Tuesday, November 6, 2012

5 Questions After: Texas and the Wild Asphalt Circus


Motorcyclists in a cage on the No Limits Midway
 Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Texas Motor Speedway billed the weekend as the Wild Asphalt Circus, featuring a carnival the entire weekend and a midway on Cup race day.

The drivers and teams did their part and provided the circus on the asphalt from the time the trucks hit the track on Friday night until the checkered flag flew on Sunday evening. I know. I was there!

With a triple-header of the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup, there were thrills, chills and plenty of excitement that ratcheted up with each successive event. And we got the answers to the 5 Questions Before...

Can Rowdy keep his temper this time and earn his first victory for his own Truck team this season? Kyle Busch came oh-so-close, but a battery issue brought him home fourth in the Truck race. Unlike his last two visits to TMS, Rowdy spent plenty of time in the Samsung Mobile Media Center over the weekend, though, winning the Nationwide pole, finishing third in that race, then coming in third in AAA Texas 500. While he did talk rather disparagingly of second-place Cup finisher Brad Keselowski, Busch held his temper all weekend.

Can Austin Dillon add a Charlie 1 Horse hat to his collection - this time by winning it? Or will a Cup driver be firing the pistols in Victory Lane? Though Dillon raced hard he only managed a sixth-place finish, so he'll have to stick to hats he bought for the time being. Cup driver and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick scored his fifth NNS win in the Lone Start State.

Brad Keselowski has never finished inside the top ten in Cup racing at TMS. Can he change that and get a black hat to go with his "Bad Brad" persona, and in doing so take the points lead? If Mark Martin and Carl Edwards hadn't brought out the caution, Jimmie Johnson had little chance of catching Keselowski in the closing laps. The two beat and banged on each other but it was the final restart that allowed Johnson to get the win and a pair of pistols to go with his polewinner's rife.

Will Mother Nature play a role in the race? The unseasonably warm temperatures made the track slick for the Truck and Nationwide races, but a cool front pushed through Saturday night and Sunday's weather was gorgeous for a change: bright blue skies, light breeze and comfortable temps. No rain delays, no high winds.


Inside the media center at TMS Uncle Eddie wants YOU!
to vote for your champion.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Finally, can Eddie Gossage top his marketing campaign from last year's Chase? That's debatable. Playing off of the pending election, Gossage chose an "Elect your champion" theme that didn't have quite the pizazz that last year's Tale of the Tape did.

However, the overall theme of Wild Asphalt Circus more than made up for any deficiencies in the Chase campaign. Just check out the photos on the Skirts and Scuffs Facebook page and see what I mean.

That brings us to the 5 Questions After...

1. Will the last two races of the season continue the trend of the top two battling for the win? Going into Texas, there was no way the top championship contenders would be going head-to-head again this year but they did. Will Phoenix and Homestead be the same?

2. Will Kyle Busch win before the end of the season - in any series? As well as he's run recently, Rowdy's only visited victory lane once this season: the April Cup race at Richmond. Can he bring home a trophy for either KBM or JGR in the next two weeks? He'll have five chances to do so since he's running all but the Phoenix NCWTS race.

3. Will a non-Chase driver win either of the next two outings? The last win by a driver not in the Chase came at Watkins Glen back in August when Marcos Ambrose muscled his way to the checkers.

4. Will Ricky Stenhouse Jr. repeat as champion, or can Elliott Sadler regain his lead? After the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Saturday night, the Nationwide Series points sit at 1170 each. Stenhouse Jr.'s six wins will give him the edge should there be a tie.

5. Can Ty Dillon catch James Buescher to add NCWTS Champion to his resume? Dillon cut Buescher's lead from 21 to 15 in the WinStar World Casino 350, but does he have time to catch the Texas native?

The tension just keeps rising and with two weeks left in the season, that doesn't look to change until the last lap at Homestead. What more can a race fan ask?

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