Track Talk: A Preview of the FedEx400 benefiting Autism Speaks

If the drivers and teams of the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit thought last Sunday evening’s Coca-Cola 600 was difficult, then they may want to turn it up four notches because when the next six races are at Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma, Daytona, and Kentucky, it only means one thing:

Welcome to the long, hot summer.

Last Sunday evening’s marathon served as a prelude for a driver’s test of agility and stamina.  Essentially, drivers were put to a grueling marathon in racing their machines to the finish for the longest event of the season.  Ultimately, Carl Edwards prevailed while Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stretched their fuel mileage to take podium finishes at Charlotte.

Today, it’s 200 less miles but just as many laps around the “Monster Mile” known as Dover International Speedway.  That may seem relaxing but Dover is hardly that as it’s described as “Bristol on steroids.”  As if we need more metaphors involving steroids and sports, but hey, it works, and truly, Dover is a whale of a track to tackle.

Driving into turns 1 and 2 can requires bravery, as you’ll either stick that car and commit to a tight entry near the corner exit wall or smack it and find yourself playing demolition derby in the self cleaning backstretch.  Passing through the backstretch and into turns 3 and 4, it’s just about the same level of commitment and boldness to put a good lap – and this just describing it in clean air.

Traffic will play a huge part with the race and we’re not talking about the one that follows after all is said and done.  Being brave, keeping hydrated, and most of all, racing the track and not necessarily just the competitors are the key ingredients to winning at this NASCAR staple since 1969.

Courtney Clement took Dale Earnhardt Jr. as her pick last weekend for the 600 so as a result, she went with the highest finishing racer and is this weekend’s host for Track Talk’s Trending Topics.  Meanwhile, Ashley HobbsAshley HullJessica BusheeKim Melton, and yours truly are ready to give our thoughts on the four storylines heading into today’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks so without further ado, let’s do this!

Trending Topics by Courtney Clement

Question 1

The 2015 Coca-Cola 600 made for Carl Edward’s first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, exclaiming how it was “so cool to get this win,” and how he and his team “has had such bad luck.”  Do you see this win being a major turning point for the 19 team and for Joe Gibbs Racing?

Hobbs :  Any time a driver can break a streak of loses in a good day. Any time that a driver can finally get that first victory with a new team is even better because it proves they CAN make things happen. Once that first win comes, it does add a pep in everyone’s step. He may not have been the dominate car on the track that night, but he was there when it counted. Any win is a win for a driver, especially one looking for some luck and momentum.

Melton :  While I am very excited to see Carl Edwards finally win a race, I don’t know if it will exactly be a “turning point”. Joe Gibbs Racing has some great drivers, don’t get me wrong, but the last laps of the Coca-Cola 600 were more of a fuel milage race than anything. I think the team has a little more work to do before we see that major turning point, but I do think that they are on the right track. I would love to see those guys win some more races, they are very passionate about racing and it shows in their performance.

Hull :  First of all, I was very happy to see that Carl finally got the monkey off of his back!! This team has been performing very well, but something bad had always hindered them from having a bad finish. Hopefully, this will be the end of their bad luck, and they can focus on winning more races and getting better finishes. I think that it will help them better not to so much have the pressure of making the Chase. I think this is also a turning point for Joe Gibbs Racing because they are looking like a more formidable this year, having 3 drivers already in the Chase. I think that this will be a good year for them!

Bushee :  I see Carl’s win being a definite moral boost. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I always seem to see teams working harder & happier after a win. Hoping this isn’t the only time we see Carl in VL.

Tiongson :  Wins are just as awesome as picking up two tenths of a second or getting a car to trim off time from a good wind tunnel test.  That said, it helps and he’s in the Chase Grid as long as he starts from here till Richmond.  Now it’s just about building consistency and I’d say right now that the Gibbs team has figured out both for now.  Once Hendrick has turned their performances around in the right direction, we’ll see if the 19 team can pick it up or at least maintain their fast solid runs.

Question 2

I challenge you to a 50 mile bike, Landon!

I challenge you to a 50 mile bike, Landon!

