Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 Questions After ... Atlanta Motor Speedway

Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon were the big winners during this Labor Day weekend of racing in Hampton, GA. To review my five questions going into the exciting weekend of racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, click here.

Now, we head to Richmond, “America’s Premier Short Track,” for the last regular season race before the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase begins.

Here are my five questions coming out of Atlanta:

1.     Will Kyle Busch or four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon clinch a wild card Chase spot in Richmond since, it eluded both of them in Atlanta?

After the AdvoCare 500, Gordon found himself one spot short of the win he so desperately needed to be one step closer to clinching a wild card spot. Kyle Busch crossed the finish line sixth, currently sitting in the 12th and final spot for making the Chase. 

There is sure to be a heated battle between these two drivers at Richmond International Speedway as they try to make it into the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase. Jeff Gordon has two wins, 15 top 5s, 24 top 10s and led 1,413 laps at this track. Kyle Busch has four wins, 12 top 5s, 13 top 10s and led 891 laps at Atlanta.

2.     Can Denny Hamlin capture his third consecutive win after taking the checkered flag in HOTlanta?

Denny Hamlin won the last two races (Bristol and Atlanta.) Will he be able to make it three? His last win at this track was September 2010  in the Air Guard 400. Hamlin has two wins, seven top 5s, nine top 10s and led 1,188 laps in Richmond. Momentum is on the side of this Joe Gibbs Racing team. The No. 11 FedEx driver does have “the eye of the tiger” because he is determined to be the man on stage at the head table after Homestead.

3.     Will NASCAR take a closer look at the “water bottle” controversy in the near future and incorporate a new policy?

Since this was one of biggest and most controversial stories of the weekend, will NASCAR add a new policy about drivers discarding their water bottles? Yes, I know … stop beating a “dead horse.” Unfortunately, I think this horse will be galloping for a little while  because of drama surrounding its two main characters – Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

As we all know there are usually some significant policy and procedural changes crafted during the off-season. It will be interesting to see whether or not this issue will be addressed or remain the same. Stay tuned!

4.     How do you think Danica Patrick will do this upcoming weekend in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 after her 13th place in Atlanta?

In the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season, Danica Patrick has one pole, two top 10s, average start of 15th, average finish of 21st and led 37 laps. She started the race in Atlanta 17th and crossed the finish line in the 13th position. As long as she doesn’t get caught up in somebody else’s on-track dispute and drives a smart race, I think she will have a pretty good finish. There have been hefty expectations on her for this season. Patrick is going through a learning curve and seems to be holding her own. What are your thoughts? 

5.     Will the ten drivers who have already clinched a spot in the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase battle hard for a win or play it safe in Richmond?

The AdvoCare 500 is over and we know that the top ten spots have already been clinched for the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase. Do you think those drivers will battle hard or play it safe in Richmond? Let’s look at some Richmond stats for these ten drivers:

1.     Greg Biffle – No wins, two top 5s and five top 10s
2.     Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Three wins, nine top 5s and 11 top 10s
3.     Matt Kenseth – One win, three top 5s and nine top 10s
4.     Jimmie Johnson – Three wins, five top 5s and eight top 10s
5.     Martin Truex Jr. – No wins, one top 5 and two tops 10s
6.     Brad Keselowski – No wins, no top 5s and one top 10
7.     Denny Hamlin – Two wins, seven top 5s and nine top 10s
8.     Clint Bowyer – One win, one top 5 and seven top 10s
9.     Kevin Harvick – Two wins, six top 5s and 14 top 10s
10.  Tony Stewart – Three wins, ten top 10s and 18 top 10s

These are interesting stats amongst these key players and it will be an unpredictable, excitement-filled night of racing in Richmond. All of these drivers are hungry for a win – particularly Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., who had potential wins elude them in Atlanta.

Race Fans, share your thoughts on any of these questions or add one of your own in the comments section.

Until next time … Gear Up, Strap In For a Thrillin’ Ride.

Unique Hiram is an Associate Editor/Contributing Writer/Media Rep for Skirts and Scuffs. Additionally, she is also the author of "Fast Lane Poetry" which was published April 2011. Unique can be contacted via email or through Twitter.