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Editorial

Popular Speed Chase Senior Staff Predictions

The senior staff of Popular Speed made their predictions for the second annual elimination Chase for the Championship earlier in the week while also projecting the eventual Sprint Cup Series champion. Will time prove us to be brilliant prognosticators or abject fools? We’re going to revisit these picks in November to see how we did so give us your predictions in the comments section below.

(Selections made by Mike Calinoff, Matt Weaver, Kelly Crandall and Amanda Ebersole)

How many races will be won by non-Chasers?

Mike: Zero

Matt: Zero

Amanda: One

Kelly: None

How many positions on the track will the champion win by at Homestead?

Mike: Three

Matt: One

Amanda: Three

Kelly: Three

 

How many races will the champion ultimately win during the Chase itself?

Mike: Four

Matt: Three

Amanda: Three

Kelly: Two

Biggest projected Chase surprise and why?

Mike: Carl Edwards — That team has come alive and will feed off the Gibbs success going into the Chase. Darien Grubb knows how to win a championship and they will be a factor right into the final four.

Matt: Clint Bowyer due to Toyota horsepower and tracks that line up favorably for the No. 15 team.

Amanda: Although a past champion, I am going to go with Matt Kenseth on this one. Looking at his performances this season and specifically race wins, he has pulled off some surprising wins. Harvick won three last year en route to the championship, that’s what I am predicting from the 20 team.

Kelly: Can you consider the guy you pick as champion as a surprise? Especially when he drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, the organization that has lit the series on fire lately? But Matt Kenseth is the only guy that comes to mind because I expect everyone else to stay par the course. As for the 20 team, they’re about to run through the Chase and win the championship, which many seem to forget that Kenseth not only could have done in 2013 but did way back in 2003.

Biggest projected Chase bust and why?

Mike: Jeff Gordon — The music at his going away party is starting to fade. While we would all love for Gordon to end his career on a high note, I think that no wins and only three top-5s won’t get it done. There is too much momentum from other teams for the No. 24 to be in contention at the end.

Matt: Carl Edwards – While he certainly has the speed to win races and advance to the final round, Edwards also has a feast or famine style that has him posting too many DNFs for comfort for this style of championship format.

Amanda: Ryan Newman. He hasn’t been out there fighting for wins, but rather, has had consistency that won’t cut it over the final 10 races.

Kelly: Paul Menard – besides him making the Chase for consistency (and because so many cars make the “new” Chase) where has he been all year? Quiet and consistent isn’t going to win the Sprint Cup.

The graphic below contains our picks for the 2015 Chase for the Championship.

Predictions

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Editorial

Roundtable: Chicagoland

We return from a very long hiatus. The summer has come and gone and the Popular Speed roundtable emerges for the final ten weeks of the Chase for the Championship. While Chicagoland was just what the sport needed as far as excitement, we tackle some of the hard hitting questions coming out of Chicagoland on the road to New Hampshire.

Both Chip Ganassi Racing drivers led laps on Sunday and finished in the top-10. Has the organization’s performance of late provided you with a sense that either @KyleLarsonRacin or @JamieMcMurray is going to grab a win before the season is over?

Mike Calinoff: McMurray made the decision to not to pit on the last stop, even though his crew chief told him to. That’s a case of beating yourself — and makes closing the deal unlikely. Larson can win on any given week during the Chase and will.

Amanda Ebersole: Chip Ganassi Racing has popped up out of nowhere as of late. If I had to put my money on which driver would make it to victory lane first, I am going to go with Kyle Larson.

Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bell Helicopter Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bell Helicopter Chevrolet, leads Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Matt Weaver: I’ve felt like Ganassi was on the verge of a breakthrough since McMurray won the All-Star Race back in May but they never turned the corner. So on one hand, they haven’t done anything to make me feel otherwise but they haven’t been able to make that last jump either. Given recent trends, I think McMurray has a great shot to win at Kansas or Charlotte.

Kelly Crandall: Jamie McMurray has proven to be a great bracket buster over the years. He pulled off a win at Talladega last fall, has a win at Charlotte and both races are in the Chase. The Ganassi teams have turned it up late in the season but it was just a little too late to get them in the Chase. In terms of getting to Victory Lane, McMurray has the strength and Larson has the speed, he still needs to just put it all together. If any non-Chasers are going to win during the playoffs, these two have to be the likeliest of contenders.

Unique Hiram: I believe that it is definitely in the cards for either, if not both, of these drivers to grab a win before the 2014 season ends. They have a combined nine top-fives, 21 top-10s, two poles with 296 laps led after 27 races. If you consider the number put up on the boards along with track performance, it is just a matter of time to see the No. 1 and/or No. 42 in winner’s circle.

Chris Owens: They very well could have two or three wins out of the last four weeks. Jamie McMurray really surprised folks at Bristol and then ran strong at Richmond trying to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. I think Sunday was on of there best shots at getting both Larson and McMurray a win.  With that being said, I do think they’ll get one if not two victories in the final nine races. McMurray runs strong at Charlotte and Larson has proven he can run up front at any type of track.

With the announcement following Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, @MarcosAmbrose will return to Australia to run in the V8 Supercar Series for Roger Penske. In Ambrose’s time in NASCAR, what is one moment that sticks out to you the most? 

MC: When he gave the race away at Sonoma for not maintaining speed under caution.

AE: I have to share a moment that wasn’t on-track or even public for that matter. The very last pit crew challenge I had the honor of covering as my first media event. Marcos and his two little girls were in attendance that evening; the girls dressed up in little dresses that I took notice to them quite often. In the media room following the event, his one daughter got to ask him a question. She piped up and said, “Daddy, when are you going to win?” The room erupted with laughter and Ambrose offered her a legit response. The family moments of NASCAR are some of the best!

Marcos+Ambrose+MyAFibStory+com+400+5u7fYOV_HNXl
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, is introduced during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

MW: Picking a favorite Marcos Ambrose moment is like picking a favorite child. Ambrose has been such a breath of fresh air in the Sprint Cup Series over the past seven years. He came into the sport when NASCAR was flush with international exports and yet he was the last to remain. Who would have thought the Australian V8 Super Car champion would have outlasted F1 champions, IndyCar champions and the like? That is what sticks out to me.

KC: Ambrose leaving us is very similar to Juan Pablo Montoya leaving last year. They are both a hell of a wheelmen but I wish we could have seen more success out of them in general. Ambrose is probably one of the best road course drivers we’ve seen and he was strong at some of the short tracks as well, but never could get that elusive oval win, as much as he wanted it. Just like Montoya. They both provided us with years of entertainment and now they’re back off doing what they do best.

UH: The moment that sticks out to me the most is when Marcos Ambrose won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2011 at Watkins Glen International. In this rain-delayed event, he passed Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch with two laps to go to take the checkered flag. This was also his career best season competing in the top-tier series with one win, five top-fives and 12 top-10s.

CO: I think the biggest moment that sticks out is the fact that he never got an oval win.  That’s what he came to NASCAR to do, correct?  Sure he won races on the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, on road courses.  I think it bothers Marcos to not have gotten an oval victory to his name.

