Track Talk: AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

Each weekend, our panel on The Podium Finish provide their thoughts on the latest stories in the world of NASCAR as well as discussing their race pick to win the upcoming Sprint Cup race of the weekend.  In this edition of Track Talk, we preview the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway!

This weekend, our panel consisting of Ashley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Kathleen CassidyKatie Copple, and Stephen Conley discuss the somewhat unusual caution period at Martinsville, David Ragan’s NASCAR future, Jimmie Johnson’s Chase efforts for a seventh title, and the rise of AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 team!

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Question 1
Who enjoyed seeing six percent of last Sunday's race in a single caution period?

Who enjoyed seeing six percent of last Sunday’s race in a single caution period?

NASCAR found themselves in a unique situation during Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 when they had to sort out the scoring order following Carl Edwards’ crash on lap 358.  Did NASCAR resolve this properly or could they have red flagged the race to resolve the scoring issues?

Hull :  I will say that NASCAR really dropped the ball on this one.  There was really no point in having a lengthy caution. I f they would have red flagged the race like they were supposed to, there wouldn’t have been all these problems.  Hopefully, this is a learning lesson for NASCAR, because I don’t know anyone who was happy with NASCAR when they did that.

Cassidy :  I think it is safe to say that NASCAR did not handle this properly according to many drivers and fans opinions.  There is no reason why a caution should be that long; I think a red flag was required.  Even though there was no physical material on the track, a scoring problem is critical enough to stop track action in order to fix it.

Conley :  Scoring issues should mandate a red flag.  You’re giving laps to a driver, frustrating teams, drivers and mostly fans.  NASCAR wonders why attendance and TV ratings continue to dwindle, but situations like this and other decision making issues hamper interest.  Officials are never supposed to be part of the story, let alone the leading character.

Shoppe :  It is always a complicated situation when a yellow flag comes out during a cycle of green flag pit stops.  I think NASCAR does the best they can to sort out the mess when that happens.  However, it can be a time consuming task.  NASCAR should use a red flag to sort out the running order when it takes more then five to 10 laps to do so for any reason.  The fans in the stands as well as those watching at home should not be losing 20 or moe laps of a race while they work that out.  Stop the race until they can get it right.

Copple :  With 29 laps of caution laps in that one yellow flag period in a race that is 500 laps…it’s really not that much.  Should NASCAR have thrown a flag?   Yes, but like I said, 500 laps is a lot of racing and 29 caution laps is not that much in the grand scheme of things.  Did NASCAR handle it the way they should have?  Probably not.  This is a great learning experience for future races, but in the end, I don’t think it affected the outcome of the race.

Question 2
Where in the world is David Ragan racing in 2017? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)Where in the world is David Ragan racing in 2017? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Where in the world is David Ragan racing in 2017? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

David Ragan seemed to intimate that his 2017 NASCAR situation is wide open, going as far as keeping rides in the XFINITY and Truck Series open.  Is this a case of Ragan trying to go the Elliott Sadler with opting for a quality, competitive ride for wins and championship battles or the Cup Series becoming a bit of a crowded house with upcoming talents?

Hobbs :  Absolutely!  I think Ragan is a quality driver; he is smart and does not tear up his equipment.  However, he wants to contend more than for just top 30s and 20s.  If Ragan can land a good ride in the XFINITY Series, I think that would be amazing!  Especially with the new rules coming for 2017, I think he could do a great job for a quality team in that series.

Hull :  When you are a NASCAR driver, you want to drive to win.  You don’t want to be out there just riding around in the back.  So he is right to keep his options open.  There are a lot of people competing for a Cup ride, and sadly; there are too few spaces to compete for.  Maybe having options to have rides in the XFINITY and Truck series will help him with his career and help him get wins.  I wish him the best of luck.

