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Five Points To Ponder

Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR Gambles, And So Do Teams With Vegas Looming

Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR Gambles, And So Do Teams With Vegas Looming

ONE: NASCAR Teams Gambling Already No, I’m not talking about Las Vegas. It’s clear the new Chase format, rewarding race winners, is going to have a significant impact on the pre-playoff portion this season. We saw it take effect already this past Sunday, when Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team was comfortable with making, had they needed to, a fuel gamble to go for a second straight victory. Crew chief Steve Letarte pulled no punches on the radio, telling Junior, “We’re here to try ... Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: Pole Conspiracies, Smoke Rising and the Great American Race

Five Points to Ponder: Pole Conspiracies, Smoke Rising and the Great American Race

ONE: And We’re Back The NASCAR offseason is just about the shortest in all of professional sports. So why does it always feel like ages between the checkered flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the start of Daytona Speedweeks? I’ll leave that answer to those more qualified in the study of neurosciences in the human brain, but I for one was itching for some on-track action after what was for much of the country a bitter, frigid winter. Unlike in years ... Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: Firsts, Families And Failing Pit Crews

Five Points to Ponder: Firsts, Families And Failing Pit Crews

What a weekend it was for Regan Smith who not only won the Aaron's 312 at Talladega with a thrilling last ditch push, but also established a 27-point lead in the battle for the Nationwide Series crown; the first time in his career he has led the standings. Smith was in seventh place coming to the white flag before a push from Kasey Kahne made all the difference. "Coming down the backstretch I thought, ‘Ah, we’re going to take fifth or sixth.’ I thought that’s the way it was going to go. I can’t even tell you the order of the guys who were leading,” said Smith. “I just saw cars at that point. They got all jammed up, we had a run and I made a move. I wasn’t really sure if I was clear, but I figured it was the only chance I had to win the race. I wanted to make that move to see if it was going to pay off for us, and it did." Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: Politics Surrounding Short Tracks, Injuries, And Jeff Burton

Five Points to Ponder: Politics Surrounding Short Tracks, Injuries, And Jeff Burton

*ONE: Build More Short Tracks* A lot of what you read on Twitter is not much more than garbage, but there was one tweet late Saturday night from USA Today NASCAR beat writer Jeff Gluck that really hit the mark. “The longer I’m around this sport, the more I’m convinced additional short tracks would be the solution to many of NASCAR’s problems,” "tweeted Gluck.":https://twitter.com/jeff_gluck/status/328595945480654848 Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of NASCAR Parity