Looking forward to New Hampshire, Brad @Keselowski dominated back in July there, he’s obviously the favorite after Chicago. So tell me why Brad Keselowski ISN’T the favorite to win this weekend?

MC: I’m not convinced that we’ll see any driver dominate during the Chase. With the “must win to lock-in” format, I think you’ll see different strategies with guys gambling on fuel mileage.

AE: With the new format, I think Keselowski and Paul Wolfe are going to “test” come things for the next round.  I don’t think he will be challenging for the win until he has to.

Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, looks on prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, looks on prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

MW: A lot has changed since the summer. Winter has come early to the Northeast and track conditions will have changed considerably from the summer race to this weekend. That combined with Chase teams saving their best bullets for the playoffs has me thinking this weekend will play out differently.

KC: He’s not the favorite because I don’t think he’s the fastest car right now. He dominated Richmond but when it comes to Chicago he was not winning that race had the last caution come out and then Larson and Harvick went at it like they did. Now, I’m not going to say that Keselowski lucked into a win but you have to be lucky and good and Sunday he was. But going to New Hampshire there are so many Chase drivers that are on their game right now and they aren’t about to let the 2 team get too far ahead of them. In July – while Keselowski dominated there – behind him there were drivers who were learning and figuring out what they did wrong for when they come back this weekend. I’m not going to put money down that this weekend will be another runaway like it was a few months ago.

UH: Although Brad Keselowski has great momentum going into the New Hampshire, he isn’t necessarily the favorite to win this weekend. There will be some tough competition coming from Jeff Gordon. He has three wins, 16 top-fives and 22 top-10s at this track along with the fact that four-time Sprint Cup champion is sitting second in points.

CO: Big mo is on the side of the two team, but with the new Chase for the the Sprint Cup format, I think guys are willing to take more shots to get wins now.  With Keselowski having the win and locked for the next round, why does he need to be up front when the proverbial “crap hits the fan?” For that very reason alone, I think he plays it safe not wanting to tear up a car that could be used later in the season. Hint Hint Martinsville.

Do you take any stock in the fact that the Camping World Truck Series has seen short fields multiple times this season?  Does this give you any cause for concern about the Truck Series future going forward over the next few seasons?

MC: The series has been on life support for five years. The good news is that the racing is great — whenever Kyle Busch stays home.

AE: I just don’t get it! This series has some of the best racing week in and week out. My question is to the fans, what gives? Tune in and give the series a boost!

Kyle Busch leads Brad Keselowski on a restart at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21st. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens/PopularSpeed.com)
Kyle Busch leads Brad Keselowski on a restart at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21st. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens/PopularSpeed.com)

MW: Absolutely. The Truck Series just doesn’t have an identity at this stage and the purses are atrocious. We’ve seen teams pull out or downscale over the past five years and top development drivers skip the Truck Series and go directly to the Nationwide Series from ARCA or the K&N Pro Series. Here’s my question for you — what reason IS there to go trucks racing at this juncture? I’m hard pressed to think of an answer.

KC: I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around this one. There is so much talent and potential in the Truck Series and yet it’s in the shape that it is in. It should be a concern for everyone who loves the series because it’s a much needed staple in the sport. There are probably many reasons – and speculation – as to why there has been short fields, but whatever it has been needs to change quickly because it’s overshadowing and hindering a series that puts on good racing.

UH: Honestly, I am not overly concerned about the differentiation of the field size throughout the season because the series continually provides exciting racing. There is a talented pool of veteran and rookie drivers who I think will keep the masses viewing for many years to come.

CO: While it should be surprising, it’s not to me. With the introduction of the new truck bodies for 2014, many underfunded teams can’t afford to make the switch from the old bodies to the new ones.  Hopefully 2015 is a different story as far as field size goes. If not, its time to start thinking about taking the Truck Series off of big tracks and return them to the roots that the series was founded on … short tracks.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Popular Speed Chase Predictions

The staff of Popular Speed made their predictions for the first-ever elimination Chase earlier in the week while also projecting the eventual champion. Will time prove us to be brilliant prognosticators or abject fools? We’re going to revisit these picks in November to see how we did so give us your predictions in the comments section below.

(Selections made by Mike Calinoff, Matt Weaver, Kelly Crandall, Amanda Ebersole, Steve Waid and Unique Hiram)

How many races will be won by non-Chasers?

Mike: Two

Matt: One

Amanda: Two

Kelly: Three

Steve: Two

Unique: Two

How many positions on the track will the champion win by at Homestead?

Mike: Seven

Matt: Three

Amanda: Three

Kelly: Three

Steve: Two

Unique: Three

How many races will the champion ultimately win during the Chase itself?

Mike: Three

Matt: Three

Amanda: Two

Kelly: Three

Steve: Two

Unique: Two

Biggest projected Chase surprise and why?

Mike: Ryan Newman because it is impossible to pass him.

Matt: Aric Almirola due to Ford horsepower and tracks that line up favorably for the No. 43 team.

Amanda: Joey Logano. Who would have thought that the once man many called “Burnt Toast” would now be in prime position to win a Sprint Cup Championship? Admit it, you called him that and wrote him off just as much as I did!

Kelly: While many would consider him a favorite, most are looking at his teammate to carry the Penske banner. But Logano shouldn’t be underestimated and may very well go the whole way and take the crown. He’s got the team, attitude and performance to back it up.

Steve: Earnhardt Jr.

Unique: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Biggest projected Chase bust and why?

Mike: Denny Hamlin because their program appears very fragmented entering the Chase

Matt: Denny Hamlin due to his overall lack of speed this season, lack of continuity and chemistry atop the pit box.

Amanda: Ryan Newman. He hasn’t been out there fighting for wins, but rather, has had consistency that won’t cut it over the final 10 races.

Kelly: He earned a Chase berth late but the No. 5 team hasn’t shown an ability to hang with their teammates or Team Penske all season. They still have some work to do, just as they have had all season.

Steve: Jimmie

Unique: Greg Biffle

The graphic below contains our picks for the 2014 Chase for the Championship. The number in parenthesis represents the furthest round that a driver makes it to during the championship format itself.

Chase Grid Nation

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Editorial

Beyond The Checkered Flag: Amanda Ebersole

By Unique Hiram – “Take a limitation and turn it into an opportunity. Take an opportunity and turn it into an adventure by dreaming BIG!” – Jo Franz

Determined, resilient and talented are three of the many words that describe this month’s featured person in “Beyond The Checkered Flag.” She has dealt with adversity and naysayers but still dreamt big. Now, she has overcome those barriers and continues to carve out a successful path in the industry.

Approximately five years ago, @AmandaEbersole embarked on a journey that took her from writing about motorsports to working as Vice President of Operations for three-time NASCAR championship spotter @MikeCalinoff.