Cassidy :  I think that there is a lot of upcoming talents that are waiting to move up in NASCAR.  For this reason, some drivers who have rides with lower funded teams will be kicked out in order to make room.  I believe that we will see strong organizations such as Hendricks, Gibbs, Penkse, and RCR continue to pair up with other teams to bring young drivers up with good equipment. 

Conley :  I asked a driver one time what is more important – a Cup ride even if it’s not competitive, or an XFINITY or Truck ride that you’ll compete for championships.  Cup is always the goal, but being competitive is ultimately number one for drivers.

If Ragan, who has bounced around a bit, finds a strong XFINITY or Truck ride, I’d fully expect him to go that way. Sadler certainly has proven you can be competitive and happy doing that.

Shoppe :  I sure hope more drivers like David Ragan make a smart decision like Sadler did when looking at future options.  In my mind at least, a top ride in any series is much better then a back-marker seat in Cup.  Running around in 30th due to your equipment not your ability and doing so every week must wear at your patience as a driver let along your confidence.  If David Ragan can find a front running team in XFINITY or Truck next year, he should take it.  Other Cup drivers should consider the same. 

Copple :  To see David Ragan move to a lower series would be both heartbreaking and exciting.  I believe, with a good team behind him, he could really excel in either XFINITY or Truck racing but he is also a good Cup driver.  He is driving with a lower funded team.  If he consistently raced with a team like JGR or SHR, I believe he would see Victory Lane.  Moving to a lower series could very well be the perfect move for his career.  I’m excited to see what he does next.

Question 3
Will Jimmie Johnson score a record-tying seventh championship? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Will Jimmie Johnson score a record-tying seventh championship? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Jimmie Johnson is a step closer towards scoring his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup title by winning at Martinsville on Sunday.  With an automatic advancement to the championship race at Homestead-Miami, is it safe to say that the No. 48 team continues to amp up their efforts and go all Bachman Turner Overdrive on their competition in these final three races?

Hobbs :  The 48 team’s season looks like a roller coaster every year.  They start off fast, win some races, and hit a low come the summer, and then they are right back come Chase time.  This happens every year with this team and people always right them off.

Granted, Johnson was eliminated from the final round the past two years, but he is back now and can put all his focus on being the best at Homestead.  But that does not mean he will not look forward to going for five in a row at Texas during The Chase.

Hull :  I think that they have definitely have stepped up their game.  In fact, they have a great chance of winning that seventh championship.  They have been on fire these last few races.  A lot of people tried to count them out, but they were wrong.  They will continue to be strong, and set themselves up to win that seventh Sprint Cup trophy!

Cassidy :  I think we will see the No. 48 just ride out the next two weeks, preparing for Homestead.  Still being competitive, I think we will see Johnson making smart choices, knowing the team does not need a win anymore. When it comes to Miami itself, I think the 48 team will be on their A-game, having time to prepare, and will be competitive to fight for the 2016 championship.

Conley :  It’s all about how you play the game and it took Chad and Jimmie a few years to figure out the Chase with elimination.  But like everything else, they’ve figured it out, and that should scare the competition.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win the final four races.  I wouldn’t like it, but I could see it.

Shoppe :  I expect Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team to try their best to keep others from locking in to the final four these next two weeks.  Who has won the last few years at Texas in the Chase race?  Non other than Six-Time.

Copple :  I’m going to take a moment and let the fan girl side of me out…JIMMIE JOHNSON IS IN THE FINAL FOUR!!!  Okay, now moving on.

Was I the only one who wasn’t worried this summer when the No.48 seemed to be “lacking” something?  I remember reading article after article over the summer saying that Johnson and his team were just “not getting it” like they usually do.  While I’m reading this thinking, they are just testing the waters for the Chase.

The No. 48 team knew they were in the Chase early in the season.  They had time to try different setups and strategies during the regular season to see what worked for the Chase and what didn’t.  Now, as we hit the final three races, Johnson and his team are as strong as ever.  This could very well be Johnson’s year for number seven.

