Thursday, September 20, 2012

5 Questions Before: Loudon and Kentucky

The dust has settled from the Race for the Chase. The checkered flag has flown in the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. To borrow an analogy from Brad Keselowski, round one of the 10-round exhibition ended with challenger Keselowski slugging it out with former heavyweight champ Jimmie Johnson. Keselowski won the round but as he said, "Week 1 is done and we won the round but we didn't by any means knock them out, we've got a lot of racing left to go."


So that leads to the first of the five questions before Round Two this weekend at Loudon, New Hampshire.

1. Can Brad Keselowski make it two in a row? Can he take out the champs? "Bad Brad's" best finish at the 1.058 mile track is second in this race last season, but he's facing competitors with multiple wins. Johnson, reigning Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, and four-time champ Jeff Gordon each have three wins at the Magic Mile. Only Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., and 2003 title-holder Matt Kenseth have never won at the track.

2. Can Jeff Gordon recover from his misfortune at Chicagoland Speedway? Can he regain the momentum that he lost when the throttle on the No. 24 DuPont Chevy stuck partially open and he went into the wall? Gordon made it into the Chase by the slimmest of margins. If he's to be a contender, he can't have another bad race and Big Daddy hasn't won at Loudon since he was "Wonder Boy" back in 1998. However, he did finish sixth and fourth, respectively, in the last two races at NHMS, so perhaps he can recoup some of his losses this Sunday.

3. Will a non-Chase contender win a Chase race? Of the last five winners, only one isn't in contention for the title this season, and that's Ryan Newman, who led a Stewart-Haas sweep of the top two spots in the July race last season. Can "Rocket Man" Ryan or one of the other Chase almost-rans salvage some pride with a victory?

4. Who will win the inaugural Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway in the Nationwide Series? Will it be one of the championship contenders, such as the last winner at the track, Austin Dillon? Or will Ryan Blaney follow up last week's maiden win in the Truck series with a win in Nationwide? So many stories...whatever the result, it's almost guaranteed to be compelling.

5. Can the Camping World Truck Series racing get any more intense? The Trucks will be at Kentucky alongside the NNS. Ryan Blaney will be in the No. 29 again; can he win back-to-back races? Or will Ty Dillon make up for the one that got away last week in Iowa?

Check back next week for the answers!

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