Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Ford 400 at Homestead

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

The bummer at Homestead is, no matter how well you run, the Chase guys get all the airtime. Which is too bad, because Aric Almirola certainly deserved some after he drove the No. 9 to a fourth-place finish. Here’s a guy who is in that seat only temporarily, but who made the most of the limited opportunity to show just how talented he really is. Almirola will drive full time in the Nationwide Series in 2011 for JR Motorsports in the No. 88. Almirola certainly showed his considerable talent on Sunday (Nov. 21) and this will certainly not be his last Cup gig.

What… was THAT?

It’s tough to be a race fan and NOT know who would have been the champion if not for NASCAR’s version of a WWE free-for-all, and this year is no exception. It’s hard to ignore the fact that of the seven titles the Chase has now produced, just three have matched the outcome of an unmanipulated points system.

On the other hand, it’s wrong to disparage Jimmie Johnson and his team for winning five titles under the system presented to them-they didn’t ask for it, and it’s not their fault. But it has to sting for Kevin Harvick, who would not only have won it all this year, but done so in convincing fashion, clinching at Phoenix and bringing Richard Childress Racing back to the forefront. It’s a case of hating the game and not the player, but it’s hard to ignore the obvious.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Kasey Kahne’s best day of Ford 400 weekend came on Friday with a blistering pole run, but Kahne didn’t have a bad day overall. Like Almirola, who took over Kahne’s seat on a temporary basis, Kahne won’t be in the No. 83 next year as regular driver Brian Vickers returns from a nearly year-long layoff, but he will be Vickers’s teammate in the Red Bull No. 82, and his sixth-place run at Homestead had to have the whole team smiling about 2011.

When… will I be loved?

The villain of the week at Homestead didn’t cause a wreck-in face, he wasn’t even in a racecar. But Brian France showed just how far out of touch NASCAR is from the fans when he made a lame excuse for the Chase, saying that members of the fan council told him that the Chase is fine. First of all, how many old-school, diehard fans bothered to sign up for that, and second, how many members actually said they like the Chase?

See also
Voices From the Heartland: Be Prepared, NASCAR's Real Hype Starts AFTER Homestead

Was it really a large number or is it merely an indication that France hears only what he wants to hear? That he seemed legitimately surprised when told how many people have complained about the system made it seem like there was a third option; that France is so high on his Ivory Tower that he doesn’t see the kingdom below him in crisis.

Why… should people worry about the demise of several teams after 2010?

The closing doors of several teams; at least two from Richard Petty Motorsports and possibly four to include Robby Gordon and Prism Motorsports, should worry NASCAR and its fans. The possibility of short fields is very real and while cutting the field size could be a solution, the fact is that there were 45-50 teams competing for starting sports at the start of the decade before NASCAR locked the Top 35 in owner points into the races. Before most sponsors were priced right out of the game. Before.

How… many titles can Jimmie Johnson win?

Like him or not, like the system or not, Johnson flat went out and took this one. He was the best driver all day and as Johnson said afterwards, he and his team showed the hearts of champions on Sunday. And with Johnson’s fifth title, I think it’s now finally legit to talk of seven and more.

It won’t be easy; 42 teams will be gunning for Johnson in 2011, and Johnson isn’t getting any younger, but it’s certainly possible that Johnson will join Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt at the pinnacle of the sport. He didn’t win this one on the shoulders of the best team or the best cars; he flat out drove for it and took it, and in doing so finally showed just how good he really is.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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