After a two-race swing, far away from home the Sprint Cup Series leaves the golden hues of the western states behind and returns to its more noted environments this week. The upcoming race at Bristol, one of NASCAR's most popular ovals will be the second since the latest tinkering of the track, its first run with the Gen-6 car. Concerns like aero push should fall by the wayside, replaced with the beating and banging that many hope for may, in fact, actually happen. But as we tackle Five Points To Ponder this Tuesday, wrapping up Las Vegas while beginning to look ahead, one enduring theme of 2013 shines through: predictions on the health of this car are tricky business. *ONE: Bristol Might Be Tame* <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"> <img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/11826.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Will this \"new\" Bristol, in its first race under the daylight with \"grounded\" pavement produce the type of event fans are looking for?</p></div> Yes, the newest \"repave\" has left half-a-groove less, at least for drivers to navigate Bristol's high banks. That's led to a high level of anticipation for Sunday; the August event, sprinkled with wrecks gave a glimpse of how Thunder Valley used to strike. But with the drivers and crew chiefs still figuring out what makes the Gen-6 car tick, it would not be surprising if there were long green flag runs at Bristol Sunday. That doesn’t mean that the race will be lame or that nothing will happen, but many might use a good portion to simply \"learn how\" with this chassis and what to adjust. Throw in the notion that the drivers are still working with the latest changes and there’s potential for some good ol’ follow the leader conservatism. A second reason why some drivers may be hesitant to stick their proverbial noses into any messy situations is that teams are still building these cars. Roush may be a rich organization, but even it has to be stung by losing five chassis before the second race of the year. Remember, too that some of the small teams, like Front Row Motorsports, Phil Parsons Racing and others are facing cash flow parts problems of a different sort, either through tearing up equipment or simple lack of availability. Those issues, as the season progresses seem to be lessening but that doesn’t mean organizations have the full complement of autos in their arsenals yet. *TWO: More, Please* The use of the thermo-cam at the Las Vegas race was tasty. It offered a different way of looking at the cars and also gave some insight about an aspect of competition that is often mentioned but hard to describe: temperatures. FOX should not be shy about using this device in the future, the latest twist towards a surprising new theme for them this season: creativity. With the incorporation of the gyro-cam and now this one, there has finally been some innovation with regards to the race broadcast. One of the things that has made the television coverage stale (and there’s many), has been the lack of change. The most information that seems to be given are lap times, but how about 10-lap averages? Or how about showing how drivers choose different lines and how they make up or lose time? It’s the information age and it’s time to start inundating viewers with it; the thermo-cam is a move towards this idea. *THREE: Winners* Chevrolet, Ford and now Toyota have all won races this year. That’s not bad, three for three. With Dodge no longer running, there’s no chance to go four for four. Oh well. It has, however, been good to see that one organization and manufacturer has not gone out and won all the races. Had that occurred, there’s a good chance that someone would be complaining that one make has an inherent advantage due to its body style. For right now, that can be ignored. But for those who thought that the Gen-6 might bring some parity… p'shaw. One look at the Las Vegas results shows that the top organizations are right where they want to be. The highest ranking small team finished 20th, with Kurt Busch driving for Furniture Row – though that’s pretty much a Childress car. So how about Austin Dillon driving for Finch at 21st? That works, but shows how far the gap is. You'd think a new set of rules will make things closer, but instead, the opposite is true: the guys writing the biggest checks with the best opportunity to develop equipment will get ahead of the curve. *FOUR: Tires* Not the tire talk already. Um, yup. The race at Phoenix showed some issues with the Goodyears. But the race at Las Vegas shows that NASCAR's only rubber supplier still has some fiddling to do. When taking on four proves to have no advantage over someone who took two, then something is clearly not working. <div style=\"float:right; width:200px; margin:20px; padding-left:20px;\"> <object classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" codebase=\"http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,0,0\" width=\"160\" height=\"200\" align=\"middle\"> <param name=\"allowScriptAccess\" value=\"sameDomain\" /> <param name=\"movie\" value=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2134&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" /> <param name=\"quality\" value=\"high\" /> <param name=\"bgcolor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /> <embed src=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2134&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" quality=\"high\" bgcolor=\"#ffffff\" width=\"160\" height=\"200\" align=\"middle\" allowScriptAccess=\"sameDomain\" type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" pluginspage=\"http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer\" /> </object> </div> The real problem with this issue is in-race strategy gets mitigated by these tires. Drivers don’t have to manage their wear and crew chiefs are put in a box with making decisions. Bottom line, if Goodyear develops tires that wear out both parties automatically become more important. No one wants an Indianapolis debacle, but the engineers back at the shop shouldn’t have all the fun with fixing a car to go fast. *FIVE: Who's Got Something On His/Her Mind?* FOX will be sure to sell the Bristol race as one of beatin’ and bangin’, how tempers will flare and all that crap. Yippee. The problem in doing so is that the perception isn’t reality. The feud that received much of the offseason and preseason hype, Jeff Gordon – Clint Bowyer, has gone quiet (of course, expect FOX to push for those two to tangle). In their place, no one seems to have any beefs with anyone yet - unless we're talking with the sanctioning body itself. That's perhaps an unintended consequence of Denny Hamlin's fine on Friday. Even if someone had an issue with another driver, would anyone find out? People had become PC enough before Hamlin was muzzled by the mother organization; now, it seems worse. That just means that everyone will continue to toe the company line and we’ll all be the worse for it. Perhaps it was fitting that The Robot, Matt Kenseth, won this past weekend after all… *Connect with Huston!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/turtlewords\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Huston Ladner\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/40694/ Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: A Reigning Champ Flying Under The Radar & Daytona Dreams

