Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Some Questions Post-Talladega and Pre-Kansas

With the Aarons 312 and 499 weekend at Talladega wrapped up NASCAR shuffles to Kansas for the Trucks and Cup cars.   In this interregnum between the Winston 500 and the Kansas 400, some questions worth asking -


Is the season now seeing disincentive to win? - Dale Junior's acknowledgement after the Winston 500 that the reward of going for the win was not worth the risk has several angles - one of which was his 2012 crash where he suffered a concussion as well as "I've been in too many late-race wrecks"; he also noted "We already got a win." 

The striking number of winners so far this season may continue this weekend, but overlooked has been that we're starting to see the disincentive to win that Brian France's Chase-oriented points seeding was bound to produce.   The emphasis on winning has received the publicity, and overlooked has been that this emphasis is solely in the context of the Chase.  

It is impossible to see a scenario where in a non-Chase points format a greater emphasis on winning would not see Junior or anyone else race harder.   Incentive to win doesn't grow when the true emphasis remains on a notional playoff lock.

Will Ford and Toyota start surging to legitimately challenge Chevrolet? - We can legitimately claim yes here.   Before the Talladega race Ford had won four of the previous seven races and Joe Gibbs' Toyota won at Fontana before Hamlin's Talladega triumph.   The Chevy program has started to look overrated between Hendrick Motorsports struggles, decidely poor showings for RCR, and the up-and-down showings of Stewart-Haas Racing.  

It would appear Joey Logano and the JGR Toyotas are the ones to topple Chevrolet going forward - a Toyota darkhorse, though, may be the tandem of Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer, who've quietly put up respectable runs, enough that Bowyer, crew chief Brian Pattie, and their sponsor re-upped with Michael Waltrip for three additional seasons past 2014.

Speaking of Logano, what's up with Brad Keselowski? - Joey Logano has clearly usurped Keselowski as Penske Racing's top dog and the way Keselowski raced everyone at Talladega - it was Ernie Irvan-esque - combined with the collapse of his season after winning Vegas (just one finish higher than 14th in the last seven races) one has to wonder if it is getting to him.   He's generally run well at Kansas, and if he can get back into contention for the season he needs to strike at Kansas.

Has the rookie race realistically been decided already? - Kyle Larson keeps making the case that it has.   It's obvious Austin Dillon is missing something as a racer and it's also obvious Larson is better than a lot of us thought he was.  

What drivers who went to different teams may be on the chopping block down the road? - The one that comes to mind for me is Ryan Newman at RCR.   He's managed four top tens so far but has shown little in the way of muscle doing so, and bailing out on the lead draft at Talladega and then crashing into Carl Edwards late in the race showed a cowardice in his racing that nobody should be happy with.

So it goes as the sport enters Kansas.

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