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Nov. 9, 2016
Volume X, Edition CC
The Storm Before The Calm
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
We are living in most interesting and historic times.
Last week, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after a 108-year absence, pushing the best-of-seven format to its emotional breaking point with a tenth-inning victory in game seven against the formidable Cleveland Indians.
These are most interesting times, indeed….
And perhaps the same thing can be said about NASCAR. Consider where we are right now as November 20th and Ford Championship Weekend looms along the not-so-distant horizon. Many worries must be resolved and many questions answered before haulers pull onto the grounds of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The most nerve-wracking dilemma seems perched squarely atop the Sprint Cup Series. As teams head to Phoenix for the penultimate race in the 2016 edition of the Chase, only one conclusion seems clear.
Carl Edwards is the only driver out of Joe Gibbs Racing to be securely within the final four. Some quick pit work and some even more timely precipitation earned Edwards his latest shot at the title.
Maybe there is some connection to presidential election years? Back in 2008, "Cousin Carl" was a direct contender for the Cup championship. The electorate had just voted Barack Obama into the White House and Carl Edwards was embroiled in a battle for the title with then-perennial powerhouse Jimmie Johnson. The end result that season was Jimmie taking another step toward yet another Hendrick Motorsports' Sprint Cup championship.
Edwards had his best shot at winning a Cup title back in 2011. That was the year he was tied in points with Tony Stewart following the season finale at Homestead, but it was Smoke who won the crown based on his string of five wins in that year's last ten races. Carl lost the tie-breaker and resolved himself to yet another runner-up position in the standings.
Despite the weather-related chaos of last Sunday, it was good to see Carl Edwards standing in Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. While his three JGR teammates scramble to snag the two remaining spots in the "Fantastic Four" come Homestead, Carl can begin planning for how he might actually, finally, win it all. Despite what's been written, said, mumbled, and growled regarding the elimination-style Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, it is this kind of scenario that builds tension and adds intrigue to the final month of what's considered a wildly long schedule.
Nothing like a little pressure above-and-beyond the usual to make everyone sit up just a little bit taller, to have folks climb up on the wheel just a little bit higher. Nothing like November games of "What If?" to spur discussion, debate, dissent, and disgust among family and friends.
Just when the tension of the World Series has lapsed into a post-season emotional hangover of sorts, here comes Phoenix.
Just when the anxieties and vitriol of the presidential campaign season are winding down into strolls to the polls to vote and vent, we're faced with turning six drivers with title potential into two.
That's the same number of points that separate the pack as the Cup Series goes west one final time in 2016.
With Carl Edwards gunning for Cup championship number one, and Jimmie Johnson shooting for Cup title number seven, and two seats at the grown-up's table still empty, maybe we're poised on the brink of yet more late-season stress.
And here we were just getting over the Chicago Cubs and Donald Trump….
TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus we'll take a look at NASCAR Seasons: 2001.
Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots.
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