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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Edition

Each week, 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. Each of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Pennsylvania 500 live blog.

ONE: Should Iowa Speedway get a Cup Series date?
Fan Vote – YES: 88%; NO: 12%

Iowa Speedway was a relative unknown to NASCAR fans before this weekend, most of whom only associated with the track because of its designer and part-owner Rusty Wallace. But the three-year-old .875-mile oval that has hosted IndyCar races since its inception stood front and center Saturday afternoon and put on one of the better Nationwide Series races this season in front of a packed house. It was a pleasant surprise for NASCAR fans sick and tired of single-file racing at cookie-cutter tracks, and now has those same fans talking about their desire for a Cup Series date in the near future. I’ll agree the track passed its first test with flying colors, and still has yet another chance Sept. 5 to wow fans with the Truck Series. I say leave those two series there for another couple of years, but if the racing continues to impress, and fans keep showing up, throw it on the Cup schedule.

TWO: Should Pocono have two Cup Series dates?
Fan Vote – YES: 36%; NO: 64%

One of the few tracks not owned by SMI or ISC, the Pocono Speedway has hosted NASCAR races since the 1970s and has had its share of wild races and stinkers. It’s no different than any other track in that regard, but the fact that it’s relatively a single-groove track and has its two races just two months apart has had fans calling for a date to be cut. The June race was an absolute clunker… but Monday’s race was pretty darn exciting. It’s easy to forget every track two miles or larger (other than the superspeedways) have their boring moments, especially on long green-flag runs, but they also have the potential for great racing – like what we just saw on Monday. That, and the fact that the triangular layout is a different type of configuration that provides a challenge to both drivers and crew chiefs, I say keep two dates… although I will agree the races should be shortened.

THREE: Who should have gotten the five-lap penalty between Robby Gordon and David Stremme?
Fan Vote – Robby Gordon: 0%; David Stremme: 57%; Both: 29%; Neither 14%

One of the more intriguing moments of Monday’s race was the multiple run-ins between backmarkers Stremme and Gordon. Gordon had been having one of the few good runs we see out of the No. 7 team each season before Stremme put him in the wall. Gordon radioed into his team that he was going out for revenge, but when he roughed up Stremme upon his return to the track, Stremme responded by dumping the No. 7 car once again. This triggered a five-lap penalty for both drivers and an interesting discussion over on the live blog. Everybody seemed to agree that Gordon was not at fault (although NASCAR later said Gordon hit Stremme under caution, something ESPN didn’t catch) and that he should not have been black-flagged. I think Stremme should have gotten a more severe penalty than Gordon, but the fact that Gordon threatened retaliation and later made contact with the driver he threatened means he should have had some sort of penalty.

FOUR: Will Kyle Busch make the Chase?
Fan Vote – YES: 67%; NO: 33%

I’ve been on the record in the past few weeks that Busch will indeed make the Chase this season, but he’s not really helping me out. The No. 18 team as a whole just appears to be in a funk right now, and time’s running out. While I’m not going to completely back off my prediction, I will say that Busch – now 101 points behind the Chase cutoff – must post a top five next week at Watkins Glen, or hope for bad luck from Matt Kenseth or Greg Biffle to have a chance at the top 12 before the cutoff.

FIVE: What grade would you give Monday’s race?
Fan Vote – A: 17%; B: 33%; C: 17%; D: 17%; F: 17%

This poll was thrown out there at the end of the blog after several people had logged off, so the answers may not be an accurate representation of what the viewers thought… but it does bring up an interesting point. While I don’t see how you could give the race an “F” – or a “D” for that matter – fans weren’t really sure whether it was a great race for an average race. Perhaps previous snoozefests at Pocono may have skewed the results a bit, but I’d say the race deserved a solid “B.” The final 40 laps were just as exciting as any we’ve seen all year, there was the confrontation between Gordon and Stremme, and there was a late-race battle for the lead. Still, some boring moments and a couple of controversial cautions dropped it from a potential “A.”

Five Notes to Ponder

  • Emotional win for Hamlin: Denny Hamlin has had the bad luck monkey on his back for quite some time, but he picked the perfect week to return to victory lane, picking up an emotional win for his family after his grandmother passed away.
  • Kudos to Juan Pablo Montoya…: …Not just for a second place finish, but for calling out the pit reporter who tried to start controversy between he and Kasey Kahne in his post-race interview..
  • Tight ARCA battle: With his win this weekend, Justin Lofton took over the points lead from 18-year-old Parker Kligerman by a mere five points with eight races remaining.
  • Lagasse’s last race: In his last race with the No. 11 team, Scott Lagasse Jr. posted a solid top-10 finish, finishing ninth. He ranks 12th in points with four top 10s in 21 starts.
  • Hornaday domination continues: Ron Hornaday continues to dominate the under-funded Truck Series teams, picking up consecutive win No. 5 to extend his championship lead to 216 points.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE

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