Trackside Duo: November 17, 2013

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

It all comes down to this: one final race to decide a season’s worth of battles. Major highs and lows have been present throughout the year, but one driver will be riding an all-time high after Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. A champion will be crowned, and this champion will be the first to take the title in a Gen-6 car. Sunday will be historic and it will conclude one of the most memorable seasons NASCAR has ever seen.

For the final time during the season, the Trackside Duo shares their takes on how this week’s storylines will transpire during the race. They discuss the contenders along with a winless Nationwide Series champion in this week’s edition.

1) Matt Kenseth may have given the championship away with his poor performance at Phoenix. Do you see any way the No. 20 team climbs back to the top of the standings this weekend?

Alanis: Kenseth will only have a shot at the title if Jimmie Johnson has trouble on Sunday — possible, but not highly likely.

Jason: Only a huge mistake by Jimmie Johnson will allow Kenseth back in the title hunt. Johnson has made mistakes before, but making one on this big of stage seems highly unlikely. Kenseth has had a great season, but no crown is coming his way.

2) Jimmie Johnson will be looking for his sixth championship in eight years on Sunday. What do you think a sixth title will mean to Johnson and his legacy? Do you consider Johnson the best ever?

Alanis: Johnson is, all around, the best of this generation. There are too many factors to weigh in order to determine who is the best of all time, but Johnson would certainly be near the top of the list of candidates for that title.

Jason: A sixth title will solidify Johnson’s place among the best all-time in NASCAR. Six championships in eight years is an incredible feat and its one Johnson has fully earned. I consider Johnson the best of all time because he has been so successful despite the field being closer than ever. Johnson’s sixth will be special and likely just another milestone as he races down the road of success.

3) Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been on a consistent streak through most of the Chase. He has momentum right now, but with only one race left, his momentum may not help him out going forward. Will Earnhardt Jr. be able to carry the momentum he’s built up into next season?

Alanis: Earnhardt Jr. has had a very impressive Chase despite his hiccup at the beginning, and it wouldn’t be surprising for the momentum to carry over. Sure, it’s a fairly long off season to carry momentum through, but Earnhardt Jr. is known for his plate-track performance and has a good shot at starting the year off well at Daytona.

Jason: It’s very possible for Earnhardt Jr. to carry the momentum, however, I don’t see it happening. He has shown to be this strong before, but nothing has developed out of it. Its going to take much more than momentum for Earnhardt Jr. to put him in title talks. If he can build off of the momentum and create more success, then he will have a chance at the title. I see Earnhardt Jr. being as strong as he always is in Daytona, but don’t credit that with his current momentum streak.

4) Austin Dillon won the Nationwide Series championship yesterday despite finishing the 2013 season with zero Nationwide wins. NASCAR had a one-win champion in 2003 with Matt Kenseth’s first Sprint Cup title and the Chase developed the following year due to put emphasis on winning. Does NASCAR adjust the Nationwide Series’ format to crown the champion for next season?

Alanis: NASCAR seems to be brainstorming new ideas for the 2015 season along with the new TV deal, and some of those new ideas are pretty bold. But I don’t expect any major format changes before 2015, and it wouldn’t be wise for NASCAR to mirror the playoff format in more than just the Cup series, as it takes away from the identity of the series and build up of the top-level championship battle.

Jason: Its a toss-up to say whether or not the Nationwide Series needs some sort of playoff situation. On one hand, Dillon and Hornish Jr. only had  one win between them and a Chase-like format may push the drivers harder to go after the win. On the other, the Nationwide Series championship battle was the closest in NASCAR. Their points standings turned out to be the closest without having playoffs, so why fix something that isn’t broken? I don’t see a format change coming to the Nationwide Series in the near future.

5) What are your predictions for the final standings?

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 Phoenix:

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Matt Kenseth

3. Kevin Harvick

4. Kyle Busch

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

6. Jeff Gordon

7. Clint Bowyer

8. Greg Biffle

9. Kurt Busch

10. Joey Logano

11. Ryan Newman

12. Carl Edwards

13. Kasey Kahne

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 Phoenix:

1.) Jimmie Johnson

2.) Matt Kenseth

3.) Kevin Harvick

4.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

5.) Kyle Busch

6.) Greg Biffle

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Jeff Gordon

9.) Joey Logano

10.) Kurt Busch

11.) Ryan Newman

12.) Carl Edwards

13.) Kasey Kahne

Follow Alanis on twitter @alanisnking and follow Jason @NASCARJasontrackside duo2

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