The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Two For One, Adding the Boot, Flukes and Wild Cards by Mike Lovecchio -- Thursday June 16, 2011

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ONE: Should NASCAR consider running twin races on the same day?

In one word: YES. I have been an advocate of shortening races for a while now (with the exception of the obvious Coca-Cola 600, Daytona 500, Southern 500), but a race format somewhat similar to what we saw last week with the IndyCar Series is an interesting alternative. Two races, half the distance of what a current race is nowadays, with a 30-minute break in between. Qualify on Friday like teams are used to and set the field for the second race via finishing order of the first race (no need to do a random exhibition race-like drawing for second race starting positions). If you crash out or break in the first race, you can wheel out a back-up car for the second race and start in the back. Each race awards half points.

As Matt McLaughlin outlined in his column yesterday about running two races on the same day at Pocono, this system is beneficial in multiple ways. Fans that come to see their favorite drivers race have the opportunity to see them in not one, but two races. If they crash or break in race one, they can still watch them in race two. Sponsors have twice the opportunity to see their cars in victory lane, twice the opportunity to lead laps, etc. etc. And most importantly, fans who pay to come out to the track get to see two races for the price of one.

It’s a concept that I think will one day grace the sport we all love. NASCAR has already taken a page out of the IndyCar book with split-screen TV commercials and could test the waters with twin races as well. They can start it off in the Truck Series and work out the kinks and gauge fan interest all at the same time. NASCAR then can slowly phase it in to the Nationwide Series, and ultimately in select Sprint Cup races.

Tony Stewart is not the only big-name in Cup racing advocating a change to the course configuration at Watkins Glen International.

TWO: Should NASCAR run the long-course at Watkins Glen?

One of the more notable comments to come out of the Lewis Hamilton/Tony Stewart seat swap was Stewart’s insistence that NASCAR run the longer Watkins Glen configuration that you most notably see in the first GRAND-AM event at the historic road course, and includes the “boot.” In fact, Stewart is not the first Sprint Cup driver to make such a statement, as Jimmie Johnson said much of the same after running said GRAND-AM race one year ago. What’s interesting is that these are two of the sport’s most visible drivers and when they speak, NASCAR can’t help but listen. It will be interesting to see if the longer course is incorporated as soon as next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this when the Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen later this year.

THREE: Is the Penske resurgence a fluke?|

It’s to be an interesting year for Penske Racing, as the team’s top car driven by Kurt Busch followed up four consecutive top 10s and a points lead to start the season with a best finish of 10th over the next seven races and a drop to nnth in points. Since then, Busch has suddenly tallied three more top 10s and two top 5s, including a second-place run at Pocono. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski has just two top 10s on the season (third-Darlington; first-Kansas). Keselowski’s win two races ago was via fuel mileage, but in year of the wildcard, one win puts him in contention for a Chase berth.

It’s been a resurgence over the past three weeks for the team, but it’s one that likely won’t stand. The Dodge program hasn’t been impressive this season and Penske Racing’s streaky year is too unpredictable to make them a contender. Both cars could make the Chase, but at this point of the season, neither really looks like a championship threat.

FOUR: Who will win the wild cards this season?

This is all predicated on who makes the top 10, but if the standings were to remain in the same order they are now I’d say the wild cards would go to Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Gordon’s two essentially make him a lock at this point, and with Hamlin slowly turning his season around and flirting with the top 10, even one win could get him in. Other contenders could be: Greg Biffle, in large part due to Roush’s success this season, and Juan Montoya, because of his success at the road courses. The aforementioned Keselowski is in good position now with one win, but his lack of points make a second almost a necessity to get him in.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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06/17/2011 11:28 AM

If the standings remain in the same order, the wild card slots would indeed go to Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Not really going out on much of a limb, there… reminds me of an old Allen Bestwick line: “track position is very important at the end of a race.”

Just Talking
06/17/2011 01:59 PM

Your first point has another advantage – much more fun for viewers at home – easier attention span – two races instead of trying to get through 4 hours especially when your car is in the garage – one more thing – how about heats? would love to see heats – but given sponsor money and all maybe yours is a better option

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