_This week on “Four Burning Questions,” I will be filling in for Mike Lovecchio, but Mike should be back next week. Going into the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway, we cover the “Four Burning Questions” that fans will be asking themselves going into this race. After the frantic last couple of weeks of road course and restrictor plate racing, we go to the Bluegrass State for a taste a different type of horse-power than the state of Kentucky is accustomed to._
*Can David Ragan continue his momentum from his Daytona win into a possible spot in the Chase?*
There can be no denying that David Ragan’s win at Daytona last week was not only long-overdue, but it just might have been the shot in the arm Ragan needs to possibly get a wild-card spot. But the big question is can Ragan stay consistent enough to stay in contention for the Chase? The jury is still out on that as whenever Ragan has had a swing of momentum in the past, and even this season, it seems to be neutralized by on-track incidents out of his control.
For Ragan to be considered a serious Chase threat, he must start showing the consistency that has been lacking from his season thus far. Sure, he has a win to fall back on at the moment, but if he can’t keep the momentum together, it’s going to be as worthless as cubic zirconia. It’s crunch time for Ragan, and time for him to put up or shut up. The next ten races or so will be the tell-tale sign of how Ragan’s season will go. If he can keep the consistency together, the Chase will be in his grasp and he likely will save his job. If not, the buzzards of uncertainty will once again circle Ragan.
*Is Joey Logano really a shoe-in to be a favorite at Kentucky?*
One cannot deny that Joey Logano’s NASCAR stock has certainly gone up in the past couple of weeks, with a 6th place finish at Infinion and a 3rd at Daytona. Now he comes to a track that has been very good to him in the Nationwide Series with three wins at the facility. So on paper, it certainly seems as if Logano is a heavy favorite to win the first Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky, right?
As a certain ESPN college football analyst would say “Not so fast, my friends!” Sure, it seems easy to pencil in Logano as an overwhelming favorite. But by doing so, this discounts several Sprint Cup Series drivers who have equally excellent track records at similar tracks to Kentucky. Drivers such as Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, along with several others, may have something to say about Logano being the potential favorite. Plus, until recent weeks, Logano’s on-track performance has been spotty at best with several mechanical failures. It looks as if those woes may be in the past, at least for the time being. Is it wise to put Logano down as a favorite to win? It’s hard to argue with his track record at Kentucky, but his inconsistency this season makes it far from a safe bet.
*Is it time for Carl Edwards to start panicking?*
Make no mistake, Carl Edwards has had a fantastic, consistent season for the most part. All of this while in the final year of his deal with Roush Fenway Racing. But in two of the last three races, Edwards has finished outside of the top 35. This recent string of poor finishes has knocked Edwards back to second in the points behind Kevin Harvick. First, it was engine issues at Pocono. Then, it was carbon monoxide poisoning at Daytona after fumes got inside of his car. So the question is will Edwards and company take a cue from Chicken Little and say “The sky is falling?”
To be perfectly honest, there isn’t too much at the moment to justify going into panic mode. Granted, two poor finishes in the last three races is certainly cause for concern, but with the season Edwards has been having, he was due to have some misfortune along the way. At Kentucky, Edwards is one of the few Sprint Cup drivers that has significant track time and a trip to the Bluegrass State could be just what the doctor ordered to cure the recent ails of Carl Edwards.
*Will the drivers who have raced at Kentucky in the Nationwide Series and Truck Series have a leg up on the drivers who haven’t?*
One of the topics for debate is how much of an advantage will the drivers who have previous experience at Kentucky Speedway have over the drivers who don’t have as much track time at the facility as those with Nationwide Series and Truck Series experience?
While it’s easy to assume that those with more experience will have a clear-cut advantage, it’s not always that cut-and-dry in the complicated world of NASCAR. Kentucky is a track very similar to places like Kansas, Chicagoland, Texas, Atlanta, Charlotte, and all the other countless cookie-cutters that infest the NASCAR landscape. It really isn’t that much of a leap from those tracks to Kentucky so it’s likely that the usual suspects will be the ones running up front.
But that’s not to discount the drivers who have experience at Kentucky by any means. Guys like Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and others must be considered as well among the favorites due to their previous experience at the track. But one thing is for sure: There are a great deal of unknowns going into this race and it’s not unthinkable for someone else to break through into the win column that has yet to win in 2011.
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