Five Points to Ponder: A Reigning Champ Flying Under The Radar & Daytona Dreams

No other professional sport has as short an offseason as NASCAR; it's less than 90 days between the checkered flag flying at Homestead and the drop of the green for Sunday's Daytona 500. So why does it feel like it gets longer and longer every year? Especially this one. As you might imagine, I’m raring to go-go-go in 2013 for what, at least at first blush, might be one of the sport's fantastic seasons with plenty of changes designed to bring back its competitive edge. Here's five things to report on, as of now with Daytona continuing to unfold... Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: The Young, the Old and the Future of NASCAR

Five Points to Ponder: The Young, the Old and the Future of NASCAR

*ONE: Truck Schedule Key to NASCAR’s Future* For all the talk that Brad Keselowski is generating for being the bridge that NASCAR needs to get back to its core fans after his beer-guzzling exploits celebrating Penske Racing’s first Cup title, it’s all perhaps a bit premature. Keselowski has always been brash, old school and outspoken, much to the annoyance of many fanbases (just ask any Hamlin or Edwards fan). The fact that he won a Cup ahead of both of those stars isn’t going to change that opinion. Read More »

Five Points to Ponder: The Latest Failings of a Failed Sanctioning Body

Five Points to Ponder: The Latest Failings of a Failed Sanctioning Body

*ONE: Hello, Consistency?* Anyone that needs more proof as to whether or not name means something in the eyes of NASCAR got it this afternoon, with NASCAR bucking their typical Tuesday announcements to notify the racing world that when the Cup Series takes the green at Homestead, Jeff Gordon will be on the track. Despite premeditating a clear act of payback on the racetrack that collected championship contender Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola (not to mention very nearly wrecking points leader Brad Keselowski as well), Gordon got away with a points penalty that means nothing and a fine Hendrick Motorsports will scoff at. Read More »

5 Points to Ponder: Yellow Flags, Timely Contracts and Lost Enthusiasm

5 Points to Ponder: Yellow Flags, Timely Contracts and Lost Enthusiasm

*ONE: Debris Will Decide This Championship* The Jimmie Johnson/Brad Keselowski finish this past Sunday was a battle well worth watching, and an example of strategies battling it out. Paul Wolfe’s decision to trust his driver’s intuition and go with two tires late even as the rest of the field took four would have panned out sans the rash of cautions to close the event. But there’s no doubting that Chad Knaus considered that in choosing to put four tires on the No. 48 car. And that extra rubber allowed Johnson to build his biggest lead of the Chase at the track that nearly cost him title number five two years ago. Read More »

5 Points to Ponder: Haloes, Half-a-Ride and an Historical Ending?

5 Points to Ponder: Haloes, Half-a-Ride and an Historical Ending?

*ONE: ESPN’s “Miracle” Grasping at Straws* Considering Martinsville was the hardest track left on the schedule for Brad Keselowski, given both his limited experience at the speedway and the strength of fellow title contender Jimmie Johnson’s setup at the paperclip oval, there was definitely a reason to celebrate finishing sixth on Sunday. Keselowski scored his career-best result there, kept heavyweight Johnson within two points despite giving up a win this late in the Chase, and even survived a late-race gamble to stay out that nearly backfired when all but two cars opted to take tires during the final cycle of pit stops. Having said that, ESPN’s post-race interview was certainly making Keselowski’s performance out to be a bit more…dramatic…than it was. It was called the "Miracle At Martinsville," all because Keselowski climbed from 32nd to finish sixth. Read More »