“It’s been a wild and crazy journey to say the least. I have no exciting motorsports background that I can share with you. I will say that I became a race fan to bond with my dad. My newfound passion led to me becoming a writer for Skirts and Scuffs. After three years of hard work and sacrifice, my dream job with 140 BUZZ happened.”

“I just had my two-year anniversary with the company and it’s been an exciting ride. Every day is a new opportunity and I truly enjoy my job, not many people can say that.”

There are always life changing moments which occur when you begin working in the industry of your dreams. With reaching the 24-month milestone in her current position, I asked Amanda what has been the most rewarding moment she has experienced to date.

“That’s incredibly tough to answer. Just about a year ago, Mike launched @POPULARSPEED and seeing where it has grown in the past year that is pretty rewarding. We have a phenomenal team leading the way and I couldn’t be prouder to be just a small working part of the success of the website.”

“Work hard, play hard” is a worldwide motto describing the everyday work-life balance. For every hard-charging effort put into achieving your desired aspirations, there is the counterbalance to participate in an activity or activities that give you some time to relax from the hustle and bustle of your chosen profession.

While some people may travel to exotic places or hit the golf course for a little rest and relaxation, Amanda spends her downtime in the kitchen. “Cooking and baking are my only hobbies. Cooking is my time to relax, not answer the phone and turn my brain off for a few.”

There are many young, talented individuals who are trying to get their start in the industry as journalists and public relations professionals. As a five year veteran, she offers these words of advice – “Be self-confident. Believe in yourself and your abilities.”

“There is a bit of a backstory to that. Just weeks after moving to the Charlotte area, I had someone tell me that this job was going to eat me alive, I wasn’t tough enough to handle it. It’s a year later and I’m still here. The person who said that, she is not.”

Everyone has a specific quote or motto that he/she chooses to live by as they forge ahead in achieving their specific goals. Vince Lombardi said “the difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, nor a lack of knowledge, but a lack of will.”

Amanda has the above statement listed as one of her favorite quotes. “This quote speaks to me on many levels. I have often been told that my will power has gotten me through a lot in my life and I hope that is what will continue to drive my success in years to come.”

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @UniqueHiram

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Editorial

Roundtable: Kentucky Speedway

Back again in the bluegrass state. NASCAR returned to the Kentucky Speedway for the fourth time with the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday night and all the talk was the bumps and how bad the track surface was. We tackle the questions of the Kentucky track as well as other topics such as Kyle Busch in the Truck Series, the Chase Elliott vs. Trevor Bayne dust-up on Friday night and more in this week’s Popular Speed round table.

If NASCAR came to you and asked for your advice on what should be done to Kentucky, what would you say?

Amanda Ebersole: Move it to a daytime race, that is what the fans are asking for via Twitter.

Trucks race through turn four during the NASCAR Camping World Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Trucks race through turn four during the NASCAR Camping World Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Matt Weaver: Be run during the day so cars slip, slide and bounce around like they did last year, producing the best race the bluegrass hills had ever seen.

Kelly Crandall: Only thing I would lobby for is to fix the start-finish line because right now it resembles a form of U.S. interrogation torture.

Unique Hiram: I would make the suggestion for NASCAR to request that Goodyear take a look at the tires because there few issues with right side tires. Sprint Cup Series drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson both hit the wall hard ending their race night early because of right front tire issues.

Chris Owens: I would say run the race during the day. Saturday night was a snoozefest compared to last year. I wouldn’t touch the racetrack in any way shape or form. I think the bumps provide character. We don’t need another repaved racetrack like we’ve seen over the last half decade.

Kyle Busch made it eight straight wins for Toyota in the Truck Series, the longest winning streak for any manufacturer in Truck Series history. What do Ford and Chevrolet have to do to not only catch up, but keep up with Toyota and when will they visit victory lane?

AE: Back to the drawing board. This is a hard question to answer, one that Ford and Chevy would pay big money for. Too bad I don’t have the answer or I would be as rich as Donald Trump!

Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on June 26, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

MW: Chevrolet and Ford is winning the war with their success in the Sprint Cup Series. I’m sure they aren’t satisfied losing out to the Kyle Busch/ThorSport Truck buzzsaw but there are larger battles to be contested in NASCAR. 

KC: Go to the next track and try again. It’s nothing that Toyota is doing that the other two are not, it’s that right now they have the hottest drivers on the circuit. But there will come a race when all the circumstances don’t go their way and they fail to win. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Busch’s streak end at Michigan.

UH: I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question. Continuous attempts at making the right adjustments and maybe some collaboration among the same manufacturer teams are two options.

CO: I think Toyota is just on their game right now. I don’t really see any other truck outside of Kyle Busch Motorsports and Thorsport Racing being successful at this present time. It sucks, yes I know the fans don’t like it, but until Chevy and Ford step up their game, Toyota will continue to dominate.

Trevor Bayne continues to feel as if he’s getting wrecked every week, was the deal with Chase Elliott a straight up racing deal or did Elliott run in over his head?

AE: I would say it was a racing deal but I understand Bayne’s feelings. From his POV, it was too much from Elliott. Elliott would say it was just racing. To each their own view. No one is right in these cases.

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Trevor Bayne and Chase Elliott race during the Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway (Photo by Chris Owens/PopularSpeed)

MW: It’s a cliché but the Elliott/Bayne accident was a racing deal. Did Elliott press the issue a little too strong? Sure. But honestly, that’s the summary of Bayne’s career in a nutshell and that is likely the source of his frustration.

KC: It was a racing deal, but more so than that, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said it best in that Bayne crowds people too much and this time he paid the price. Did Chase get loose and get into him? No doubt, but in a way you could see it coming.

UH: When I looked back at the replays, it seems that it was a racing deal to me. Chase Elliott is a very talented and smart driver, which he has proven on several occasions. In 15 starts, he has two wins, seven top fives, 11 top-10s and 119 laps led so far this season. Trevor Bayne is a talented driver in his own right so I am not quite sure what frustrations are driving him to feel like he is getting wrecked every week.

CO: That was simply a racing deal. Two guys going after a position on the racetrack and neither giving an inch. I wish more guys would race like Chase and Trevor did on Friday night for position.

Daytona is looked at as the halfway point of the season, how would you rate 2014 across all three series?

AE: Giving a solid grade across the three series, B, there is room for improvement all around but we are doing well overall.

Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano have been two of the best cars in the first half of the Sprint Cup season. (Photo by Chris Owens/Popular Speed)
Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano have been two of the best cars in the first half of the Sprint Cup season. (Photo by Chris Owens/Popular Speed)

MW: There is definitely energy and momentum behind NASCAR racing right now, at least in the Sprint Cup Series. The vast array of rule changes have paid off at least through the first five months. The Trucks and Nationwide Series are suffering from a legitimate identity crisis and NASCAR’s unwillingness to publicly recognize it is alarming.

KC: A B+. All three series have had their moments of excitement and lack thereof. As we enter the summer months with some more big races coming up and with all three series setting themselves up for championship runs in the fall, I’m interested to see where the excitement level falls on the meter.

