NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Going Green: Opportunity Gained? How One Chaser Is Overcoming Adversity

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You could see and hear the dejection in Carl Edwards after the checkered flag flew this past Sunday. He clearly had the car to beat, leading 116 of the race’s first 176 laps before a pit road speeding penalty — his first one all year — during green-flag stops ultimately cost him the victory. It was a self-inflicted wound, and it came during the most crucial stretch of the year, during a playoff when errors can be less forgiving. As a result, should he lose the Chase title by the smallest of margins, everyone, especially Edwards, will look back at Dover as the race that cost him. However, it is wise to think about it the other way around.

While dejected about the penalty, Edwards tried to look on the bright side about how things unfolded after scratching and clawing his way to third place.

Going Green: Nothing Wrong With Fuel Strategy

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As Tony Stewart took the checkered flag for the second consecutive week, we witnessed yet another race where fuel mileage played a part of the outcome. It’s been something that’s become more common as of late, as numerous races during the year have had fuel strategy come into play. With it already playing a huge part in the first two Chase races, many are worried that it will become a factor in determining who wins the title this year.

It’s certainly led to some debate as to whether or not fuel races are good for the sport in general. One of the biggest complaints that gets thrown around is that the winner of a race should be determined by who has the fastest car, not who can save the most fuel. It’s not just the fans who have a difference of opinion on the subject, but the drivers have voiced their beliefs on it, too.

Going Green: Winners and Losers From Chase Race One

It is a common belief that you can’t win the Chase in the first week alone, but you can certainly lose it. I tend to disagree with that statement. A good first race doesn’t guarantee a championship by any stretch, but it is definitely the way you want to start, and may make all the difference come Homestead. Same is true for a bad first race; there are still nine more races to make up for a poor result, but it may come back to haunt you later. Round one of the Chase saw some championship favorites on both ends of the spectrum:

*_Winners_*

*Tony Stewart –* For starters, what a sweet redemption this win is for Stewart, who lost the opening Chase race last year in similar fashion to how he won it this time. Could it be the start of a magical championship run? Just days after stating that he was one of five drivers that had no chance of winning the title, Stewart’s run at Chicago propelled him to second place in the standings – just seven points behind Kevin Harvick – along with a very favorable schedule coming up. Has Smoke just been playing mind games with everyone with his recent statements about not being competitive enough? If you think about it, Stewart has been fairly strong this year, but has simply had poor luck. By stretching his fuel load longer than anyone else, Stewart’s luck has appeared to turn the corner.

Going Green: Predicting The Championship, 1 Through 12

It’s that time of year again. For the eighth consecutive season, NASCAR has reset the points for its top drivers in the standings, putting them all within striking distance for the Sprint Cup. Whether you love or hate NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, the week leading up to race one of the Chase is more tense than usual. It provides everyone with an opportunity to analyze and predict which drivers can capitalize on the ten race sprint for the championship. So without further ado, here is my take on how the final standings will play out:

*12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. –* Bring it on Junior Nation! I am ready for the backlash. You guys will need to have a strong argument to think he can fare any better, though. After starting the year off with near wins at Martinsville and Charlotte, Earnhardt has faded, dropping from third in points back in June to currently tenth. In the last ten races, he has posted just one top-10 and has accumulated fewer points than any other Chaser in that same span. For Earnhardt fans, rejoice that he is back in the Chase, but don’t get your hopes up that he will be a threat.

Has Richard Childress Racing Gone Back To 2009?

When Richard Childress announced this past off-season that his organization was going back to four cars, the decision was immediately met with a bunch of question marks. The team had just downsized at the conclusion of 2009, arguably the worst year the car owner had experienced. Not one of his drivers made the Chase or won a single event in Sprint Cup competition that year, with Clint Bowyer at 15th in points the highest finishing RCR driver.

When the Childress camp entered the 2010 campaign with only three teams, it was obvious they had turned the corner. Kevin Harvick led the points for most of the first 26 weeks and came oh so close to dethroning Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup. Teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton also had a revival year, with both of them making the Chase. In addition, Bowyer claimed victory in two of the final ten races at Loudon and Talladega. Many claimed that downsizing back to a three car organization was one of the main factors behind the resurgence the Childress team had, only adding to the skepticism when he went back to a four car stable for 2011.

Will the Real Joey Logano Please Stand Up?

It’s hard to know what to make of Joey Logano these days. In his third full year of Sprint Cup competition, he has gone from being the next big thing to at times looking like the next Casey Atwood. As recently as two weeks ago, it looked like he was on a full track towards the Atwood path, with Joe Gibbs Racing in hot pursuit of Carl Edwards. Such a signing would likely would have resulted in a demotion for Logano.

Though all of a sudden, he is starting to look like he can run with the big boys. His fifth place finish at Watkins Glen along with a near win at Pocono the week before has him quieting skeptics for the time being. Since day one in his NASCAR debut a little over three years ago, Logano’s short career has already left us with many questions and not enough answers.

A Look at Chase Hopefuls 11th-20th: Even Brad Keselowski Should Be Worried

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We are starting to witness the impact NASCAR’s new “wildcard” rule has had on the drivers and races this season. Its purpose was to put more emphasis on winning rather than points racing. The result has been fantastic, with more gambling and risk taking than ever that has seen surprise first time winners such as Regan Smith and Paul Menard. Now, here we are with just five races left until the Chase, and it is still a wide open race for the two wildcard spots. Brad Keselowski has set the bar by winning his second race, meaning guys 11th through 20th will have to work that much harder in the upcoming month. Here is a look at the Chase hopefuls, along with their total wins at the remaining “regular season” tracks and their chances of making the Chase.

Winners and Losers In Carl Edwards’ Re-Signing With Roush

Carl Edwards has finally broken his silence. After months of giving no indication whether he was staying with Roush Fenway Racing in 2012, he has re-signed with the team that brought him up onto the Sprint Cup scene in 2004. This doesn’t just affect Edwards, however; it has left an impact on many other figures across the Sprint Cup garage. With that said, here are the winners and losers of his contract extension.

*Winners*

*Jack Roush* – Undoubtedly the biggest winner in all of this. He has seen his team enjoy a renaissance year, with two of his drivers having legitimate shots at the title after enduring a couple of seasons of mediocrity. One of those drivers is Edwards, but had he decided to leave, it would have completely demoralized the superb season the Roush camp has been enjoying thus far. More importantly, he can feel better about sponsorship. He has been struggling to find full-time and even part-time sponsors for next year. While sponsor details have yet to be announced with the signing, there is no doubt it will attract sponsors that this will help him big time.

Going Green: Montoya, Indy, and the Definition of a NASCAR Career

When NASCAR makes its annual stop at the hallowed Brickyard on Sunday afternoon, there has been one thing that is almost a certainty each year. That nearly fail-proof guarantee is that Juan Pablo Montoya will dominate the Brickyard 400. In three out of the last four years, excluding the 2008 “Tire-Gate” fiasco, Montoya has been a legitimate contender for victory. His 2007 rookie year, he finished second. In 2009, he led nearly 120 laps out of 160. Last year, he led 86 laps.

But, the caveat in these dominating performances is much like Dan Marino’s in his Super Bowl years with the Miami Dolphins; even with the impressive stats, the holy grail of victory has somehow eluded Montoya.

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