5 Questions After ... Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes

The Monster Mile was not as monstrous as many expected it would be on Sunday, which was probably a relief to many of the drivers and teams. Yet, those that Miles did snatch and eat up would most likely beg to differ. However, Kyle Busch was able to tame the monster and inch ever closer to that points lead. Meanwhile, four- time defending champion Jimmie Johnson made an unlikely error that cost him the victory.

Here are some questions about the race last weekend:

When will Casey Mears quit having to fill in for other drivers? … Mears has bounced from place to place in the past several years, unable to find a permanent home. After racing for teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Ganassi Racing (now Earnhardt Ganassi Racing), Mears now finds himself barely scraping by with Keyed-Up Motorsports or Tommy Baldwin Racing. Though he briefly sat on the sidelines waiting to fill in for Denny Hamlin after his knee surgery, he was never needed in the car. This weekend he filled in for Brian Vickers after Vickers was hospitalized during the week because of blood clots in his veins. Mears finished 22nd, three laps down. While it was nice to see Mears back in a competitive ride, one has to wonder if we’ll ever see him full-time for another team. If we do, will it be for more than just a year? Who knows, but for now Mears is taking things one week at a time.

Has Joe Gibbs Racing really caught up with Hendrick Motorsports? … The last several weeks have said yes. JGR has won 5 of the last 7 races and 3 of the last 4. Though Johnson won 3 of the first 5 races, he hasn’t won a race since late March and has failed to finish 2 of the last 4. Though Jeff Gordon has made a run at the victory several times this season, no other HMS driver has been to Victory Lane. Since the spoiler was implemented at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season, JGR has dominated and HMS has struggled to keep up. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but Rick Hendrick certainly seems to be convinced that he now has some catching up to do with JGR.

Could there be a Jimmie Johnson/Kyle Busch rivalry brewing? … No it’s not likely it will be a fierce rivalry. Johnson is too laid back for that and Busch won’t start anything if Johnson continues to race him cleanly. However, these two are constantly contenders for the win. No other driver was even in the same zip code as Johnson and Busch during the Autism Speaks 400 and Johnson ended up speeding on pit road trying to beat Busch out. Once Johnson was out of contention, Busch basically cruised to the victory. There’s no reason to think either one of them won’t continue to contend for wins week in and week out. So while it’s not likely they’ll butt heads and end up hating each other as past rivals have, it looks like we might possibly have two drivers who will have to deal with the other from here on out.

Are things as bad with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as everyone is making them out to be? … During the race on Sunday, Earnhardt came to pit road saying he thought something was wrong with the car. After the crew looked under the hood, they reported nothing was wrong. Nothing. Earnhardt finished the race in 30th, 10 laps down. Many seem to be convinced that the chemistry could still be better on the No. 88 team. Lance McGrew was added as interim crew chief last season, replacing Earnhardt’s cousin Tony Eury Jr. No longer interim, the No. 88 team still isn’t running as well as Jr. Nation would like, or as well as Earnhardt would like for that matter. However, both driver and crew chief say they have no problems with each other and enjoy working with the other. But how long will it take for the results to show that the chemistry is as good as they insist it is?

Is Kyle Busch too busy? … Many have said they don’t believe Busch can win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship because he does so much. Busch owns a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, and consistently races in all three series. Busch even competes in some late model races whenever he can find the time. Yet, when Busch has weekends like last weekend, that argument no longer holds water. Busch could have very easily won all three races this weekend had it not been for some bad luck at the end of the Truck Series race. In fact, Busch consistently wins at least two or three races every weekend. If he’s not winning, he’s most likely running up front and/or breaking a record of some kind. If anything, it seems to help Busch. Between all the practice and qualifying sessions across all three series, by the time he starts the Cup race he’s probably driven all 400 or 500 miles. All those laps really seem to help Busch. Now, though, Busch only has to worry about the Cup Series championship as he is not running the full schedule in the Nationwide or Truck Series. With the kind of success Busch has had across all three series, it’s hard to blame that on his lack of a Cup title.

Bonus questions: Why was Clint Bowyer “jacked up” during the race?... Who stole the golden horseshoe? … How scary is Kyle Busch’s “scary face” compared to Miles’s?

Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
5 Questions After ... Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes 5 Questions After ... Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Rating: 5