup car, but we will have how he performs at Charlotte. Despite lack of experience, I would say Kyle Larson would still run better than Scott in a Cup car.

5) How have your Chase predictions changed after the second Chase race at New Hampshire?

Alanis:

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 Loudon:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Kyle Busch

4.) Kevin Harvick

5.) Carl Edwards

6.) Greg Biffle

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Jeff Gordon

9.) Kurt Busch

10.) Kasey Kahne

11.)  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12.) Ryan Newman

13.) Joey Logano

Jason:

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 Loudon:

1.) Jimmie Johnson

2.) Kyle Busch

3.) Matt Kenseth

4.) Carl Edwards

5.) Kevin Harvick

6.) Greg Biffle

7.) Joey Logano

8.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

9.) Ryan Newman

10.) Kurt Busch

11.) Jeff Gordon

12.) Clint Bowyer

13.) Kasey Kahne

Follow Alanis on twitter @alanis102495 and follow Jason @NascarJason

trackside duo

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