Trackside Duo: October 12, 2013

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

Kansas proved to be twisted last weekend by taking the Chase contenders and shaking them up a bit. Charlotte is the next stop on the championship map, and once again, change may be in store. There is no one driver to point out as a favorite for trouble this weekend, which leaves every driver vulnerable. True testaments of passion will arise on Saturday night because it will be the most passionate who moves one step closer to the Sprint Cup trophy.

A lot has happened within the past week, and it got the Trackside Duo eager to share their take on it all. From Kyle Busch’s Kansas troubles to future Sprint Cup stars, the Duo has a treat for you this week.

1) Kansas was as treacherous as ever for Kyle Busch. He was involved in multiple incidents throughout the weekend, culminating in a devastating wreck on Sunday. Does Busch still have any shot at a title run this year?

Alanis: For Busch to have a chance at the Sprint Cup title this year, he’ll need the top two guys to have some issues in the coming weeks. Having one bad run in the Chase, whether the bad run is a result of driver error or not, can ruin a championship campaign, especially if the other top competitors escape bad luck for the entire span of the playoffs. With Talladega coming up, anyone is subject to taking a serious points hit; if Busch can leave the Talladega race unscathed and others can’t, that may be his best shot to return to championship contention.

Jason: We’ve preached this championship fight as a two man race for most of the season. Then, the Chase started and Busch tagged along with Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson at the top of the standings. Kansas may have returned the Chase to a two man fight once again, but don’t count Busch out. He needs to win and be consistent if he isn’t winning. If he can do all of that, then with a mistake or two by the top two guys will put the No. 18 team back in the hunt. Will it happen? It’s a longshot, but you can never count Rowdy out.

2) Jimmie Johnson has been inching closer and closer to Matt Kenseth throughout the first four Chase races. Now only being three points back, is this weekend at Charlotte when he takes over the top spot?

Alanis: Kenseth has a better average finish at the track, but Johnson has a few All-Star Race wins in his back pocket – four, specifically. With both Johnson and Kenseth’s history at the track and performance so far in the Chase, it’s tough to predict who will come out on top after this weekend. I expect both drivers to finish near or at the front of the field, and no matter who leaves Charlotte with the points lead, I don’t see it being by more than a handful of points.

Jason: Charlotte was once known as Jimmie’s house, but his success in the points events there as of late has erased his name as a Queen City favorite. This is the Chase, though, and Johnson seems to be able to find a way to put himself in the running each and every week. Kenseth has been strong at mile and a halfs this season, but Johnson is coming on very strong. He has been inching away at Kenseth’s lead and sooner rather than later, five-time will take over that spot and it could come this weekend.

3) The 2014 Sprint Cup Series season will take shape once the schedule is released in the coming weeks. No major adjustments are expected, but talk arises every year of changes in the Chase track lineup. If you could replace one current Chase track, what would it be and what would you replace it with?

Alanis: I would replace a 1.5-mile track. There isn’t a specific one that I’d like to see taken out, but one of the five could easily be replaced with a road course. The argument for a road course in the Chase sounds so redundant, but there’s a reason for that. There is a huge amount of support for a road course in the Chase, and I’d love to see one in it – not just for the potential points implications, but because that style of track should be represented in the sport’s playoffs. Like I said about the 1.5-mile track, there isn’t a specific road course I have in mind for the Chase, but if I had to pick one, I’d say Montreal just because I love the track’s atmosphere and fan support.

Jason: There is clearly an abundance of mile and a half tracks in the Chase and taking one of those out wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Each tends to produce similar results and diversifying the Chase up a bit with a road course or another short track could work. Deciding on one track to remove is very difficult knowing the logistics that go along with that decision. Adding a track is also not an easy task, but if NASCAR decides to do this in the near future, they will likely create a pleasing scenario.

4) With Kyle Larson, Brian Scott, and Blake Koch making their Sprint Cup Series debuts this weekend, the youth movement in NASCAR is clearly here. If you had to pick any of the young drivers making their way up the ladder today to be a Chase contender ten years from now, who would it be?

Alanis: You can’t go wrong with Chase Elliott. He got a Camping World Truck Series win earlier this year despite running a minimal schedule, he’s won in the ARCA series this year, again, with a minimal schedule, he’s a developmental driver for the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports team, and when he’s not on the big stage, he’s out racing late models. It’s safe to say Elliott is one of the sport’s next superstars, and he’ll certainly be a force to reckon with in Cup in the next ten years.

Jason: I have my eye set on Alex Bowman. He has brought his Nationwide Series team from mediocre performances they have seen in the past to competing with the biggest teams in the garage on a weekly basis. His success this season has shown his potential and more than likely, the larger teams have been watching. Sooner than later, another team will be calling and he will show what he can do in the best equipment. He will reach the Cup Series within the next five or so years and then be a dominant Chase figure. Bowman has a bright NASCAR future.

5) How do your Chase standings look after Kansas?

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 Kansas:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Kevin Harvick

4.) Kyle Busch

5.) Greg Biffle

6.) Jeff Gordon

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Kurt Busch

9.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

10.) Carl Edwards

11.) Joey Logano

12.) Kasey Kahne

13.) Ryan Newman

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 Kansas:

1.) Jimmie Johnson

2.) Matt Kenseth

3.) Kevin Harvick

4.) Kyle Busch

5.) Jeff Gordon

6.) Greg Biffle

7.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

8.) Carl Edwards

9.) Joey Logano

10.) Kurt Busch

11.) Ryan Newman

12.) Clint Bowyer

13.) Kasey Kahne

Follow Alanis on twitter @alanisnking and follow Jason @NascarJason

trackside duo

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