UH: Each series has added their own unique flare at this point in the season. Some of the highlights have included an exciting qualifying format, a variety of first time moments including surprising multi winners, the showcase of a talented rookie class and some fast, unpredictable race moments as well as finishes. In rating the overall performance across all three series on a scale of 1-10, I would give them an average score of eight.

CO: The Sprint Cup season has been fantastic. We’ve had everything you could ask for. An exciting Daytona 500, some exciting racing over the last three months, I would grade it a B plus. The other two series need some work. The Nationwide Series has had some good racing, just not enough. Chase Elliott has been the surprise so far, and I think he’ll keep that up. The Truck Series could use some major help. With short fields and two teams being the dominate force, it’s not pretty right now.

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Editorial

Roundtable: Sonoma & Road America

Lefts and rights, that was the name of the game this past weekend for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. After surprising and exciting victories by Brendan Gaughan and Carl Edwards, we’ve got a lot to discuss before returning to the oval of Kentucky Speedway this weekend.

Carl Edwards won at Sonoma and now has two wins on the season, how does this effect his free agency status? 

Mike Calinoff: Carl Edwards is signed with Gibbs. It’s a done deal. If I didn’t know it for a fact, I wouldn’t say it.

Amanda Ebersole: Edwards is a hot commodity on the free agent market, but I believe it is a done deal at this point. The who and where will be announced soon enough. For now, it is just cementing his legacy at Roush Fenway Racing.

Matt Weaver: While the media may not know for sure where Carl Edwards is going next season, I’m pretty sure he knows. As a result, Sunday likely didn’t make a difference whatsoever. His victory at Sonoma felt very similar to Matt Kenseth’s final wins at Talladega and Kansas for Roush Fenway Racing in 2012. That’s not to say Edwards won’t win again this season but the interactions felt familiar.

Kelly Crandall:  It doesn’t in any way. It seems pretty simple: whatever team wants him, will get him. And with Edwards halfway out the door in my opinion, there is nothing that Roush can do besides completely turn that company upside to become legitimate contenders like the days of 2005, 2006, 2008, etc. that is going to keep him there.

Unique Hiram: If there is a decision, whether to go or stay, that has already been made prior to these wins, I don’t think that this will change anything for him. This will just serve as proof that Edwards is working to getting the best finish this season that he can for Roush Fenway Racing.

Chris Owens: I don’t think it does. He’s gone. He had the chance to leave a few years ago when Matt Kenseth left and decided to stay. He saw what Kenseth did last year and now he wants to have a season like that. He was gone before Sonoma, he’s still gone now.

The road course debate is always “does a road course deserve a spot in the Chase.” What do you think?

MC: Absolutely. The road courses used to favor certain drivers like Allmendinger and Ambrose — but as we’re seen over the past ten years, anyone can win. I think it would be a great addition to the Chase, just for the mere fact that a lot of drivers would really have to hone their skills before the event.

AE: Absolutely, yes. I would like to see that track become Road America because since the NASCAR Nationwide Series started going there, the finishes have been nothing but exciting.

MW: It’s becoming a dead horse debate at this point and the answer is still a resounding ‘yes.’ Just like Talladega represents restrictor plate racing within the Chase, the 10-race playoff needs a road course as well. My pick is Montreal despite my equal belief that NASCAR will never go back. Under this scenario, I would kick Dover out just because it bores the bejeezus out of me.

KC: The answer remains the same no matter how many times you ask: yes. If you’re crowning a champion based on 10 races then those 10 races should be of every type of track on your schedule. A road course continues to remain missing.

UH: I believe that a road course added to the Chase for the Sprint Cup would actually be great for the series. It is not like the drivers don’t experience competing on this type of track; therefore, I think it would be an enhancement to the already exciting final 10 races of the season.

CO: 100% yes. How can you determine a champion when the final 10 races doesn’t have a road course in it? If you’re going to let drivers make the chase at one of them, you should determine a champion by racing on one during the Chase.

Do you like the way NASCAR polices rain tires on the road courses? And what would you change about racing in the rain?

MC: I don’t have an opinion on the NASCAR part, but I think that they should eliminate wipers and really make the drivers work!

NASCAR 2014:   Nationwide Series Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville Jun 21
Trevor Bayne and JJ Yeley race during the Gardner Denver 200 at Road America (Action Sports Photography)

AE: Saturday’s race was great, racing in the rain adds a new level of excitement to the mix. Perhaps some day we will not have rains outs at NASCAR races and there will be a way to parlay this over to oval tracks.

MW: NASCAR aced its latest test for road racing in the rain. Series officials knew they would have to walk a thin line and did so marvelously. The drivers responded by putting on a clinic.

KC: It’s fine. Leave it alone. Did you see Saturday’s race? That was absolutely fantastic with all the strategy and the racing that went on in the wet conditions. Only bummer was having to wait for the initial start after a great buildup to the first road course race of the year.

UH: I don’t have any issues with how NASCAR polices rain tires on the road course and there aren’t any specific changes that I would suggest about racing in the rain. Safety is always paramount and I think they do a great job with that.

CO: The only thing I don’t like is the caution and teams being told when to pit rain tires on.  I think that should be left up to the teams when and if they want to use the rain tires. Other then that, I don’t see any problems and loved what we saw on Saturday at Road America. Now it’s time to put the Cup Series on rain tires.

It’s been 10 years since Brendan Gaughan’s last victory in NASCAR and 11 since he had a legitimate shot at a championship. Does he contend for the Nationwide championship following his first Nationwide Series win? 

MC: I’m a huge Brendan fan and I would love to see him contend for the championship. He’s in good stuff and when he gets really motivated, he can get the job done. So, I say he will be a factor come Homestead.

AE: One race doesn’t necessarily make him a championship contender but consistency does. Gaughan has been consistent this year, has an average finish of 15th. That said, he is seventh in the points and everything boils down to a numbers game, can he make that up in the second half of the season? Time will tell.

MW: Brendan Gaughan is seventh in the standings and 106 points out. No. That doesn’t mean that Gaughan can’t put together a really nice season with multiple wins. RCR has always been strong at Kentucky in the Nationwide Series and Daytona is a total crapshoot. He won’t contend for the championship but there is still a lot to shoot for.

KC: Why not? Winning can do so many things and that was a long time coming for Brendan. When I spoke to him earlier this year in Darlington he said he was absolutely having the time of his life at Richard Childress Racing and he just wanted to show that he can still win races and deserves to be around. Not that he’s got one, I would be surprised to see the flood gates open. That 62 team had a rough start to the year, and granted it did come on a road course, but they have been getting better every week.

UH: Although this win was a great one for Brendan Gaughan and his team, I don’t think that he will contend for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. He is currently sitting seventh in the driver’s standings, 106 behind leader Regan Smith. Unless the other six drivers have some tremendously bad races for the remainder of 2014, it would difficult for him to gain ground and become a title contender in the end.

CO: Getting that first win in any series is a huge deal. I think Brendan and the 62 team will ride that momentum for a while.  I don’t know if he can overcome the early season struggles and get back in to the championship race, but I’m not going to say he can’t.  He just needs a lot of help right now to do so.

