Friday, July 11, 2014

Five Questions Before: Loudon and Iowa

 Chris Trotman/Getty Images
This week our regular columnist Kirsten Faith Schneider is preparing to start college, so I'm stepping in with my set of five questions before the New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Iowa weekend. And I'm grateful for the opportunity because I've got a few things on my mind.

This week my friend Lisa Reese died of an apparent heart attack, sitting at her computer. Lisa wrote for Skirts and Scuffs briefly, covering Formula One with passion and in detail. Her passing again reminds me how precious life is, and how important it is to let those you love know how much they mean to you every chance you get, because you never know when it may be the last time.

Kyle Petty knows how important that is. It's been 14 years, but if I still remember Adam Petty every time the traveling circus that is NASCAR rolls into Loudon, New Hampshire, I can't imagine what it must be like for Kyle. I vividly remember hearing the news of Adam's death in a crash during practice that May afternoon in 2000. Words fail. A light that shone so brightly snuffed out too soon. I cried for weeks.

Adam would have been 34 years old yesterday, July 10. It's hard to visualize him as 34, but I imagine he would always have had that broad, beautiful grin, the one that radiated goodness and joy.

So when the cars roar into Turn Three at New Hampshire on Sunday, smile and think of Adam Petty.
Happy birthday, Adam. We miss you. Your legacy lives on in the Victory Junction Gang Camp, and this weekend, Sprint Cup teams honor the Camp's 10th anniversary with special stickers on each car.

On to the questions.

1. Will Matt Kenseth finally get a win?
At the beginning of the season, who would have thought that Aric Almirola would take the iconic No. 43 to Victory Lane before Matt Kenseth? By this time last season, Kenseth had four of his seven wins and was setting the bar high. With six top fives and 11 top 10s, the No. 20 hasn't been bad, it just hasn't been as expected. He won for the first time at Loudon last September in his 500th start, so it's possible.

2. Can Toyota step it up?
Although the last three races at NHMS have been won by Toyotas, only two of the 18 races this season have seen Toyotas in the winner's circle. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have wins - can any other Toyota team score one? Clint Bowyer is the top Toyota drive without a win; he sits 12th in points but has only two top fives this season. Brian Vickers has a win at NHMS and is running well ... but will it be enough to beat the Bowtie and Oval teams?

3. Will Kevin Harvick's pit crew finally gel?
How many races would Harvick have won this season if his pit crew had synced as quickly as he and Rodney Childers have. The mind boggles. Harvick's made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the status quo. Will the No. 4 team beat themselves again this week?

4. Can a Nationwide regular beat the Cup drivers?
Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are all on the entry list for the Sta-Green 200. Can Chase Elliott or Ty Dillon, or maybe even Brendan Gaughan make it a race.

5. Will youth and enthusiasm win out over age and experience at Iowa Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series?
With the Cup Series in New Hampshire, Erik Jones will be behind the wheel of the No. 51, so we know Kyle Busch won't win. Can points-leader Johnny Sauter bring home a trophy? What about Timothy Peters or the cagey veteran Ron Hornaday? Or will it be one of the next generation of NASCAR stars?

All these questions and more will be answered this weekend.


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