Everybody hears about drivers pulling double duty on Memorial Day weekend – running in the Indy 500 and in the Coca-Cola 600.  However, driver Landon Cassill pulled his own “double duty” by competing in the 600 and then jogging 14 miles to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Do you see this becoming a tradition?

Hobbs :  Doing a 600 mile race is taxing enough on a driver; to add even more to that schedule takes a very skilled and fit driver. Doing any sort of double is just based on the driver. Landon is crazy awesome for doing what he did; but do I see Jimmie Johnson or Carl Edwards starting to take this up, probably not. But all the power to any driver that makes their own double.

Melton :  I am so proud of Landon Cassill! Can you imagine running in the 600, being completely worn out, then getting out of your car and running 14 miles?! I can barely run ONE mile without feeling like I am going to die. I would love to see Landon do this every year, he is doing it for a great cause and it hopefully will push others to want to be more active in their own lives. After I watched him race I felt like I needed to go run a few miles. Did that happen? Not exactly. Although I did get a nice run in from upstairs down to the kitchen. SUCCESS!

Hull :  I may see this becoming a tradition for drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Landon Cassill, but I don’t see how they can run a 600 mi race and then complete a half-marathon the next day. I don’t think that many other drivers will catch on, especially what happened to Denny Hamlin this weekend.

Bushee :  He did that? Why? Haha! I honestly didn’t hear anything about that happening. I guess I would need more information on why Landon did that, before I can say it’s a good idea for tradition.

Tiongson :  Inspiration is all I can say with Landon’s feat.  I’m probably in the few who actually took something from his race and run and implemented it into my personal life.  Lately, I’ve been biking and while 14, 15 miles isn’t a lot, it’s a start.  We can all take something from what Landon did and try to make some good with it for ourselves.  It’s anyone’s prerogative to make their health into what it is for the most part and for the factors we can control, much like the dedication is shown to racers and teams, the same should be applied for our health.  I’m not sure if what Landon did will become tradition, but it’s a neat way to show that there’s no limits with our mental and physical strength.

Question 3

Don't hate on me, bro, I like keeping busy!

Don’t hate on me, bro, I like keeping busy!

This weekend, Denny Hamlin was sent to the infield care center in the middle of the race due to an extreme migraine headache, a product of dehydration and his off-day activities of golf and tennis.  Do you think NASCAR should implement rules regarding what a racer can or cannot do the day prior to a race? Or do you think problems like dehydration can be easily avoided by the drivers themselves?

Hobbs :  NASCAR should not get involved with the outside of the track lives of the drivers. If a driver wants to run a marathon every day, including the hours before  race, that is the choice of the driver. The drivers know their bodies and know how far they can push themselves. They also have team doctors that keep an eye on them. Sure, some may over due it from time to time, but that is just human nature.

Melton :  Definitely not! What these drivers do before the race should be their own business, with a few exceptions of course. If they want to wear themselves out by participating in other activities, so be it. Is it the smartest thing to do? Probably not, but I think that he knew to not overdo it. I don’t think the issue was the activities he partook in days before, I think it has more to do with dehydration. These cars are extremely hot and it is a very long race, if you are not properly dehydrated you are going to be in a world of pain. Headaches, nausea, all of the symptoms he was describing are classic symptoms of being dehydrated. I am just glad to see that everything is okay.

Hull :  No, I don’t think that it’s NASCAR’s place to mandate what a driver can or can’t do before a race. I think that it should be the responsibility of the driver to take care of himself/herself. They should know what their bodies can’t or can’t handle. So just leave it up to the drivers!

Bushee :  I don’t feel that NASCAR needs to implement rules on driver activities before a race. These guys should be able to take care of themselves properly (hydrating, eating, sleeping enough) when enjoying free time before a race. The key word here is should. I hope NASCAR doesn’t have to jump in and control their lives that much.

Tiongson :  NASCAR shouldn’t enforce themselves here but they could raise some awareness to it in driver’s meetings.  We’re heading into the hot summer months of the season and this is when you’ll hear about drivers losing weight and most of all, feeling dehydrated after a long race.  As much as the talk has been with taking care of equipment thus far, now it’s about taking care of themselves.  The drivers are lucky that they won’t have to contend with a hot July Talladega race like in the days up until after 1996 but I do not envy what the 43 drivers and teams will do.