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Roundtable: Michigan and Gateway

Another NASCAR weekend is in the books. Both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series visited the ultra-fast Michigan International Speedway this weekend, while the Camping World Truck Series returned to the Gateway International Raceway for the first time since 2010.

Several story lines played out over the weekend so as always, our roundtable of experts are back to give you their opinion of the four biggest topics in NASCAR.

After five consecutive wins and with three of their four drivers sitting 1-2-3 in points, how likely do you think that Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be a part of the “Final Four” in Homestead?

Amanda Ebersole: I am fully confident that the Hendrick Motorsports Trio will be in the “Final Four” at Homestead. Earnhardt Jr. started the year off strong, Johnson is on a hot streak and Gordon has been consistent. Unless the world stops spinning and a meteor strikes the race track each week, I assume they are good.

Matt Weaver: The chances are pretty good that two of the four will be Hendrick Motorsports cars but no more than that. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are just too good. That’s not even factoring in Joey Logano or Matt Kenseth. The Hendrick guys are good right now but things will even out come November.

Kelly Crandall: Without a doubt, as things stand right now these three are a lock to be a part of the final four. But of course we know that a lot can happen between now and then. Hendrick Motorsports has always been the organization to beat, the one many are aiming for and Brad Keselowski said again on Sunday that they are ahead of the competition. This however, has to be one of the most impressive stretches they’ve gone on in recent memory. Not only because they’ve won those five races but with how the other drivers have been right there in the finishing order as well.

When you look at how the season has progressed so far, Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt are the only drivers who have any form of consistency and when you start thinking of the championship, every other driver and team have been too hot and cold to take them seriously right now. I would not be surprised if HMS pulls off what they did in 2009 when three of their four cars finished 1-2-3 in points. Bigger question is, who do you pick for the title?

Chris Owens: If Brad Keselowski’s comments about the Hendrick engine cars having an advantage on horsepower, I think it’s very likely Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr could be three of the four cars in the final four. They’ve combined to win the last five races in a row and very well could win Sonoma, Kentucky and Daytona coming up. Plus, we’re going back to tracks that they’ve all won at after that. I can hear the fans calling for changes to the Chase for next year if this happens.

Four weeks ago, Jimmie Johnson had no wins and all the talk was about how he could miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now he and the 48 team have three of the last four wins.  Is Jimmie the favorite to win the Chase and his seventh championship after getting his first victory at Michigan on Sunday?

AE: I hate this question to be fair. If we say Jimmie Johnson is a favorite to win the championship, isn’t that putting less validity on telling fans to watch the remaining races? So … that said, NO!

MW: There’s no such thing as a favorite under the new format. That’s the positives and negatives of the Chase Grid. Jimmie could conceivably win the first nine Chase races and all but the final lap at Homestead and not win the title. Like much in the modern NASCAR, randomness is the name of the game.

KC: I’m not so sure that people were saying he was going to miss the Chase, but some were certainly enjoying the fact that he hadn’t won yet. While others were loving that they got to write the, “why hasn’t Jimmie Johnson won a race” story every freaking week. But let’s be honest, whether he had a win or not, Johnson was always the favorite for another title. The 48 team is never out until the flag falls in Homestead and he’s mathematically eliminated.

CO: At this point in the season, they are the hottest thing on the face of the earth.  Three of the last four races have seen Johnson’s face grace victory lane. He’ll always be the favorite to win the championship until he retires, which could be years to come. He could go winless in the regular season for all I care, and he’d still be the favorite to win the championship.

Over the weekend, a report sourced in the Sports Business Journal that Comcast Xfinity is the leading candidate for NASCAR’s second tier series. How do you think a cable company would work as a series sponsor of one of the big three series? 

AE: Oh please let this be a good deal. My concern is for those of us (myself included) that do not have Comcast. Will there be something offered to Comcast customers that the rest of us do not get?

MW: Comcast is a telecommunications brand. That’s the wave of the future judging from Sprint and Verizon with NASCAR and IndyCar.

KC: Is this real life? Hey (insert driver name here) just won the Comcast Xfinity Series championship! Seriously, I’m out.

CO: Can we just go back to the Busch Series already? Somebody call up Anheuser-Busch and get them to commit to bringing the series back to life. I can already see the exclusivity in the contract, the Comcast Xfinity Series will only be broadcast on Comcast Xfinity. Okay, maybe I’m going a bit far, but if Sprint can come in and push other cell phone companies out of NASCAR, why won’t Comcast do the same? 

German Quiroga was looking for his first career Truck win on Saturday night and ended up spinning out Erik Jones from the lead. First, were you surprised and second, foul or no foul?

AE: FOUL!

MW: It’s cliché but the accident between Quiroga and Jones was a racing deal. For one, Jones slowed — that’s a fact. Second, it’s within earshot of the finish and you don’t lift given how sensitive these Trucks are to momentum. It’s hard to blame anyone in that scenario because we want contenders racing, right?

KC: Watching the last 20 laps of that race there was just this feeling that something was going to happen around that 77 truck. And then it did, twice. First after battling John Hunter Nemechek and then the big spin of Erik Jones for the lead. Jones bobbled, no doubt, but I’m not sure that he deserved to be flat out run over like he was. While I admire that Quiroga was driving as hard as he could for a win (shameless plug to Monday’s story), I don’t agree that he said he would have gotten run over from behind he let off the gas. So, foul from me, although it’s refreshing to see a driver with a pedal to the metal attitude when he can see a win in front of him. Quiroga will get a win here before too long.

CO: More power to German for doing what he had to do to get his first win. Unlike some of the Cup drivers that ride second in the sports biggest race, Quiroga was trying to win his first race of his career. Controversy never hurt anyone, it’ll be intersting to see what happens going forward now. But thank you German for having the balls to try and get your first win.

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Roundtable: Dover

The Sprint Cup Series is now halfway to the Chase and there hasn’t been a lack of storylines. The Nationwide Series continues to go back and forth between Cup and Nationwide regular winners. And the Truck Series, there’s some tough luck drivers there right now.

We’ve watched the frenzy over @JimmieJohnson not winning; to rookie @KyleLarsonRacin stand above his class. The complaints of @KyleBusch continue in the lower series, while the championship pictures in both are far from clear.

Dover this past weekend provided much more to talk about as all three series took on the Monster Mile, and our roundtable staff is back to debate some of those topics. As well as look forward to what we might be discussing in the near future.

Following Sunday’s pothole incident, should Dover be repaved in the near future?

Mike Calinoff: The track is racy as-is. It sucked that McMurray hit that piece of concrete, but stuff happens. This wasn’t the first time that a track had issues and it’s likely not the last. I say leave it alone.

Amanda Ebersole: Yes, Dover should be repaved and I am sure @JamieMcMurray will be leading that campaign of change. I understand the fans complaining that it will change racing, etc. but it’s not fair to the competitors and teams to deal with a game changer such as flying concrete.

