Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Questions After....Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway

This past weekend I had the opportunity to head out to Martinsville Speedway for the first time. After 19 years following NASCAR I can now put a check beside this bucket list item. I'm happy to say that the short track lived up to my expectations in every way possible...except for maybe the hot dog...but more on that in a minute.

The championship pictures are becoming clear, so here are my five questions after.

Hamlin speeds out of the garage after electrical issues
caused major problem for the No. 11.
Credit: Katy Lindamood
Are Denny Hamlin's Championship hopes really over?  Hamlin entered Sunday's race third in points with the potential to make up ground on the leaders. One of the favorites at Martinsville, Hamlin's day was mired with one problem after another. Two pit road speeding penalties put the FedEx Express Toyota back in the pack, though Hamlin was able to make up spots on the track as the laps ticked off.

Then the ultimate blow occurred. Seemingly without warning Hamlin lost power to his gauges and the team was forced to the garage to diagnose the problem. Hamlin ended the day fifth in points with only three races left. It's relatively safe to say that it's down to a two-man battle at this point and that Hamlin will have to wait another year.

Can Clint Bowyer rain on someone's parade and potentially steal the Championship? While it's certainly a possibility Bowyer could sneak in and win the title, it's unlikely. Bowyer now sits just 26 points out of the lead. He's shown a lot of power the last few races earning a win in Charlotte and leading 151 laps at Martinsville. But with time running out one of the leaders would have to experience a major problem....anything can happen right? This is NASCAR. Regardless of where Bowyer finishes the season no one can argue that he's given Michael Waltrip Racing the validity they've been searching for.

Keselowski prepares for Sunday's race at Martinsville
Credit: Katy Lindamood 
Jimmie or Brad? Brad or Jimmie? Last season we saw the tightest points battle in the history of NASCAR and this year it's looking like we might get the same. Johnson has proven time and time again that he can turn it on during the Chase and Keselowski has shown the tenacity needed to be Champion. After leading the points for five of the last six weeks, Keselowski sits two points behind Johnson following Martinsville. I'm not ready to hand the trophy over to Johnson just yet, are you?

Will James Buescher be the next NCWTS Champion? Survey says, yes! Denny Hamlin wasn't the only Championship contender who experienced heartbreak this weekend. Ty Dillon had a strong piece in Saturday's Kroger 200 but a tire failure forced the No. 3 to the pits multiple times for repairs. Dillon went from leader to 21 points behind Busesher in a matter of minutes. The good news for Dillon is that the same fate could meet Buescher in any of the next three races, catapulting him back to the top. The bad news is that two of the three are 1.5 mile ovals where Buescher has dominated in 2012.

And finally, what's up with they hype of the Martinsville hot dog? I experienced my first red/pink dog on Friday and while I admit it was a good hot dog, it wasn't anything spectacular. One was plenty for me this time around. I watched people flock to the concession stands throughout the course of the weekend buying them by the handful. The only thing I can figure out is that it's the novelty which keeps competitors, crew members and fans going back for more. A hot dog is a hot dog, but the feeling you get when you bite into something that's rare and part of the history - that's something else entirely.

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