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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Sylvania 300 at Loudon 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. Three of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the New Hampshire live blog.

ONE: Can a winless driver (Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Greg 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.

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

This was polled after S.D. Grady reported for 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 Mark 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 Martin now the favorite for the title?
Fan Vote – YES: 33%; NO: 0%; Too Early to Tell: 67%

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 Martin and sleeper 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.
  • Kasey 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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