NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 NASCAR Banking 500 at Charlotte 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. Four of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Lowe’s live blog.

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

If you ask some NASCAR fans, the short answer to this question is simple – one. Jimmie Johnson’s “perfect” weekend allowed him to open up a 90-point lead over Mark Martin and 135 points over Jeff Gordon in third. Without a doubt, it’s Johnson’s Chase to lose, but I believe that any driver within 200 points before Talladega has at least a slim chance based on the track’s wild-card status. As of now, that takes six cars out of the championship picture as Martinsville – another pro-Johnson track – approaches on the calendar. I, like many others, think Johnson will be pretty tough to beat (see Point #2), but until he survives Talladega I’d hesitate to award him the Cup right now.

TWO: Will Jimmie Johnson win the championship?

Fan Vote – YES: 71%; NO: 29%

As impressive as four championships in a row will be, here’s an even scarier thought – IF Johnson wins the title this season, he’ll be the favorite for FIVE consecutive championships next season. Sure I’m getting way ahead of myself, but just the mere thought of it happening is a testament to just how dominating the No. 48 team has been. By the way, you can put me down in the 71 percentile that thinks Johnson will indeed make it number four this season. The only hope the rest of the field has is for Johnson to succumb to a mechanical failure and/or crash at Talladega, but if he continues his torrid pace, this championship is indeed his.

THREE: Does Juan Pablo Montoya’s poor finish eliminate him from the championship picture?

Fan Vote – YES: 50%: NO: 50%

The third man in what seemed to be a three-man race for the championship, Montoya finished a dismal 35th after contact on a restart and is now 195 points out of the series lead. The Cinderella story of the Chase thus far, it’ll be difficult for Montoya to reel in Johnson without a lot of luck. He’s still winless on the season and will need the No. 48 team to stumble to have any chance at catching up – something that’s very unlikely. You’d hate to eliminate Montoya after five races – especially when he’s run well in four of them – but if he doesn’t outscore Johnson next week at Martinsville, he’s done.

FOUR: Do you agree with the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class?

Fan Vote – YES: 30%: NO: 70%

The inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class was announced this week, but it seems a number of fans were unhappy with the selection. The consensus was that Bill France Sr., Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty were the top-three candidates, but the final two candidates were often debated between Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson, David Pearson and several others. In the end, I had France Jr. and Pearson making the final cut. France Jr. helped make the sport what it is today, and Pearson went to toe-to-toe with Petty, becoming one of the most successful drivers in history. If I have one problem with the first class, it’s that I think Pearson should be in over Johnson – that’s it.

FIVE: Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. turn around and make the Chase in 2010?

Fan Vote – YES: 25%; NO: 75%

If there is one driver wishing the 2009 season ended this weekend, it’s Earnhardt Jr. The victim of bad performance and bad luck when he’s actually running strong, Junior would do anything to start off with a clean slate right now. But with crew chief changes looming and an apparent lack of confidence between the ears of the pilot of the No. 88, I find it hard to believe that Junior can make the Chase next season. With the apparent drop off between the No. 88 and the rest of the Hendrick entries, do you really think he can close the gap that quickly in 2010?

Notes to Ponder

  • Cassill gets a ride: Once a promising prospect for Hendrick Motorsports, Landon Cassill will be piloting the No. 1 for Phoenix Racing at Memphis Motorsports Park.
  • Roush Fenway leaving: The team with 50 victories in the Truck Series will be departing in 2010, leaving the series on even more precarious ground.
  • Kahne’s surprising success: Coming into the Chase, the general population of NASCAR fans predicted Kasey Kahne would be the least successful Chase driver with all of the internal changes happening at Richard Petty Motorsports. But he’s surprised with three top 10s in five races.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE

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