Monday, November 19, 2012

5 Questions After: Homestead-Miami Speedway

Brad Keselowski, Roger Penske and Paul Wolfe celebrate the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
championship with their family and team on stage.
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
If you've been following along, you know the score by now. Before the race, one of us asks five questions to be answered during race weekend. After the race, we discuss the answers and pose five more questions either for the next week, or that arose from the weekend's racing. Even though the season's over, that doesn't change the format, only the nature of the questions after.

1. Will Clint Bowyer try to go after Jeff Gordon? 
In the closing laps the No. 15 ran second to the No. 24 and with the championship decided at that point I'm sure many people focused on what would happen if Bowyer managed to catch Gordon. He didn't, of course, nor did he try exacting retribution at any point prior to that. Doesn't mean he didn't think about it though.

Post-race Bowyer was asked, "You can't do the what-if game, but what if last week didn't happen. Do you let that go through your mind at all today?" He replied, "No, I just really wanted to catch the 24. That was the only what if that went through my mind at the end. Probably went through your mind, too.No, I wouldn't have took us both out. But just what an unbelievable way to cap -- what the hell are we doing what ifs for? It's over. We could have done what ifs last week. I'm done with what ifs."

Gordon thought about it too. "I thought a little bit more about him when I was passing him for what could possibly have been for the lead because Alan told me that if this thing goes green, you're racing the 15," he said. "So we came into some lap traffic, and I could tell he was pretty anxious and running hard. He knew the same thing that I knew. I was able to get to the outside of him and get by him. But I had to race with him a couple of times, and there were no issues."

On the anniversary of his first Cup start, Gordon wanted the win, regardless of who was around him on the track. "It didn't matter who was behind me. I'll be honest, I wanted to win the race, and Alan put us in the position to win the race. We had a great race car, and I didn't want to give it up to anybody. But I thought it was pretty ironic. I mean, there was one time where it was a restart, it was me, Joey and Clint, and I'm like, isn't that just the way it goes. And so we just really tried to focus on our car, our team, our position and get the most out of it. After it was over, I thought, you know, wow, I can't believe that we just finished first and second after what happened last week"


2. Will Brad Keselowski be able to hold off Jimmie Johnson and add a Sprint Cup to his two Nationwide championships?
Short answer: yes. Johnson didn't go down easy, though, and while a mechanical failure sent Johnson to the garage and took the pressure off the No. 2 team, Keselowski wasn't satisfied with winning that way. He made sure he finished 15th, which was the place he needed to finish to win regardless of what Johnson did in the race.

"I'm so thankful that we drove back to 15th so that I don't have to hear for the rest of my life about how if the 48 had not had them problems he'd have won the championship." said Keselowski.

3. Will Kyle Busch finally make it to victory lane?
Not this season. Unlike Jeff Gordon, who had never won at Homestead and told his crew after the race "I don't know the way to victory lane," Busch knows the way, but just couldn't get there this weekend. He has two Nationwide and one Truck win at the Florida track, but despite leading the most laps in each of the three races during the weekend, he finished second in Trucks, second in NNS, and fourth in Cup. Needless to say, Rowdy was ready for the season to end.

4. Can Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hold on to repeat as champion or will he stumble, allowing Elliott Sadler to earn his first NASCAR title? 
Yes. Sadler and his No. 2 OneMain Financial crew bobbled on a pit stop, missing a lug nut. Sadler drove back to the front, only to get a set of tires that disrupted the handling on the Chevy and he faded back to ninth while Stenhouse Jr. kept racing to the front, intent on winning the race despite having clinched the championship. He settled, appropriately enough, for sixth place.

5. Can Texas native James Buescher hold onto the Camping World Truck Series lead to win the championship? 
Yes, thanks to Kyle Larson's encounter with the hard-charging Ty Dillon who "drove his heart out" to try to claim the title in his first year in the series. Buescher's 13th place finish, combined with four wins, 10 top fives and 14 top tens were enough to give him the trophy.

Now for the questions after. Normally I'd discuss each one but these I'll just leave hanging...waiting to be answered through the offseason and in 2013.

1. How will the 2013 cars and rule changes affect racing and the team dynamics next season? 

2. Can Brad Keselowski repeat as champion or will the Hendrick machines regain control of the Cup?  

3. With so many seasoned drivers with full-time rides in the Nationwide Series, will a Cup driver be able to dominate the way Joey Logano did this season? 

4. The Camping World Truck series teems with young talent. Will the old-timers be able to keep up with the young guns? 

5. Finally, the question everyone's asking but that hasn't yet been confirmed, will the Trucks race on dirt at Eldora? 

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