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5 Points To Ponder

Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment

The 2014 NASCAR Season started off on a high note, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s win in the Daytona 500 helping to revive both his status and that of the sport. In recent years where there were a number of setbacks and short-comings, 2014 has been one of the most memorable and positive in close to 20 years. Save for the weather…

Time For a Breather: After a frenetic first eight weeks of the mammoth ten-month NASCAR season we get our first moment to breathe this weekend as the engines go silent in honor of Easter. And so far, even the strongest and most vociferous of critics would have trouble denying it’s been anything …

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Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR Report Card Time As Darlington Looms

Hitting the finish line first, in Saturday night’s Southern 500 is still one of the prestigious moments in any Cup driver’s NASCAR career.

ONE: The Lady In Black There are few tracks that quicken my blood quite like the venerable Lady in Black – Darlington Raceway. This will be race number 111 at the 1.336 egg shaped track, a record that stretches all the way back to 1950: the second ever season for NASCAR and …

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Five Points To Ponder: Keselowski Rivalries, Titans, And Short Track Success

Sunday’s race at Martinsville was yet another insert into the canon of thrilling races in 2014 at the Sprint Cup level.

ONE: WE’RE OFF TO A GOOD START Six races down, 30 to go and it’s fair to say we’re off to an excellent start in 2014. Three of the races have been classics — the Daytona 500, last Sunday’s race at Martinsville and the previous week at Auto Club Speedway — while Las Vegas …

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Five Points to Ponder: Five Winners, Fontana In The Chase And The Real Deal

Kyle Busch’s win Sunday means five different winners in the first five races of the season.

ONE: Five Winners in Five Weeks So that’s five winners in five weeks, with Kyle Busch joining Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards among those locked into the Chase — or so goes the conventional wisdom. But there’s a bit of trouble brewing with that philosophy. …

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Five Points To Ponder: Petty, Potential, And Do Wins Really Equal Chase Contention?

Was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Pocono win cheapened due to the fact that he won courtesy of pit strategy?

ONE: Does a win really “get you in” the Chase? Since the new Chase format was announced, this January there’s been the sentiment that one win secures your spot in the field. NASCAR is taking a total of 16 drivers into the postseason with this new playoff format; it includes race winners, …

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

Steve Letarte, with his No. 88 car all but locked into the Chase will have no problem taking risks on strategy this season.

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, …

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

In its return to the Sprint Cup Series, the No. 3 won the pole in Daytona. Too good to be true?

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 …

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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."

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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

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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/

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