Friday, August 29, 2014

Leaping into the Unknown: Five Questions for Atlanta

Atlanta. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There is risk in everything we do. From walking the street alone to ignoring a deadline, consequences can creep up and bite you in the butt. The thrill comes from not knowing if it will work out, and that’s what fuels our desire for jumping out on those limbs. With spread wings, we leap into the unknown.

Racers take risks every single time they climb into their machines. They jump from team to team, not knowing which dynamic will stick. Behind all the money and fame, it’s a difficult life to live, always on the edge of failure.

In this week’s Five Questions, I examine schedule changes, TSM’s situation and what risks have rewarded themselves. There are two races until the Chase begins; this is when the true gamblers make an appearance.

Is the new schedule going to help or hinder the sport? Schedule Reveal Day was hyped up more than Thanksgiving and Christmas. After the news of Darlington Raceway’s date moving back to Labor Day broke, people began to have hope. More major changes? Well, those people were disappointed; no extreme changes were made, aside from moving Atlanta Motor Speedway’s date to follow up the Daytona 500. This shifts the race at Phoenix International Raceway to the fourth race of the year, a stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway separating the two. With Auto Club Speedway’s race fifth, this sets up a nice West Coast swing. However, there STILL ISN’T A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE. I’m bitter. I really am. Overall, it’s a good schedule, yet there are some major things that still need attending.

Does Logano’s Bristol performance make him a true contender? For the record, I chose Joey Logano to win at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend (tooting my own horn here). Team Penske is always good there, but something told me that Logano would surpass teammate Brad Keselowski. Since joining the Penske Posse, the former Joe Gibbs Racing driver has blossomed and grown into the potential many knew he possessed. It’s his year, but his Chase run will either go very well or plummet. It’s all up to JoLo.

With two races to go, who still has a chance? It’s down to the wire, folks! The Race to the Chase ends next weekend at Richmond International Raceway, the sight of much controversy last season. What crazy antics will the drivers get into this time around? Things will most likely be more mundane, yet don’t count any wild cards out just yet. Some people can still slip into championship contention. Drivers like Kyle Larson, Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne can still knock out two wins. That’s what this format is all about, right? We know what a majority of the Chase field will look like, but a few spots seem to be up in the air. Who will thrive? Who will suffer? This is why we watch, y’all.

Will TSM (or whatever it’s called now) get itself together? Sad news was announced Wednesday afternoon when Turner-Scott Motorsports revealed their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series presence would be downsized. The ‘T’ in TSM is pulling out of the series. At this time, the No. 30 truck of Ron Hornaday Jr. will not be racing this weekend, yet teammates Cameron Hayley and Dylan Kwasniewski will race. The event at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park won’t be the same without the driver fourth in the standings, and NASCAR Nation feels iffy about this decision. It goes to show that money truly matters and that NASCAR is more of a business than we’d like to believe.

Which driver changes have paid off? A big part of risk is extending outside your comfort zone. Many drivers did that; Logano did it, Kevin Harvick jumped teams, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch … the list is pretty long. The driver of the No. 22 is obviously doing well, but how about the others? It’s plain to see Harvick is always a contender, but there are constant crew issues that hinder his efforts. If it weren’t for loose wheels and other preventable issues, he would have about six wins by now. The eldest Busch brother has won, yet it’s an uphill battle to remain strong. The group has the components of a championship-caliber team. They’re just struggling to put them in their correct stops. If we had to list the biggest disappointment, Newman would be at the top. They haven’t been competitive as often as many thought, and it’s saddening. Risks may or may not live up to their full potential, but that’s their dangerous yet enticing beauty.


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