Matt Weaver: Think back to the last great Dover race … You can’t because one really doesn’t exist, right? I’m typically against repaves but Dover doesn’t exactly have any character beyond single-file and spread out track activity. The drivers I spoke to seemed open to not only repaving Dover … but doing it with asphalt instead of concrete. Wouldn’t that be something? 

Kelly Crandall: I hate seeing racetracks that have character be repaved. So no, I don’t think Dover should be repaved to – most likely – asphalt just for the sake of now having an excuse, but it’s hard to believe that with a hole in the racetrack that something isn’t going to be done.

Unique Hiram: I think repaving of the “Monster Mile” may be inevitable especially after Sunday’s incident. There’s always a concern about tracks losing their integrity or uniqueness after repaving efforts; however, I believe the drivers and teams would adjust to the change. When Kansas Speedway was repaved and reconfigured, some competitors weren’t sure they would like racing at the venue anymore. Fast forward, this speedway has showcased some great racing events since the completion of its repaved surface.

Chris Owens: Only if we’re going to repave it asphalt like several of the drivers have suggested.  The current surface is fine, it just needs some up keep and we won’t run into these problems again.

Sunday was Jimmie Johnson’s 68th career Sprint Cup win, when do we start to entertain the idea that he could get to 100 career wins?

MC: It’s imminent. Let the entertainment begin.

AE: Woah now, 100 career wins will happen but with an average of five wins a year for his 13-year career, it is still a ways off.

MW: I never entertained the notion that @JeffGordonWeb could get there until his most recent victory at Kansas Speedway (career no. 89) and likely won’t make the same observation for Johnson until he reaches that milestone as well. I think there’s something special about win No. 90 because once you get that close to 100, it’s easier to convince yourself to stick around until you get there. As for Johnson, there are still so many variables to consider with the No. 48 team — like keeping them together over the next decade. I’ll believe that only when both halves of the Dynamic Duo have lifetime contracts together.

KC: Immediately! Hell, I’ve been trying to do it for a while and no one has jumped on the bandwagon yet. Not even Jimmie and Chad.

UH: In his 14 years of competing as a full-time Sprint Cup driver and earning six championships, I believe that in a span of one to two years we will be talking about Johnson looking to grab his 100th win. Despite challenging season starts and changes in the racecars, he and his team have always managed to pull out a number of wins season after season.

CO: After the other active driver with 89 wins gets 100. We’re seriously entertaining this idea right now? Just two weeks ago, everybody wanted to write him off because he hadn’t win this year and now he’s got back-to-back wins and we’re going start the conversation of 100 wins? Come on man!

With Kyle Busch having won four of the first five Truck races, will it be a letdown if @Erik_Jones doesn’t contend for the win at Texas and Gateway?

MC: Not to the rest of the field.

AE: No, it won’t be a let down for me personally. I think it is going to be more of an equalizer to see if it is the equipment or the driver that makes that 51 truck so unbeatable.

MW: Erik Jones will be an interesting study case, right? On one hand, he’s driving the same truck that Busch has dominated with this season and is expected to maintain the trend. On the other hand, Jones has never raced on a mile-and-a-half and Friday night will be his first taste. Adjusting to new equipment and setting is the mark of true talent so Friday night is certainly important for the KBM youngster.

KC: Why not? No matter who is behind the wheel of that truck, it’s still the same truck that Busch has dominated with. It’s coming from the same shop, with the same crew and the same crew chief. But Erik knows how to get the job done, so I don’t see it being a problem the next two weeks.

UH: This will be the second season that Erik Jones competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has run in one race this season at Martinsville Speedway. However, in 2013, he managed to capture one win, two top-fives and five top-10s. He has the equipment and potential to make it to victory lane. If he doesn’t make it to the winner’s circle right away, I don’t think that would be a letdown as long as he is giving it his all on track.

CO: I don’t think it will be. Erik’s already had strong runs in that truck already. He’ll contend and run up front, but I’m not going to be surprised if he doesn’t visit victory lane over the next two weeks. I’ll be more surprised if he isn’t a contender come trophy time.

With the lack of story lines in the Nationwide Series what changes would spark interest the series.  

MC: That’s a good question. @ChaseElliott will probably win another five or six races and downgrade the “wow factor” of Bill’s boy making good. Aside from that, another warrant for Mike Harmon’s arrest … never mind.

AE: I am a huge fan of silly season in the Cup Series, I would love to have some good juicy seat swapping going on in the NNS series.

MW: The NASCAR Nationwide Series is in an incredibly tough spot right now and there’s no arguing it. The sanctioning body and its television partners have agreed to consolidate the schedule so that Nationwide is no longer allowed to stray from the Sprint Cup Series with the frequency that it did in days gone by. What the tour needs are things that NASCAR can’t provide under the current business structure — exclusive tracks (many of them less than a mile), exclusive stars and races like Montreal or Mexico City that felt like international All-Star events equal to Sprint Cup Series events in terms of prestige and media attention. Here’s to hoping that the next title sponsor is willing to push for many of these changes in the next several seasons.

KC: Oh so many things but I truly believe that over the next few weeks the variety of racetracks is going to begin to separate the contenders from the pretenders in terms of the championship. Remember, @ReganSmith didn’t make it out of the summer stretch and lost a huge championship lead and the championship because of it.

UH: Chase Elliott winning some more races and closing the points lead between he and his teammate Regan Smith. He is currently sitting in third, 22 behind the leader. Another story line could be @TBayne21 pulling off a win or two since he has been slated to drive full-time in Sprint Cup next year.

CO: STANDALONE RACES! Enough of this Cup lite crap running with the Sprint Cup Series week-in and week-out. Just think, five years ago around this time of the year, we had Nashville, Kentucky, Milwaukee and the likes of standalone races coming up.  If Gateway is a success for the Truck Series next week, take the Nationwide Series there for a doubleheader with the truck next year. Same thing with Memphis. It’s time for the series to have more doubleheaders with the Truck Series and not the Sprint Cup Series.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Roundtable: The Sprint All-Star Race

NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race is one of the most talked about events of the season. This past Saturday night had a few big moments from Josh Wise winning the Sprint Fan Vote to Jamie McMurray shocking the Sprint Cup field with his first All-Star win.

With another week in Charlotte ahead, our roundtable staff took one last look at some of the big moments coming out of the All-Star event this past Saturday night.

First up: Josh Wise was all the talk after winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Were you as shocked as many to see the DogeCoin community get behind Wise and vote him in?

Mike Calinoff: I thought it was ridiculous. Josh Wise is a great guy and I appreciate the effort he and his team put forth to become competitive, but there was no way he should have been included in the All Star race. He’s not an All Star in the Sprint Cup Series and this race was designed to recognize the standouts. That, coupled with the manipulated voting component, left me feeling cheated. Danica should have been the fans choice.

Amanda Ebersole: Pleasantly shocked, yes. As we debated in the 140 BUZZ/Popular Speed office, the fan vote was going to be interesting this year when the top-10 was revealed. I honestly thought it would be Danica Patrick again with the “girl power” side of it. Apparently not being a Reddit user, I did not know the power their social network holds at the click of their finger. (Rule changes coming for 2015!)

