Friday, November 7, 2014

The Hunted: Five Questions for Phoenix

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Gosh, I love it when there’s a lot to talk about in racing.

Nothing is more angering than struggling to find a writing topic. You sit there for three hours, bash your head into a wall, and then finally scrounge something up. Is it your best work? HA, no. But at least the pain and suffering is over – for now.

Luckily, I didn’t have that issue this weekend. NASCAR is full of storylines, from fight night to eliminations to a possible baby-faced champion. Five Questions is back and in high gear as the sport heads to Phoenix International Raceway, the last stop before the championship event at Miami-Homestead. Things are going to get HOT in the desert, just wait.

Elliott’s success: impressive or concerning? Chase Elliott has a bit of a weight on his shoulders going into Phoenix; he has the (very realistic) possibility to clinch the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series title. The implications of this achievement would be huge. He would become the youngest NNS champion in series history. His successes leave many awestruck, yes, but should we be worried about him peaking too early? This was discussed earlier this year when he went on a hot streak. My stance on the matter is simple: we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I jumped the gun last year after they announced Kyle Larson’s foray into NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, saying that it was too soon and risky. Can we all just bask in how wrong I was? Elliott has tons of support – from fans, peers, idols, and team owners alike. He’s just that good, and that should be the main focus.

Will this elimination be the most dramatic one yet? The Jaws theme song will reach its crescendo Sunday as four more drivers are let go. As the last race before the season finale, it’s bound to get intense. Heck, every race has been intense. Phoenix will be different in a special way; it’s the final final chance to go for the championship. Any ounce of pressure is magnified by a million at this point. Following the melee at Texas Motor Speedway adds even more. Not only are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski on the outside looking in, but people are expecting the race to thrill and excite. Will it live up to standards?

Does the fighting help or hinder the sport as a whole? I previously mentioned “melee” from Texas. If you’ve been living under a rock, Keselowski and Jeff Gordon are mad at each other. Big time. They argued on pit road, Harvick shoved Keselowski, and that’s when Gordon grabbed the collar of his Miller Lite firesuit. Crew members joined in instantly, which is when fists began to fly. This is just weeks after the now-infamous Keselowski tackle carried out by Matt Kenseth. It’s insane, and it’s only going to continue. This is an organic byproduct of the new Chase format, and I absolutely love it. Hard racing? Good. Passionate arguing? Goooood. At this point in NASCAR’s existence, any publicity is good publicity. Besides, this gives them fuel for their marketing campaigns for the next three years or so.  

Who has the target on their back this weekend? Fighting often leads to apologizing, although that element has been lacking these past few weeks. Nobody is sorry for being competitive and angry. While many are agreeing to disagree, it seems like many drivers are together on one thing: they dislike Keselowski. Gordon, Harvick, Kenseth; you name a driver, and they have a bone to pick with the drive of the No. 2, no matter how small. I would say that he needs to watch his back, yet that’s not true; to be concerned would mean that he’s scared, and he isn’t. Keselowski is the complete opposite of scared at this point because he’s prepared to go all out. If Gordon wants to go out there and wreck him intentionally, he’s got another thing coming. What fans fail to acknowledge is that Keselowski is intelligent. He’s a very strategic person and race car driver. He knows people are out to get him, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s already thought of how to deal with it on-track. The hunters may soon be the hunted.

Is it a good thing that our new champion could be winless? Buckle up, because a rant is coming your way. The “elite eight” are being trimmed down to the “final four,” and the standings look very interesting heading in. Why? Because Ryan Newman is sitting third, and Kenseth is one point out of fourth. Many are thrilled about this shake-up; I am more reserved. NASCAR preached the idea of “win and you’re in” the ENTIRE regular season and the ENTIRE Chase thus far. Yet, it’s a walking contradiction. It’s not fair, no, but life isn’t fair. I’ve always said that, and I stand by it. I’m worried that – if Newman or Kenseth win it all — the sanctioning body will alter the entire format. That idea is worse than Bruce Jenner opting for plastic surgery. If one little thing is wrong, NASCAR wants to tear the entire machine apart. It doesn’t – and shouldn’t — have to work that way. Give it time. The long run will prove that it’s working perfectly fine.

0 comments :

Post a Comment