Home NASCAR ‘Smoke’ forced to sit out Cheez-It (355)

‘Smoke’ forced to sit out Cheez-It (355)

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Tony Stewart is out of the Chase. The driver of the number 14 was in position to grab either a Wild Card spot or a top 10 berth, but he suffered a broken leg in a sprint car crash Tuesday night that will cause him to miss at least the next three races, and probably many more. The incident has sparked an intense debate about whether drivers in NASCAR’s top series should be allowed to moonlight at local dirt tracks during the week, but the argument has been a silly one. Most of the folks doing the finger pointing have never sat in a race car nor experienced the drive and passion that racers have. Every single time they strap into a race car, they know the risks, and yet they do it because they love it. Get better soon, Tony.

Last week, Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne put on a hell of a show in the final laps at Pocono, with Kahne eventually coming out on top. It’s Kahne’s second victory of the year and just nearly locks him into Chase contention. Gordon, on the other hand, is still on the bubble. He moved up to eighth after finishing second, but with no win, he’s still in danger.

This Week

We’re going road course racing again on Sunday at Watkins Glen for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. Whereas the first road course race of the season at Sonoma was all about finesse, the Glen is the superspeedway road course. It’s fast and has produced some gnarly crashes, especially the one David Reutimann experienced in 2011. Check it out:

Last Year

Watkins Glen isn’t all about the potential for crashes though; it produces phenomenal racing. Last year, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose battled intensely for the second straight year, and once again, Ambrose came out with the win in what is widely regarded as the best finish of 2012 and one of the best finishes in NASCAR history.

Storylines

  • It used to be, when it came time for the road courses, drivers just hung on the best they could and suffered through a bad day, before getting back at it on the ovals the next week. But not anymore. Drivers have gotten scores better at road courses and no longer view races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen as impossibilities, they know they can win. This has created some great, dramatic racing in the last few years, as the video above shows, and that should be no different this time around.
  • The race to the Chase will be a storyline every week until we actually get into NASCAR’s playoffs, and with still only a few points separating drivers, it won’t get any less dramatic.
  • With Tony out, Ryan Newman is in prime position to grab a spot in the Chase, furthering the ironic storyline that’s playing out, considering Newman is out of his ride with Stewart’s team in 2014.

Who to Watch

  • Jimmie Johnson dominated the early portions of last week’s race at Pocono before a blown tire took him out of contention. The dude somehow still rallied to finish 13th. He’s made it a point to get better at road courses, and Watkins Glen is one of the few tracks left on the circuit where he has not won.
  • Jeff Gordon was obviously disappointed last week after he lost the lead on a green-white-checkered restart and finished second. He’s always been a notoriously good road course driver, and even though he’s currently inside the top 10, a win would go a long way in securing his spot in the Chase.
  • Kyle Busch had the lead at the white flag last year before his poor handling car was basically punted out of the way by Brad Keselowski. He’s been fairly quiet the last few weeks, and it’s not often we go a long string of races with no input from KyBu.

Who Will Win

He’s done it two years in a row, so he’s to say he won’t get right back into victory lane again? Marcos Ambrose takes the win.

2013 Sprint Cup Standings (after 21 of 36 races)

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Clint Bowyer -77

3. Carl Edwards -84

4. Kevin Harvick -97

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -116

6. Kyle Busch -126

7. Matt Kenseth -124

8. Kasey Kahne -160

9. Jeff Gordon -170

10. Greg Biffle -173