Question 4

This Juan's for you.

This Juan’s for you.

Juan Pablo Montoya, the winner of the Indianapolis 500, has won 12 races each on a different course.  This weekend was his thirteenth win, making it the first time he has won at the same track more than once.  Do you think it is better for a driver to have multiple wins at the same track? Or multiple wins at different tracks, just like Montoya?

Hobbs :  A driver will want to win no matter the track. To me, a driver who can win at a variety of tracks shows the most of what a driver should be made of. Drivers may be going left every week, but every left turn is different every lap of every track at every week. A driver that can master the changings that occur through out a season is better in the long run. At the same time, a driver that constantly dominates at a single track makes them good for fantasy picks as well as gets that team amped up even more 😉

Melton :  I think that having multiple wins at different tracks is important. Having multiple wins at multiple different tracks just shows what a great performer a driver is. If you have victories at many different tracks then you know what you are capable of and it gives you even more of an advantage over other drivers.

Hull :  This is a hard question, but I would say multiple wins at different tracks, just because it diversifies the driver’s resume a bit. But as long as they win, what does it matter? I would be happy just to win, especially if I were planning on winning a championship. So in the end, it doesn’t really matter! 🙂

Bushee :  Personally, I think it’s cooler when a driver has multiple wins at multiple tracks. For me it seems boring to know that a driver dominates one particular track. I’m not taking away from drivers who do perform well at a specific track, but I do think it’s more fun to  know they can perform well at multiple places, so fans aren’t like “Okay (insert driver name) does REALLY well here! This is his only shot to get a win!”. I hope that makes sense. Haha!

Tiongson :  I’m in the minority here and say that if you can win multiple times at the same venue, that’s quite special.  It means you’ve figured something out and if it’s a track like Daytona or Indy, sure, you may have luck come into play, but you also have to be pretty darn good to be in contention at these circuits.  That said, it’s great to see a driver who can showcase their talents anywhere and that’s what captivates anyone.

And there you have it, friends!  That’s a wrap on the four hottest stories for this weekend at Dover.  Now before we get to this weekend’s race picks, let’s take a look at our points standings after Round 12 at Charlotte!

  1. Rob Tiongson – 408 points (1 win)
  2. Ashley Hull – 400 points (1 win)
  3. Ashley Hobbs – 343 points (1 win)
  4. Jessica Tow – 337 points
  5. Courtney Clement – 321 points (1 win)
  6. Jessica Bushee – 315 points
  7. Kim Melton – 102 points (1 win)

Now let’s show race fans who TPF’s Track Talk team choose for today’s FedEx 400 at Dover, Round 13 of 36 in 2015!

Jeff Gordon (far right) didn't get the memo to smile for his class picture with today's race picks.

Jeff Gordon (far right) didn’t get the memo to smile for his class picture with today’s race picks.

Tiongson :  You have to like the chances for Jimmie Johnson at Dover – he’s had a brilliant track record here and I can’t see why he doesn’t earn another Miles the Monster trophy for Team 48!

Hobbs :  Going with Mr. Dover himself – Jimmie Johnson!

Melton :  My pick for the Monster Mile is going to be Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie is a Monster Mile MASTER and I have a good feeling about this weekend. He has NINE Dover wins, which is a track record. As long as the team stays on the same page and works together, I don’t think we will have a problem seeing the 48 crew in victory lane.

Hull :  I am going to steer away from my normal Harvick pick this week and pick Martin Truex Jrfor today’s race!

Clement :  I’m going with Carl Edwards for the win!

Bushee :  I’m going to go with Jeff Gordon to win at Dover!

There you have it, race fans!  The Track Talk crew has spoken and given their thoughts on the FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.  How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into today’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now! Thanks as always to the TPF team!

As always, the opinions and thoughts express in Track Talk are solely of the authors and do not reflect on any organizations that we are affiliated with outside of TPF and FanvsFan nor the organizations mentioned, FanVsFan, or of TPF.  This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.​

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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