Thursday, November 15, 2012
The final race of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship looms just on the horizon. One more weekend. One more race to decide who will sit at the head table in Las Vegas. As evidenced by the events at Phoenix Sunday, tension, stress and fatigue have drivers and crews stretched to the breaking point. Even points-leader Brad Keselowski, who until now seemed unfazed by the enormity of his situation, let loose a profanity-ridden rant in the media center after the race, garnering almost as much attention as Jeff Gordon's uncharacteristic on-track retaliation against Championship contender Clint Bowyer.
Three races. Three series titles on the line. Drama seems to be a given but there are still questions to be answered. Here are five of mine.
1. Will Clint Bowyer try to go after Jeff Gordon? Both drivers are on probation until the end of the year, but will that mean anything to Bowyer? His slim hopes of stealing the championship snatched from him in headline-grabbing fashion, will the normally gregarious Bowyer be out for revenge?
2. The last time the Cup series saw a first-time winner came in 2004 when Kurt Busch claimed the Nextel Cup. Will Brad Keselowski be able to hold off Jimmie Johnson and add a Sprint Cup to his two Nationwide championships? Or will he run into trouble and allow "Five-Time" to score his coveted "Six-Pack?"
3. Will Kyle Busch finally make it to victory lane? Rowdy's been knocking on the door for three weeks now in all three series and will be driving in all three this weekend. Can he finally win for his own team in either the Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series? Maybe he'll end his frustrating Cup season on a high note - or even take home more than one trophy this weekend.
4. Much like the Cup series, only 20 points separate the top two contenders in the Nationwide series. Can Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hold on to repeat as champion or will he stumble, allowing Elliott Sadler to earn his first NASCAR title? Austin Dillon lurks only 5 points behind Sadler, so if both front-runners have trouble, he could conceivably have a Nationwide championship to add to his resume.
5. Can Texas native James Buescher hold onto the Camping World Truck Series lead to win the championship? The younger Dillon brother Ty sits in third place, but he's only one point behind Timothy Peters and just 12 back of Buescher, so he doesn't have nearly as much ground to make up to take home the Truck trophy.
Whatever happens this weekend, the three series provided fans with a season full of excitement and interesting storylines, setting the bar pretty high for 2013. All those drivers in contention for championship deserve to win. The real winners this season? The fans.