Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5 Questions After ... Emory Healthcare 500

A Labor Day extravaganza was exactly what race fans needed to get excited on a holiday weekend. With several drivers in clear contention for the victory as the race wound ever close to the checkered flag, no one knew who to expect to pull into victory lane until the final stretch of the race. Now Stewart has broken a winless streak that spanned 31 races and 10 of the 12 drivers in the Chase field has been set with one race to go.

Here are some questions on my mind after the Emory Healthcare 500…

Why did it take Stewart so long to win? … While Stewart has gone longer without a race win, many people were expecting to see a much stronger win column than he has at this point in the season. Last year’s successful trek as a team owner and driver, scoring four victories and an average finish of 10th, set up those high expectations. Stewart hasn’t performed poorly. Rather, it’s been a lack of victories or showing the competitiveness to contend for them. Like always, though, Stewart has started to heat up as we roll into the summertime. Expect more victories to come from that No. 14 Chevy as the season winds down.

How many winless streaks could have been broken? … Several winless drivers this season were in contention for the victory on Sunday night while the regular contenders looked as if they’d just have to take a back seat to those hungry drivers. Drivers like Stewart and Edwards already had a sizeable points cushion in the Chase, therefore with nothing to lose while drivers like Kasey Kahne had no shot at making the Chase and decided to risk it all. Even drivers like Ryan Newman, who is still eligible for that 12th and final spot, showed some “Army strength” as the race wore on. It’s always fun to see a fresh face in victory lane, even if just as little as a year ago they weren’t so “fresh.”

Did Kyle Busch actually go a weekend without winning? … After his three-peat at Bristol Motor Speedway just a couple weeks prior, followed by another truck win last week, Busch was once again entered in all three races this weekend. Only this time, he came up short. Busch suffered in some fuel-mileage strategy in the Truck Series race, still finishing a strong seventh. He was dominant in the Nationwide Series race, as expected, but just got beat by Jamie McMurray. In the Cup Series race, he was a clear contender but he wasn’t dominant. He finished fifth. For the fans that love to hate Busch and are tired of hearing about him all the time, you just got a break. Don’t count on it happening again.

Can we expect Roush Fenway Racing to be legitimate contenders? … Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are locked into the Chase and, with a clean race at Richmond, teammate Greg Biffle should be in too. While Kenseth hasn’t shown a lot of strength as of late, Biffle and Edwards have both picked it up significantly in the past few weeks and Atlanta was no exception. Even with Biffle’s wreck on lap 152, he was still running strong and would have likely made a run at the victory. Edwards finished a very promising second and could have possibly won that race had it been just a little bit longer. Both drivers say they are certain they can contend for the championship, and up to this point I had doubted that. But now they’re starting to change my mind. If they keep it up at Richmond, we may have to throw in a couple more drivers as a threat to Jimmie Johnson’s reign.

Did anyone else find the Kasey Kahne/Ryan Newman incident somewhat amusing? … Kahne was upset with Newman for turning him down into Kurt Busch, in turn suffering a tire rub. Kahne was one of the dominant cars of the evening and should have been up there with Stewart at the end of the night. Instead, he finished several laps down and understandably was not happy about it. Kahne came back out onto the racetrack and gave Newman a tap of his own, bumping the No. 39 car back two positions. Newman is still mathematically eligible to make the Chase and could have used the extra points. While that was entertaining, it wasn’t the part that had me chuckling. Post-race, Newman walked over to Kahne’s car and stuck his head in the window. The two continued the discussion as Kahne got out, Newman seeming to get more amusement out of the conversation than Kahne was. It was hard to tell if he was laughing or just trying to keep Kahne calm, but it didn’t matter. Had Kahne decided to break out the fisticuffs, Kahne looked like a 12-year-old kid standing next to Newman in what clearly would have been an unfair fight. Maybe I just have kind of a sick sense of humor. But don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it too.

Bonus questions: Is Newman on a quest to aggravate every driver in the garage area? … Was all the drama sucked out of the Chase this weekend? … What did you do for Labor Day?

Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.


Post a Comment