Friday, November 20, 2015

One More Time: Five Questions for Miami

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images via NASCAR
It’s time to say goodbye to the 2015 NASCAR season.

To say it’s been a picnic would be an understatement. Retaliation, confusion and rules packages have marked the highs and lows, but it isn’t over yet.

This weekend’s races in Florida will try to put a ribbon on the past year, but I still have some questions. Will rain try to ruin our fun once again? Which drivers will become our new champions? It’s all here in Five Questions.

Let’s dive in one more time, shall we?

Is a repeat of Phoenix rain woes in the future? The race at Phoenix International Raceway left me feeling empty inside, and it’s all because of Mother Nature. IT RAINED IN THE DANG DESERT, AND I AM UPSET ABOUT IT. OK, now that I got that out of my system, it’s time to focus on Homestead-Miami Speedway’s forecast. It’s going to rain at some point during the weekend. We just need to accept that right now; it’s Florida, it rains, big whoop. NASCAR needs to have a game plan in place if the rain comes during this weekend’s events. I need to know they’re dedicated enough to dry the track into the middle of the night. I need to know we’re going to crown our three champions after three complete races. What happened at Phoenix Sunday night screwed with the championship field, and I’m OK with it to a degree. If NASCAR does the same in Miami, there will be major problems. Let’s hope they have a plan ready to go in case Mother Nature wants to crash Championship Weekend.

Who will prevail in the NCWTS battle? Erik Jones leads Tyler Reddick by 19 points going into Miami, and it’s coming down to the wire for both youngsters. Whoever wins will become the youngest NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. Jones has no NCWTS experience at the track while Reddick has one start—and one top 10. Which driver has the advantage? Neither; this is the first time these two are going for the title, and all bets are off. If I had to make a prediction, I say Jones wins the championship based on his ability to preserve his equipment. Despite this, it’s important to remember that anything can happen. Someone might blow a tire, the two might get into each other while going for the win, who knows?

Can Elliott—or another lurker—dethrone Buescher? Chris Buescher’s season has led to this final race, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series title is just within reach. However, he’ll have pressure from three opponents who want to take him down. You can put a blanket over Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon, and Regan Smith; they’re all within 24 points of first. Elliott said last weekend he needs Buescher to make mistakes to have a shot, and that’s the truth. However, the Roush-Fenway Racing driver has been solid all season. It’s a long shot that Elliott, Dillon, or Smith can capitalize, but it’s not completely out of the question. Those three will have to be on it in order to make the most out of any issues. Nevertheless, it’s bound to be a great battle.

With Kenseth back, will the rivalry rejuvenate? After serving his two-week suspension, Matt Kenseth is back in the No. 20 this weekend. Is there going to be more bumping and banging with Joey Logano at Homestead? Considering the fact that Kenseth met with Brian France the other day to basically hash things out, I’m thinking he won’t do any more provoking. Also, he’s on probation. However, that doesn’t mean Logano will let it go. The Team Penske driver has more important things to worry about, yeah, and owner Roger Penske is over the scuffle. That might be a storyline to watch in early 2016. My gut tells me this weekend will be uneventful on that front.

Which feel-good story will get its happy ending? All four championship contenders—Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.—are worthy of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Their regular season performances and results during the past nine races have put them in this position. They all have feel-good stories as well—Gordon’s final ride, Harvick trying to repeat his championship, Busch completing his post-leg-injury comeback and Truex winning it all after a tumultuous few years. Which driver will get to taste sweet victory? All signs are pointing to Gordon. He was fantastic in last year’s Homestead race until a late pit call derailed things. His demeanor during championship media day was relaxed and happy, meaning he isn’t stressed about the weekend. Gordon is just ready to race for the last time and see what happens. When I look at the four-time champion, I feel like he’s got one more trophy left in him. The title is completely up in the air, but my gut tells me the No. 24 car is headed into the record books one more time.


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