NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Four Burning Questions: Chase Bubble Contenders, a Busch Sweep and a Log-jam at Roush

*Which Chase bubble driver has the best chance to win this weekend?*

Watkins Glen couldn’t come soon enough on the schedule for Chase bubble drivers such as Juan Pablo Montoya (21st in points), Marcos Ambrose (23rd in points) and A.J. Allmendinger (16th in points). A win on Sunday could not only turn the season around for one of these struggling race teams, but in the case of Montoya and Ambrose, it could throw one of these drivers back into the top 20, with a chance at qualifying for the Chase for the Cup.

One year ago, Montoya dominated the event, leading 74 of 90 laps. Meanwhile Marcos Ambrose came home third. In three starts at the track, Ambrose has been third twice and second once. Allmendinger was fourth last summer and has top-15 finishes in all three of his starts at Watkins Glen. With only five races left until the 26-race cutoff, this may be the last chance for these three drivers to go to victory lane and have it count towards something bigger.

My pick has to be Ambrose. NASCAR’s most successful road course driver as of late has to win one these races at some point, right?

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Kurt Busch scored the first road victory of 2011 in dominating fashion, but he’ll face a tough lineup of drivers that know the Glen well in trying to sweep the season’s races.

*Can Kurt Busch pull off the road-course sweep?*

Kurt Busch may not be thought of as a top road course racer, but he should be. Busch’s win earlier this season at Infineon wasn’t a fluke. He had three top-5 finishes at Infineon before scoring his first victory. At Watkins Glen, he has finished 11th or better in each of his last four starts.

He out-dueled Ambrose in the late stages of last year’s race at Watkins Glen to finish second to Montoya. Passing Ambrose in the finals laps of a road course says something in itself.

The last driver to complete the sweep was Kurt’s brother Kyle Busch in 2008. He hasn’t traditionally been thought of as a great road racer either.

While Kurt Busch has been hot at the road courses, I’m going to bet against him sweeping the pair of events this season. Guys like Montoya, Ambrose and even Tony Stewart will be desperate for victories.

*Did Pocono Raceway make the right move in shortening its races?*

This is the definitely the easiest question to answer. Yes. Fans have been saying for years that Pocono’s races are too long. After another 3 hour, 37 minute thriller (not counting the rain delay) last weekend, Pocono Raceway officials finally decided to make the move to 400-mile races next season.

The Pocono spring race (3:26) was the only race of the last four at the track to go less than three and a half hours. In 2010, both races were pushing the four-hour mark at 3:46 and 3:44.

The same strategy plays out in 400-mile races as 500-mile races. Let’s give race fans 45 minutes of their day back. It certainly was time for a change.

*With Carl Edwards re-signed, what does the future hold for Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?*

When Carl Edwards re-signed with Roush Fenway Racing last week, it put to rest a lot of speculation in the Sprint Cup Series garage. Joey Logano seemed to be relieved to be out of the silly season conversation and responded with a strong showing at Pocono. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer is working out a new deal with Richard Childress Racing and Juan Pablo Montoya is working on a contract to stay at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing for the foreseeable future.

All the questions have been answered right?

Wrong. While Edwards staying put has prevented a domino effect throughout the garage, it has also created a log-jam at Roush Fenway Racing. Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have proven this year that they are ready to take their talents to the next level. The only problem is there isn’t anywhere to go. The Wood Brothers are unlikely to return for a full schedule next year and the Roush stable is full, along with basically every other competitive team’s.

You may have also noticed that both Bayne and Stenhouse Jr. have been driving unsponsored race cars in the Nationwide Series for most of 2011. How long is Jack Roush going to keep footing that bill? It is possible that this year’s Daytona 500 winner and the current Nationwide points leader will not only not be in Cup by 2012, but may be fighting just to stay in Nationwide.

That is a shame.

“Contact Brett Poirier”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/33361/

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