clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NASCAR mailbag: Can Tony Stewart win to remain in the Chase?

Questions on Stewart’s chances of winning Sunday, the etiquette between teammates in the Chase, and more.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Each week SB Nation's NASCAR reporter Jordan Bianchi answers your questions about the latest news and happenings within the sport. If you have a mailbag question email jordanmbianchi@gmail.com.

Did Martin Truex Jr. race Matt Kenseth differently on Sunday? Sure seemed like if he wanted to, he could've shoved Kenseth aside and taken the lead with a few laps to go but didn't. Am I wrong to think because they're teammates Truex held off?

--Darren

Your perception is correct, as Truex admitted as much postrace. Not that he didn't want to win, but with Truex assured of advancing to the next playoff round, the urgency to force his way around Kenseth wasn't there. Now, if Truex could've passed Kenseth without having to get physical then he would've done so, but that option wasn't available as the two had fairly equal speed, thus putting the onus on Truex to decide if roughing up a quasi-teammate was worth it.

And though it's contrary to what many would like to see from drivers when a victory is on the line, it's hard to criticize Truex's choice to play nice. His spot in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is solidified, whereas Kenseth could still get knocked out. Then there is the whole teammate equation to consider, whether it's worth potentially wrecking the harmonious alliance between Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing for a win that Truex did not absolutely need.

Why are you so quick to dismiss Tony Stewart and say it's unlikely he'll win at Dover? You continually giving Tony no respect is getting old. He's already proven you wrong once this season by winning a race, so you'd think you've learned your lesson. Here's hoping he proves you wrong again.

--Payton

It's great you have immense confidence in Stewart, and of course he could go to Dover and win, similar to how he snapped a three-year winless streak with a seemingly out-of-nowhere win at Sonoma in June. The beauty of sports is the unpredictability, where longshots prove the doubters wrong.

However, don't lose sight of the fact Stewart's not finished better than 16th over the past six races, and only once on the lead lap. That doesn't indicate he's ready to take on and beat the likes of Truex, Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and the rest of the Chasers who've maintained a steady presence near the front as of late.

So while it's not out of the realm of possibility Stewart could win on Sunday, it certainly is unlikely.

I've come to accept having eliminations in the Chase, but what still bothers me are the 10 tracks NASCAR races on. The Chase starts at Chicagoland then goes to New Hampshire, and often neither are very good. I think I'd be a lot more excited if there were more Bristol and Martinsville like tracks, then boring tracks where little happens.

--J.C.

A common sentiment, especially when you take into account five of the 10 Chase tracks are 1.5-mile speedways largely indistinguishable from one another. Ideally, the venues NASCAR stages its playoffs on would have greater diversity -- multiple short tracks, a few intermediates, a plate track and a road course.

NASCAR unfortunately has shown little inclination to mix up the schedule even in spite of many drivers and a large segment of fans voicing their desire to see a road course in the Chase. It's an idea that has merit when you consider road courses A) are great showcases of a driver's talent, thereby shrinking the gap between have and have-not teams, and B) usually create a level of intensity and fervor too often amiss elsewhere. Those principles are applicable to short tracks as well.

The issue of reworking the schedule goes beyond the Chase, with the 26-race regular season also badly requiring a makeover. Too many tracks have two dates where one would suffice, and there are an abundance where great racing is the exception not the norm.