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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

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 Martinsville live blog.

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

With yet another top-five finish in the Chase, Jimmie Johnson has opened a healthy 118-point lead over teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon this weekend. His unbelievable consistency has now awarded him a gimme, which could be used in the Chase’s wild card race next weekend at Talladega. IF Johnson can survive the madness next Sunday, I would say it’s pretty safe to start etching his name on the Sprint Cup. But because he does have to survive the wild card next week and there are two drivers within 150 points, I’ll go ahead and say that Martin (118 points back) and Gordon (150 back) are the only two guys who have a realistic shot at slaying the giant if he indeed slips up.

TWO: Is starting-and-parking bad for the sport of NASCAR?

Fan Vote – YES: 80%; NO: 20%

Brought up as this week’s field of start and parkers started falling by the wayside, fans and Frontstretch panelists involved in the Frontstretch live blog voted that the recent epidemic of start-and-parkers is indeed bad for the sport. The question is, what hurts the credibility of the sport more: not having full fields, or having cars start-and-park to collect a few dollars? Both are signs of a troubling economy, but if I had to pick my poison I’d much rather see a field of 35 or so cars actually competing. Will NASCAR ever address the issue? Not in the near future; but for its sake, they better hope the number of start-and-parkers does not get out of hand and dip into double digits next season.

THREE: Which short track do you most enjoy watching?

Fan Vote – Richmond: 33%: Martinsville: 0%; Bristol: 67%

In the midst of a fairly entertaining 500-lapper at the paper clip in Martinsville, fans were asked what their favorite short track was. Surprisingly, Martinsville didn’t get any votes, with Bristol topping Richmond 67% to 33%. Again, I have to agree with the fans. Martinsville has on occasion the tightest racing and Richmond is one of the more unique tracks on the circuit, but the high banks and blistering lap times at Bristol make it one of the more exciting short tacks in the country. You certainly can’t go wrong with any of the three, and I wish we had more tracks shorter than one mile of length on the schedule.

FOUR: Should Martinsville get two dates in 2011?

Fan Vote – YES: 75%: NO: 25%

Adding to my claim above about wishing there were more short tracks on the schedule, I think it would be a travesty for Martinsville to lose a date when the 2011 calendar is released next season. NASCAR lost a number of fans when North Wilkesboro was taken off the schedule, again when Rockingham lost its dates, and once again when Darlington lost a date. Taking a Martinsville race off the calendar would be the tipping point for another wave of NASCAR purists, but the fate of the half-mile may rest in the wallets of those Virginians who pay to go to the races. If you put butts in the seats, there is no way NASCAR would ever take Martinsville off the schedule; however, I saw too many openings on Sunday for my liking.

FIVE: Should NASCAR do more to police pit-road speeds?

Fan Vote – YES: 25%; NO: 75%

In the mid-part of Sunday’s race, Chase contender Juan Pablo Montoya claimed the points leader was speeding on pit road. It sparked an interesting conversation in both the ABC booth and the Frontstretch blog. With the way NASCAR currently detects pit-road speed limits, there are small areas where drivers can push the limit and make up critical ground getting on and off pit road, and Johnson appeared to be doing just that – speeding in between the timing lines before slowing down to the limit. Is it just me, or does it seem like there should be enough technology to track each car’s speed from line to line on pit road? NASCAR fans tend to be conspiracy theorists, and it’s “gray area” rules like this that spark controversy. Remember, this isn’t the first time the pit-road speed limit has been brought up this year….

Notes to Ponder

  • Tagliani in Texas: Open-wheeler Alex Tagliani will make his first start at Texas in a Nationwide car later this season. He’ll be back in the same No. 81 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge that he drove to a 26th-place finish in Montreal.
  • Virginia homecomings: Virginia natives Timothy Peters and Denny Hamlin both won at their home track this weekend at Martinsville.
  • McMurray’s audition?: Quick question: who was the highest running Roush Fenway car this weekend? Surprisingly, it was Jamie McMurray (sixth) whose name has been rumored for the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi ride over the last few weeks.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE