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Nov. 2, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXCV
I worry a lot. About everything.
As a parent, I worry about my kids. How they're doing in school. How they're getting along with their friends. How they're getting along with those who aren't their friends. What do they need in order to be their best as human beings?
As a college professor, I worry about my students. Are they grasping the material? Are they understanding my lectures and assignments? Am I assessing their work properly? How are they managing their time? How are they managing their finances? How are they managing their parents' finances? What might they need for success?
As a motorsports writer, I worry about my work. Am I covering a particular topic clearly enough? Am I creative enough? Is the topic relevant to my audience? Who, in fact, IS my audience? Where are motorsports headed amidst the clutter of other, more traditional forms of athletic competition?
That's why I'm worrying about the current state of NASCAR.
My worries have little to do with the elimination format of the postseason. That approach seems to have added a much-needed element of tension to the Chases for the Championships – I use the plural because we're seeing three different postseasons unfolding this year for the first time. Nor do my worries have to do with the changing of the guard we're presently experiencing. As recognized names like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon step away from the Sprint Cup Series (sort of), we welcome the younger hotshoes who are taking their places. Drivers like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones and William Byron are proof positive that NASCAR's future is secure, as far as talent is concerned.
The worries I have concern the new Sprint Cup title sponsor and what it will (or will not) bring to the sport. I'm also worried about the obvious emergence of team-based, on-track strategies like what we saw from Joe Gibbs Racing at Talladega recently. Perhaps my greatest worry right now, after his latest win at Martinsville, is that Jimmie Johnson is locked into the "final four" for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami.
I'm worried that this year's Sprint Cup title run will be a race for second place.
I know Johnson has yet to win a Cup race at the track, but I also know that the No. 48 team now has three weeks during which to prepare an outstanding piece of top-notch equipment. Given "Six-Time's" history of running well on intermediate-sized speedways, there's no reason to doubt his chances of finally parking his Chevrolet in Victory Lane.
Hendrick Motorsports may have faded a bit during the middle part of the season, but there's no sign of such lackluster performances now. Even after a shunt with Denny Hamlin and, at one point, inadvertently losing his car's electrical system, Johnson still found his way to the Winner's Circle. Jimmie's victory tied him with Jeff "Never Say Never" Gordon for nine career Martinsville grandfather clocks.
Did I mention that Jimmie is now also eligible to run for his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup championship? The championship that would tie Johnson with Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt?
So, in truth, maybe I AM actually worried about the elimination format of the postseason….
Did I mention that I tend to worry a lot?
At least I can worry from afar; I'm not one of the drivers who's now scrambling for one of the three remaining spots in the "final four". I'm not dealing with team politics and in-shop competition. The screws just turned a little bit tighter at the offices of Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, and Tony Stewart-Gene Haas.
If I were working for one of those teams, I'd be worried about the fact that seven doesn't go into three very easily.
About the only guy who's got little to worry about is Jimmie Johnson….
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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