Matt Weaver: I’m still standing beside myself — almost to the point that I’ve started to wonder if maybe Josh Wise should be in the GoDaddy car instead of Danica Patrick. After all, if Wise can drum up enough internet support to supplant Patrick in a popularity contest, maybe he could sell more domains than NASCAR’s top starlet. I’m dead serious.

Kelly Crandall: No, no I was not. Right Calinoff? If they can sponsor a car, they can vote him into the All-Star Race and that’s exactly what they did.

Unique Hiram: Yes, I was definitely surprised by the results of the Sprint Fan Vote. Honestly I thought that Danica Patrick was going to be a sure bet to get voted into the race. However, this goes to show how influential social media platforms are in today’s society. The fans made a huge statement and it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Chris Owens: I had a feeling if it wasn’t Danica Patrick, it was going be Josh Wise with the backing of the Reddit. I was listening to the MRN broadcast and when they went to break, one of the producers’ said it was a male driver, so I figured it had to be Wise. I was more shocked that the internet community outvoted Danica nation.

The schedule for this weekend was changed from previous years. With the Sprint Showdown being run on Friday night and qualifying for the All-Star race on Saturday before the race. What did you think of the new schedule? 

MC: I don’t want to seem negative on everything, but to me, there was more intensity associated with racing in at the last minute. By Saturday it was already old news.

AE: I really liked this, it added fans to the stands on Friday prior to the truck race. The only thing I think could have made it better was ALL qualifying on Friday.

MW: I enjoyed having the Sprint Showdown on Friday night. It was an added value for those who came out to watch the Truck Series race and really allowed several new faces like Allmendinger, Wise and Ambrose to shine brightly away from the usual race contenders.

KC: It really felt like All-Star night. From qualifying to driver intros and the drama in the race, it was one of the best in recent memory. Certainly not a classic but there was enough action from the start to finish that kept everyone’s attention. Plus, unlike the last few years, the battle for the lead at the end of the race between Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards put on the finishing touches of the event. And a good guy won, so it was successful night.

UH: I actually enjoyed the change to the schedule and the entire production that was put on at Charlotte Motor Speedway. From the prayer by “Coach” to the drop of the green flag, I think the fans were enthusiastically engaged. The driver introductions by Jake Owens and Rutledge Wood were great; the racing itself was fun to watch, minus the hard wrecks.

CO: It felt like a short track night on Friday night. You got a 40 lap sprint race and then came back on Saturday night and get the main event. From a ticket stand-point, I don’t think it did anything. It was fun to have qualifying finish up and only have twenty minutes until driver intros basically.

It hasn’t been the season that Jamie McMurray wanted, but now he’s got a win in the All-Star race. Will that turn his season around and ultimately get him in the Chase? 

MC: I’m not really sure what the deal is with the No. 1 car. It seems as though they race well and somewhat consistent throughout the race. When it comes down to closing the deal on a good finish, they wind up 18th. However, winning the All Star race is a great confidence-builder for the team and for Jamie as well. I hope things turn around for one of the nicest guys in the garage.

AE: It’s hard to say, the All-Star race is unlike any other race format. My Magic 8 ball says “cannot predict now.”

MW: Jamie Mac’s victory in the All-Star Race was a good sign for the Coca-Cola 600 and establishing confidence but we said similar things about their victory in the fall Talladega race as well. This is an event that has often produced surprised winners and until McMurray proves that he can do it with consistency, I’m not buying stock in the No. 1 team.

KC: It’s certainly not going to hurt but that No. 1 team still has a lot of work to do. For whatever reason Larson and the 42 team have come out strong and haven’t missed a beat, while McMurray is searching for consistency. This could be a big year for him, he’s got the new crew chief who proved his worth on Saturday, now they need to go out and make it happen because who knows if McMurray will be around next year.

UH: His Sprint All-Star win is definitely a confidence and momentum booster. Will this get his season back on track? We will have to wait and see how things unfold. In 11 starts, his two best finishes within the top-10 have been sixth (Fontana) and tenth (Phoenix). There is no disputing that some serious horsepower has been under the hoods of the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolets. However, in comparison to his teammate, Kyle Larson has two top-fives, five top-10s and one pole.

CO: I’m not really sure. That team hasn’t been the same since they one the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the fall Charlotte race in 2010. Larson has run circles around him this year, so maybe this will be the spark he and that team need to get this season turned around.

As it is every year, a topic of discussion was whether the All-Star should be moved from year-to-year. Matt Kenseth believes it should go to facilities that don’t host Sprint Cup races. Do you agree or should it be left alone?

MC: You can make a case for every scenario but, at the end of the day, I think it should remain in Charlotte. I think there is something to be said for having the All Star race in the general vicinity of the Hall of Fame.

AE: Leave it alone!

MW: Iowa, Rockingham and Jeff Gordon’s soon to be built Canadian Motor Speedway — these are the type of venues that could conceivably host the All-Star Race should NASCAR ever decide to rotate it to facilities currently without a Sprint Cup Series date.

Many would love to see the event offered to short tracks in the heart of NASCAR country as well, including Motor Mile, North Wilkesboro or Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Each of the above would make for exciting races and reestablish the event as must-see television — even at the cost of a smaller attendance — because the status quo just isn’t working.

KC: This is NASCAR’s race in NASCAR’s backyard. It’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. It’s an interesting discussion though and certainly entertaining for those who like to create their own fantasy schedules.

UH: This is an interesting suggestion about moving the All-Star race to a different venue. If it were considered in the future, I believe that would add to the unpredictability and excitement of the event. There are pros and cons that would have to be considered. One pro is that it would take the racing back to the feel of an old school, home track. The con would be that it would break up the historic two-week convergence upon Charlotte by the die-hard NASCAR fan base. Logistics and costs would definitely be two huge items that’ll come into play. Although I love tradition and keeping historical value to the sport, I wouldn’t totally be against seeing this change come to fruition.

CO: If we can’t fix the car on the mile and a half tracks, then it’s time to move it to a short track. The racing has been horrible on these big tracks for several years now, so moving it to Bristol or Iowa or a place like that would bring back some excitement that we saw back in 1992 with Kyle Petty and Davey Allison.

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Popular Speed Roundtable: Talladega

Talladega is in the rearview mirror and what a weekend it was. We had several hot topics coming out of the second superspeedway of the season and they were certainly ones that have dominated the conversation.

Now the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to the Midwest, and the first stop of the season at the Kansas Speedway, but first, let’s take a look back at Talladega and discuss some topics amongst our roundtable.

First off, lets start with knockout qualifying.  Now that we’ve seen knockout qualifying on superspeedways in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, what are your thoughts?

Mike Calinoff: I think it’s great that NASCAR has taken a piece of the weekend that usually sucked and converted it into something that has strategy and gamesmanship attached to it. It’s definitely a plus for the fans.

