Five Points to Ponder: Chase Race #3 Edition

_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. Four of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Kansas live blog._

*Five Points to Ponder:*

*ONE: How many teams have a shot at the title after three races?*

The presumed two-horse race for the title seems to have now opened up to at least a handful of drivers after this weekend’s race at Kansas. There are now six men within 100 points of series leader Mark Martin, and eight within 115. At this point in the Chase, I firmly believe the eventual champion is within the top 4 (Martin, Johnson, Montoya, Stewart) and another four drivers who have an outside shot at sneaking into contention. I don’t see any driver from Ryan Newman (ninth) on back having a shot at the Sprint Cup this season. Newman and 10th place Carl Edwards need multiple wins to join the fray, but have yet to win while Kasey Kahne (11th) and Brian Vickers (12th) are simply too far back and have too many drivers in front of them to make up the difference. The number of teams in contention is sure to change from week to week, especially with wild cards like Talladega on the schedule, but for right now, this is an eight-team race for the championship.

*TWO: Should NASCAR have warned Brad Keselowski to not race as hard around Chase contenders?*
*_Fan Vote – YES: 10%; NO: 90%_*

One of the more shocking moments in Sunday’s race, part-time Cup driver Brad Keselowski was warned to not drive as aggressive around the Chasers. I’m sorry, isn’t this racing? Aren’t these 43 drivers trying to win? NASCAR telling a driver to not race some teams as hard as others is one of the more embarrassing things the sanctioning body has ever done. Fans are already upset over the lack of competitive racing and phantom debris cautions; the last thing they want to hear is that they don’t want drivers to race “too hard.” Hell, why don’t we just line up the 12 Chase drivers and let the other 31 teams stay home?

*THREE: Would you like to see the No. 3 back in Sprint Cup?*
*_Fan Vote – YES: 67%: NO: 33%_*

During this week’s blog, the question was posed as to whether Richard Childress Racing would keep the No. 07 even though the sponsor the number’s affiliated with (Jack Daniel’s) was leaving the team. This brought up talk as to whether or not fans would like to see the No. 3 return or not, and it appears the majority would like to see it come back at some point. I, too, would eventually like to see the No. 3 once again, but under the right circumstances, with somebody close to the Richard Childress or Earnhardt family earning the privilege to pilot the legendary number.

There’s nothing like a win to get the fans behind you. After scoring win number four on Sunday, Stewart’s championship stock went up in the eyes of many.

*FOUR: Does Tony Stewart have a shot to win the title?*
*_Fan Vote – YES: 86%: NO: 14%_*

It seems fans have been sleeping on Tony Stewart since the Chase began and with finishes of 14th and 9th to start the playoffs, there were no signs of a championship push. Yet suddenly, with a win this week, one of the best drivers over the first 26 races is just 67 points out of the series lead. Stewart has the talent, the team, and the experience to bring home the Sprint Cup this season, joining the trio of Johnson, Martin, and Montoya as a favorite to win it all. I don’t see any reason why Stewart can’t win the championship.

*FIVE: What grade would you give Sunday’s race?*
*_Fan Vote – A: 14%; B: 29%; C: 43%; D: 14%; F: 0%_*

As we do on a weekly basis at the Frontstretch blog, fans were asked to vote for which grade they would give the weekend’s race. This week, the results were all across the board. The race had a few early cautions, some long green flag runs through the middle portion, but some great battles in the closing laps. All in all, I’d have to grade the race a “C” simply because it lacked the “wow” factor. Nothing really set it apart it from any other race this season, and it was really nothing more than average.

*Notes to Ponder:*

*Junior’s rough day:* This was supposed to be another chance for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to build some momentum, but a front row start resulted in nothing more than a 36th place finish after mechanical problems.

*Logano’s rebound:* How great was it to see Joey Logano bounce back from his Dover roll last week with a win in the Nationwide race Saturday.

*Piquet’s move:* Nelson Piquet, Jr., better known from F-1’s recent crashgate scandal, will be testing for Red Horse Racing this week. Are these F-1 drivers coming to NASCAR a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure yet.

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