The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Sylvania 300 Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday September 21, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Sylvania 300 Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday September 21, 2009


Each week, the Frontstretch hosts a live blog during the Sprint Cup race. It’s a great way for readers to interact alongside their favorite Frontstretch writers with videos, live commentary, and live polls. Three of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the New Hampshire live blog.

Five Points to Ponder:

ONE: Can a winless driver (Montoya, Edwards, Newman, Biffle) win the championship?
Fan Vote — YES: 57%; NO: 43%

One of the criticisms of the current points format is that there is not enough emphasis put on victories, allowing four winless drivers to cruise into the Chase while multiple race winners are left on the outside looking in. Putting opinions of the system aside, I polled fans during the live blog on whether or not one of those winless drivers could capture the championship. I wrote last week that it was certainly possible, but it will take wins in the Chase playoff to do it; this week, it seems the majority of fans agreed. Edwards, Newman and Biffle didn’t help their cause this weekend, but Montoya showed that just because he was winless through the first 26 races, that doesn’t mean he can’t win in the final 10. Do I think one of the one of those four drivers will win the championship? No. But it’s not impossible.

Juan Pablo Montoya flexed his muscle this weekend and showed that his first win of the season might not be far away. But can a winless driver end up victorious in the Chase?

TWO: Do you think NASCAR strategically throws debris cautions?
Fan Vote – YES: 75%: NO: 25%

This was polled after S.D. Grady reported for The Frontstretch from the track that Kevin Harvick radioed that he was upset with how debris cautions always seemed to fly a handful of laps before green flag pit stops. It appears a large majority of NASCAR fans agree… and that’s a shame. We saw in the final stage of the race the role strategy can have with green flag pit stops and that although the field may spread out, the added storyline can make the race more compelling. After all, wasn’t it exciting waiting on the edge of your seat to see if Martin was going to get caught in the pits when he was forced to short pit? NASCAR let the sequence play out, and the No. 5 team was able to hold on for the victory. Debris cautions have become a part of the sport, but when they affect the outcome of a race, that’s when I have a problem.

THREE: Is Mark Martin now the favorite for the title?
Fan Vote – YES: 33%; NO: 0%; Too Early to Tell: 67%

Mark Martin made a statement in New Hampshire when he backed up his series-high win total in the regular season with a win to start the Chase. He’s become one of the threats to break Jimmie Johnson’s consecutive championship streak, and in my eyes has indeed become the favorite for the title. Sure, we’re only one race into the Chase, but the wily veteran has all of the talent, equipment, and intangibles to win and might even actually have luck on his side for once. I don’t know what the betting line is at right now, but I would almost guarantee that after Sunday, Martin is the new favorite.

FOUR: Is Montoya’s aggressiveness going to cost him a shot at the title?

It looked like all of that aggression Montoya had bottled up as he tried a more conservative approach to making the Chase was unleashed on the competition Sunday. Montoya was often seen making high-risk, high-reward passes and roughing up the competition, upsetting some of his fellow drivers along the way. It may have worked out this weekend, but one DNF will put you in a deep hole… and it appeared that Montoya was towing the line between simply being aggressive and putting himself at risk of an accident. If Montoya wants a shot at winning this championship, he’s going to have to find a happy medium between the two.

FIVE: A great way to start the Chase

Was there a better way to start the 10-race Chase playoff? Half of the Chase field was in the top 10 most of the race, and there was a better than average amount of passing for position between them. There may have been long green flag runs, but like Atlanta a few weeks ago, it didn’t seem to take away from the racing whatsoever. The down to the wire battle between fan favorite Mark Martin and sleeper Juan Montoya added to the intrigue of the race. I’d grade it out as an A- to B+.

Notes to Ponder:

Junior’s bad break: A top 10 run for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was eliminated when David Reutimann sent the No. 88 into the wall in the final stages of Sunday’s race. It was par for the course for a depleted team, but it was good seeing them run competitively. You couldn’t blame Junior for being upset afterwards, but Reutimann is a solid driver that didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus.

Kahne done? With all of the changes going on at RPM, many believed the distractions would loom too large for the No. 9 team to overcome. An early DNF in Race No. 1 may have already done the team in when it comes to having a chance at a championship.

Modifieds: How great was it seeing the WHELEN Modifieds live on SPEED this weekend? One of the more exciting races I’ve seen all year.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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Mike In NH
09/21/2009 09:33 AM

What is sad is that TV is mostly responsible for the “mystery debris” conspiracy theory. The other part of the blame is NASCAR allowing cars on the track that are held together (sort of) with Bear Bond & tape. The 82 was dragging on the ground and you could hear it, and he was the one most likely responsible for the debris (which did exist, having been there to see it) that brought out 23-to-go caution. All TV needs to do is show the debris for a few seconds on TV. Is it THAT hard?

Modified racing is awesome. I like it better some of the other circuits that NASCAR has deemed major. Sad it has never caught on nationally.

09/21/2009 09:56 AM

After Bristol last month, and again after NH Saturday, I sent comments to SPEED requesting more Modified races. It’s just great racing all the time. It’s a shame (IMO) that Wall Township Speedway is gone, but more televised modified races wouldn’t be a bad thing.

09/21/2009 10:29 AM

Looks like HMS finally allowed JR to have a car that could run at the front. I don’t remember anytime this year that the 88 had a car that was the fastest car on the track and it was the fastest numerous times on Sun. Now, is this one of Lance’s super cars that Jr will have to run with next year, or did Rick give them one of Jeff, Jimmy, or Mark’s back-up car with different decals to run this week? Whatever, I have not heard Jr so happy with a car as he was yesterday and I have been listening to his scanner for the past 4 years. Whatever, I hope this is the first, of a long line of great cars for him to drive. Oh, Jr had some interesting comments about the debris that wasn’t there. There is really something wrong when the drivers can predict when they are going to happen and joke about on their radios.

Kevin in NYC
09/21/2009 10:37 AM

“and it appeared that Montoya was towing the line between simply being aggressive and putting himself at risk of an accident.”

I woke up grumpy this morning, so I apologize. Doesn’t help that RPM’s engine shop threw Kasey under the bus already.

It’s “toe the line,” not “tow the line.” Moreover, that makes no sense here; to toe the line means to conform to a rule. How about, “Montoya was walking a fine line between simply being aggressive and putting himself at risk of an accident.”

09/21/2009 11:02 AM

By the way Mike, don’t have a pity party for Reutimann, Jr isn’t the first driver he has dumped this year. Go back and count.

09/21/2009 11:02 AM

Gee, for anyone to thing something was amiss at RPM would be stretching it, don’t you think? I mean come on. Kahne has not had a blown engine all year, until now. Twice he has called out the “Head Honchos” during “Live Interviews”. The engine guys are the first ones to receive blame, they are out the door. Thing is, IMO I believe they are Kahne’s biggest fans! Kahne hasn’t had the best equipment out there, that’s common knowledge but look where he sat before Sunday’s race. The way I look at it Kahne needs to find a team that is stable not one that is constantly changing.

Kevin in SoCal
09/21/2009 01:22 PM

Mike L., regarding point #5, you better go talk to Eeyore over at the “Thinking Out Loud” column, because obviously Matt watched a different race than you and I did. I thought it was a B+ race too.

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