The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Thoughts to Trevor, Denny's Drama & NASCAR Momentum by Mike Lovecchio -- Thursday April 28, 2011

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What’s wrong with Trevor Bayne?

It had been almost comical when a series of bad luck, capped off with an insect bite that sent him to the hospital earlier this month, plagued Trevor Bayne following his surprising Daytona 500 win. It almost seemed as if he used up a year’s worth of luck in the season-opening race. But suddenly those snickers have taken a completely different tone this week. In a statement released yesterday, Roush Fenway Racing announced Bayne would not be available to drive the No. 16 in the Nationwide Series this weekend at Richmond; the driver has been re-hospitalized and is undergoing tests for what are thought to be symptoms related to that earlier insect bite. Bayne was in the thick of the Nationwide championship hunt, sitting fifth, just four points out of the lead.

What is most intriguing about the shocking announcement – aside from the symptoms coming from a bite that happened weeks ago – is how vague the Roush Fenway release was, and just how serious this must be if it’s worthy of possibly eliminating Bayne from the championship hunt. Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark had this to say about Bayne:

Trevor was not feeling well early this week and he is currently being evaluated for lingering symptoms that may be related to his previous insect bite…Obviously Trevor wanted to be in Richmond and he’s upset about not being able to compete. However, his health is our top priority and we insisted that he have these tests to get to the bottom of his symptoms. We will work to provide you with further updates as they become available.

As of now that’s all we have to go off, but fans are fearing this could be a serious issue similar to the blood clots that sidelined Brian Vickers one year ago. While it may not by a life or death issue as the one Vickers was subjected to last season, there are numerous diseases that can come from insect bites, many of which could impair a person to the point he would not be able to drive a race car. We’ll have to wait and hear the reports as they come out, but we can only hope that Bayne will be back in a Nationwide car sooner rather than later. Chris Buescher will pilot the No. 16 at Richmond.

Is this the week Denny Hamlin gets back on track?

Denny Hamlin has had no shortage of success on the track he calls his home track, a trend that has to continue for the No. 11 team if it seeks to put the season back on track.

This was supposed to be the year Denny Hamlin went toe-to-toe with Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup title. He was coming off of a career season and was one of three talented drivers on what had quickly been becoming possibly the strongest team in the garage. But as is often the case in NASCAR, things don’t always work out as planned; after eight races he has just one top 10 finish. There were even whispers this week (although they were ultimately denied) that there could be a crew chief swap. Hamlin and the No. 11 team are in need of a cure to their ills this season and that could quite possibly come this weekend.

Since his first race at Richmond in 2006, Hamlin has had at least one top 3 finish at the short track every season, including a win in this very event each of the past two seasons. Simply put, few are better at short tracks and, in particular, Richmond. All he needs this weekend is a shot in the arm. That could come in the form a win, but even a solid season-first top 5 finish could be enough to propel the No. 11 team going forward.

Will we eventually see the crew chief swap between the No. 11 and No. 20 teams?

The media was expecting a crew chief change all week that would send Mike Ford – crew chief of Denny Hamlin – to the No. 20 and Joey Logano in exchange for Greg Zippadelli. In the end, it was rebuffed by a Joe Gibbs Racing spokesman. But don’t think the rumors will end there. This may purely be a move because Hamlin has a chance to get his season back on track this weekend at Richmond. If both teams struggle again at Richmond, don’t be surprised to see a swap come around All-Star weekend. What better time to make a swap than at an exhibition race one week before a points race at the same track? It may never happen, but these rumors didn’t come out of nowhere. Don’t expect them not to resurface again this season.

Can NASCAR continue its momentum coming out of Talladega and Nashville?

We debate in most of our column seemingly week-in and week-out about the quality of racing the previous weekend. More often than not over the years fans have been more than disappointed by recent on-track action, or lack there of. But after a historic finish at Talladega and an above-average Nationwide race at Nashville last weekend, could this be the weekend the sport starts to gain momentum? Richmond is traditionally an exciting short track race, and from there we have Darlington (rarely a stinker), Dover and then the All-Star festivities at Charlotte. These will be crucial weeks for the sport to keep fans entertained as basketball and hockey move deep into the playoffs.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
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mkrcr
04/29/2011 01:30 PM
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Everyone wants to talk about the “historic finish” at Talladega. IMO, that finish doesn’t make up for the other 498 laps of absolute pathetic boredom. NA$CAR should market a contest for fill in drivers to run the first 3/4 of the race. That way the so called star drivers will be well rested when it’s time for them to actually race.
If NA$CAR really wants momentum quit with the dumbass off weekends early in the season.
If Hamlin wants success, he should continue in the Late Models.

Carl D.
04/29/2011 04:00 PM
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mkrcr…

Apparently “Historic” doesn’t mean great or exciting. It just means it will go down in history, like the movie “Heaven’s Gate”, or the sinking of the Titanic.

Bobby O
04/30/2011 11:39 PM
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OK, sorry, but what kind of insect please?

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