Amanda Ebersole: On the superspeedways, it was a great addition to the standard qualifying of years passed. The hard thing I noticed was for the underdog teams to get in the draft and have an equal lap time to that of the big teams.

Matt Weaver: Like everything else at Talladega, knockout qualifying was unpredictable and produced a surprise pole-winner in Brian Scott. Several contenders, including eventual race winner Denny Hamlin, failed to even make it to the second round with the total package producing both excitement and intrigue. Success.

Kelly Crandall: Knock-out qualifying is highly entertaining and without a doubt was interesting to watch unfold at the plate track this weekend. It’s become almost a game of cat and mouse, or chicken even. But there is going to need to be some tweaks in terms of clock management and when the clock should be stopped. We saw an incident in Cup qualifying where the clock wasn’t stopped and the session expired under caution. As for the drivers, I think they’re going to change things by the time we get to Daytona as well. Some have already started taking notes in how many cars need to be in a pack and when they need to go out. While others are still trying to figure out what they need to do and weren’t happy with how things played out. But from an observer’s standpoint, it’s fun to watch.

Unique Hiram: Qualifying was fun to watch, a little intense and blazing fast.

Chris Owens: I thought it was great. Qualifying on superspeedways in the past was the worst thing possible. Who wants to sit and watch a three-hour borefest? What we saw Saturday was fantastic. No need to change a thing, the gainsmanship we saw was fantastic.

A talked about topic this week has been Brad Keselowski.  He was six laps down when he spun and collected several contenders.  If you’re in Brad’s position, six laps down, do you chance it and race like you’re on the lead lap or do you play it say and ride in the back?

MC: That’s kind of a subjective question. I think that a plate race is the only legitimate scenario to work your way back to the front, take the lead and hope for a caution. It also depends on what got you behind to begin with. If you’ve got aero damage and you don’t stand a chance of being at par with the leaders, I’d say the right thing to do is succumb to your damage and recognize that today is not your day. One other factor that should come into play is the juncture of the race. If you get behind early and you have time to make up laps, then I think it’s all good. But at the end, when guys are racing for valuable points, you’d probably be better served just hanging out for the rest of the day.

AE: To ask any driver to ride in the back is silly, it is against the normal racer’s mentality. That said, if you are SIX laps down, there should be some common courtesy towards those racing on the lead lap. When the show is on the other foot, drivers want to cuss about a lapped car messing their race up but when it is them, it is ok.

MW: At the end of the day, Brad Keselowski had no business racing with the leaders with 40 laps to go. But with a car that was very much competitive, it’s hard to ask that the 2012 champion just ride in the back all day either. Chalk it up to the inherent wackiness of Talladega. With that said, the notion that Brad was a debris caution or two away from contention when he was six laps down was laughable.

KC:  I have no problem with what Keselowski was doing simply because he didn’t start a wreck. Well, he did but not the way that people should be freaking out over. Keselowski simply lost the car, which is not only rare, but happened to Jimmie Johnson later in the race as well. Things just happen. In this case, where would like Keselowski to have gone? How fair is it to say that he just needs to ride around in the back? I would have had a bigger problem if he was six laps down and went up there and was racing overly aggressive and started a wreck because he got into someone’s left rear quarter panel. This was just a freak accident.

UH: In my opinion, I don’t believe that Brad Keselowski should have been racing as if he was on the lead lap. He should have hung out back and attempted to maintain the “Free Pass” position. At least that would have given him the opportunity to gain a few of those laps back without causing mayhem up front on two separate occasions.

CO: I’m all for Brad being up there and racing.; we wouldn’t be talking about this had he gotten loose and spun, now would we?  But the fact that he spun and collected cars makes it a big deal.  I think we should be talking about how he spun in the opening laps had his car slowed down enough that he needed to go back up in traffic to get a caution.  But I digress.

Turning our attention to the Nationwide Series.  Many people have hated the Cup drivers coming down and so called, stealing wins.  This year, things have changed. Following Talladega, the Nationwide Series regulars have four wins where as the Cup guys have five.

Do you like the diversity of the Nationwide Series this year?  Both Cup and Nationwide drivers winning races.

MC: It’s been a great balance so far. The series has needed drivers like Chase Elliott to come over and kick a little ass. I think this is going to be one of the best seasons that NASCAR’s second-tier touring series has in the modern era.

AE: No. Having to use the term diversity because it is 5 Cup and 4 Nationwide winners is annoying. It is the NASCAR Nationwide Series not the NASCAR Sprinationwide Series. I get it, Cup drivers have to be there to sell more tickets, increase sponsorship values, etc. but I would love the day that Nationwide only drivers are winning so much that we don’t have to talk about Cup drivers in a NNS race.

MW: It’s certainly been a nice mix thus far and with three road courses remaining, a driver like Alex Tagliani or Max Papis could add to that diversity.

KC: How can you not? This is one of the years that you never know what is going to happen when the Nationwide Series shows up at the track. The Cup drivers are still going to be there, but with the arrivals of Chase Elliott and JR Motorsports success and now Elliott Sadler getting in on the mix, it’s not a sure thing that the Cup guys are going to dominate and win. Isn’t that what everyone wanted, for the Nationwide guys have a chance to shine? If so, no one should be grumbling right now.

UH: There seems to be a slight balance with the number of winners between the series regulars and Cup drivers. I like that fact that the young drivers are racing the veterans without fear or being too reserved. Chase Elliott would be an excellent example with his performance so far this season.

CO: It’s not the old Nationwide Series from the 90’s or early 2000’s but it’s getting there. For a series that a lot of people thought wasn’t going to make it last year, things are looking up so far this year.  Hopefully that trend continues. Talladega only had two big Cup guys in the field.  Maybe we’re starting to see it return to it’s glory days.

Finally, we’re off to Kansas Speedway for the first night race at the track.  What do you think we’ll see on Saturday night?

MC: All Kenseth, all the time.

AE: My Magic 8 ball is out of service for an exact answer. Let’s just hope the answer is AWESOME RACING!

MW: It’s so hard to predict how Saturday night will play out just because Kansas will be a night race for the first time ever. Events like this are Jimmie Johnson’s bread and butter, meaning we’ll have a good idea where the No. 48 team truly stands come Sunday morning.

KC: I’m trying to go in with an open mind but I still don’t agree with the fact that Kansas got two races – one of which is in the Chase – and now one is going to be a night race. On a freshly paved track. That right there sounds like a bad combination and with how slick the facility has been the last few years, I hope we’re not in for a long night.

UH: One word – unpredictable. Last October, Kansas Speedway saw a record number of cautions with 15 and that was a daytime race. Will the drivers break that record? This could very well be a possibility depending on the track conditions. Slickness and fast speeds will equate to some exciting racing under the lights.

CO:  I’m not one to label a race boring before seeing it, but it’s shaping up to be.  Somebody’s going to hit the setup and check out.  With a fast race car and rock hard tires on a newly paved track, conditions are right for just that.  Hopefully I’m wrong, but it’s not looking good.

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