Question 4
AJ Allmendinger, potential Chase racer for 2017? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

AJ Allmendinger, potential Chase racer for 2017? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 team scored their third top-10 finish in a row, logging in eight top-10’s thus far in 2016.  Might this be a bunch to watch for a potential run at The Chase next season given Allmendinger’s strengths on the road courses and short tracks?

Hobbs :  The Dinger is always pretty solid at short tracks, believe it or not.  This team always circles the road courses when it comes to The Chase, but I think they need to circle the short tracks as well, if they do not have them circled already.  Each year they show a little bit more.  But, if they really want to be a contender for The Chase, they must improve their intermediate track program.  Otherwise, Allmendinger will just be a named talked about when it comes to Watkins Glen and Sonoma.

Hull :  I think that they are indeed a strong group at these types of tracks.  We could have a chance of seeing AJ winning a road course race next year, thus catapulting himself into the Chase.  He could have done it this year had he not ran into trouble with Kyle Larson.  There is always a chance, so we shall see next year.

Cassidy :  100% we can see improvement from this team.  The only downfall to this is that it is not highlighted by NASCAR broadcasters.  I think drivers such as AJ need the shown on air for their accomplishments.  It is also a nice break away from The Chase or highly praised drivers who are always talked about.

Conley :  I certainly think it’s time.  This is Allmendinger’s third full season in the No. 47 and the performance has lacked consistency.  This team is right in the edge of being a regular in the top ten and with the talk of a possible second car at JTG, it could be exactly what AJ needs to give a nice kick in the tail of his career.  

Shoppe :  I am so happy to see AJ Allmendinger having some good results to end the year!  We need more underdogs running up front taking the fight to the usual contenders! Hopefully AJ and the JTG Daugherty team can keep the ball rolling and turn it into a positive start to 2017!

Copple :  Chase run?  Maybe.  Competitive Chase run?  Doubtful.  Allmendinger still has a long way to go before he is competitive at every track and that is what it takes to advance and compete for the championship.  He has a good team behind him and they are making incredible progress but their half-mile races are still  lacking.  It’s going to be a few years before we see him competing weekly up front but it’s definitely not out of the question.

Four laps around this 1.5-mile speedway and nary a scratch on the TPF car!  Before dropping the hammer with our winning picks, let’s see how we all fared last weekend at that paperclip called Martinsville Speedway!
Hull scored a big win once again...

Hull scored a big win once again…

...and thus, tightens up the points race!

…and thus, tightens up the points race!

Well it’s not as awesome as Chuck Norris time but hey, we’re trying!  Let’s see who we’ve all picked to win today’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway!
Ah, one of them four today, eh?

Ah, one of them four today, eh?

Tiongson :  Ah, some folks may think that Jimmie Johnson is going to coast these next two races like someone perusing around Target or Lowe’s when they are running short on dough. That said, he’s probably not afraid to use his “credit card” knowing he’s pretty much locked into the championship race at Miami, he’s going to go for the win at Texas, a pretty solid bet considering his track record there.

Conley :  Two stepping his way in to Victory Lane at Texas will be Jimmie Johnson.

Shoppe :  Jimmie Johnson will score the win!

Copple :  Jimmie Johnson dominates at Texas today.

TPF Stats :  It is hard to argue against the four-time defending race champion Jimmie Johnson.

Hobbs :  He may be out of The Chase, but Martin Truex Jr. still has that desire to win!

Hull :  My pick for the Texas race will be a bold one, because he really needs to win to advance to the final four, and I always jinx him, but hopefully I will give him some good luck – I am going with Carl Edwards.

Cassidy :  Kyle Busch takes the win at Texas.

 

That wraps it up, race fans! Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!   We’re about ready for some racing.  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, and thanks to Jeremy Thompson of The Racing Experts for his always awesome photographs accompanying the article (whereas noted), including our featured image!  The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors and do not reflect on any organizations that we are affiliated with outside 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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