Welcome to another edition of Four Burning Questions! In this edition, we tackle four questions looming on the minds of race fans after all the fists were done flying and the smoke had settled on Darlington, as attention turns to how all will play out at the “Monster Mile.”
Will there be a Round Two between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch?
While it was a far cry from the “Thrilla In Manilla,” Kevin Harvick has become something of a folk hero in NASCAR circles for being the first driver to actually do what many NASCAR fans wish they could do in punching Kyle Busch after Busch intentionally dumped Harvick at Darlington in a late-race incident. The $64,000 question on the minds of race fans is “will round two happen at Dover?”
While both drivers give new meaning to the terms bulls in a china shop with their personalities and it can’t be ruled out by any means, after being “haulered” at by NASCAR, their every move is going to be further scrutinized and we’ll likely see both drivers being a bit more courteous than usual. Harvick and Busch are both in the thick of the Chase battle and any retribution by either could be damaging to their hopes of making NASCAR’s postseason Chase.
Plus, Harvick knows what it’s like to be parked for intentionally dumping another driver as he did to Coy Gibbs in a Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville in 2002. The end result was Harvick being parked for the Cup race by NASCAR.
Will Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman go for Round Three?
This has been a longstanding feud that goes back to Homestead in 2006, that allegedly came to blows at Darlington this past week. The end result was Juan Pablo Montoya driving like a pissed-off teenager and wrecking everything except the pace car. Odds are this is likely not going to continue for a third straight week because after Montoya dumped Jeff Gordon, he became noticeably more courteous to other drivers than usual.
Like with Busch and Harvick, Ryan Newman and Montoya will be watched closely, so if the slightest incident happens involving either driver, NASCAR is going to come down like the hammer of the gods on the unfortunate soul that draws their ire. Both drivers are a bit stand-offish, but NASCAR won’t let these two continue their feud into Dover if they can absolutely help it.
Can Regan Smith back up his impressive upset at Darlington this week?
Overshadowed in all the hoopla of drivers getting into fisticuffs was the fact that Regan Smith pulled off perhaps one of NASCAR’s greatest upset triumphs in recent memory. While Furniture Row Racing has to be riding cloud nine as a team, they head to Dover, where Smith nor the No. 78 has ever had a top-20 finish. Make no mistake, the team has improved considerably in the last three years, but to expect a top 10, let alone back-to-back wins, is simply too much to ask.
A good day for Smith and the organization would be to score a top-15 or top-20 finish at the end of the day. Dover is a brutal track and is more about survival than anything, so that needs to be the modus operandi for Smith and Furniture Row Racing; simply finishing the race in one piece would be a small victory for the Denver, Colo.-based organization.
Have Denny Hamlin and Mike Ford Found Their Groove Again?
Just a few short weeks ago, Denny Hamlin and Mike Ford were on the verge of self-destruction as the No. 11 team was piling up disappointing finish after disappointing finish, with no synergy between the driver and the crew chief. A few weeks later, Hamlin’s team seems to be back to the competitive level they were at for much of the 2010 season.
While they haven’t found victory lane yet in 2011, in recent weeks the chemistry seems to be clicking again as neither driver nor crew chief has been firing verbal jousts at each other. And both appear to be focused on the task of making the 2011 Sprint Cup Chase, either as a top 10 team in points or a “win” wildcard. The coming weeks will really tell the true tale of whether the team is back or not, but all signs point to yes for a Denny Hamlin resurgence.
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