5 Questions Before ... Emory Healthcare 500

Two to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins and several drivers could potentially lock themselves into Chase contention. Others, such as Clint Bowyer, are trying to maintain their Chase berth. Bowyer, who is in the cutoff position in 12th, has a 100-point cushion over Jamie McMurray. While that’s a sizeable enough lead, one wrong move, botched restart, or bad call could drastically reduce that margin. It’s an important race for everyone.

Here are some questions heading into the weekend…

How do drivers approach the weekend? … Several drivers are coming into the weekend with different agendas. Drivers such as Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, who have already clinched a Chase position, and Kyle Busch, who basically has to just start the race to clinch a spot, have nothing to lose. Drivers such as Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton need to finish in the top 20 to clinch a spot, which isn’t totally out of the question. Do they play it conservative or go for the win? Obviously drivers like Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle need to be careful to ensure they remain in the Chase and Jamie McMurray has already said he’s not worrying about the points. We could see several different strategies on Sunday night.

Who will add to their bonus points? … After Richmond, the top 12 drivers in the standings have their points reset to 5000 and are given 10 bonus points for every win they earned during the regular season. Currently six drivers in the top 12—Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer—are without victories this season. Of those drivers, Gordon and Edwards probably have the best shot at gathering some bonus points before the Chase, with seven wins between the two of them at AMS. Then again, drivers like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson will be doing everything they can to add to their bonus points before Loudon. Who is your pick?

How will the stands look? … While AMS is keeping its Labor Day date for next season, it lost its spring date. Atlanta has had spotty attendance for a while now, and hopefully two dates will boost the number of tickets sold for a single race date. Understandably, fans of the racetrack aren’t very happy about losing a race date. However, with more demand for tickets now that there is only one chance to go, hopefully the move will do more good than bad.

Will McMurray’s mindset change? … As noted, McMurray has said time and time again that he’s not worrying about the points. Sitting 100 points outside of the Chase, it’s not likely that he’ll be able to outrace Bowyer by enough in just two races to clinch a spot. But, what if McMurray gets a lucky break? What if Bowyer wrecks on the first lap because of a bad restart or has some kind of mechanical failure? Certainly McMurray’s crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion will be screaming on the radio that it’s time to go. If McMurray knew that suddenly he had the perfect opportunity to capitalize on someone else’s misfortune, would he spring into action? Or continue with his mindset that points aren’t for him to worry about?

Will Kyle Busch continue his dominance? … Busch has won the past four NASCAR races he has raced in, and while Atlanta isn’t his strongest racetrack, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him carry that through over this weekend. Busch will be in all three races this weekend and is peeking at the perfect time heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup (as opposed to 2008 when he floundered at the worst time possible).

Bonus questions: Did everyone forget about Mark Martin? … Will Jimmie Johnson continue this recent string of, um, well, nothing? … Jeff Gordon too?

Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
5 Questions Before ... Emory Healthcare 500 5 Questions Before ... Emory Healthcare 500 Reviewed by Summer Dreyer on Thursday, September 02, 2010 Rating: 5