NASCAR.com discusses the hot topics of the week RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. The Eliminator Round consists of three very distinct tracks with the shortest on the schedule (Martinsville), a 1.5-miler (Texas) and a relatively flat 1-mile oval in Phoenix . Do any of the three stand out as more likely to adversely impact the Chase drivers? Alan Cavanna : They'll all have their challenges, but I think the biggest may be the first one. You can find trouble in Martinsville on the track and in the pits. One small thing can put you in a big hole right away. Zack Albert: Two potential schools of thought here. In terms of track, I think Martinsville is so difficult to figure out that it's very particular with who runs well there. On the other hand, Phoenix will be so much of a pressure-cooker with the final four drivers trying to lock into the Homestead championship finale that it could be an anything-goes type of race. Kenny Bruce: I want to say that Martinsville, with its slower speeds, isn't as much of a risk for those guys. Typically damage there is minimal, with teams being able to fix most problems and still be in the hunt. Then I remember the run-in between Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch earlier this year, with Keselowski eventually finishing 38th. So it definitely can happen. Cavanna : My mind goes right back to Clint Bowyer 's dive-bomb a few years ago at Martinsville that took out the 24 and 48. We won't see those moves at other tracks. But at Martinsville drivers will try. And who won that day? Current Chase surprise Ryan Newman . Bruce: After being at Talladega and witnessing the added pressure of it being a cutoff race, I have to agree with you Zack. The pressure will be there in all three, but at Phoenix it could be incredible. Albert: The spring race at Phoenix wasn't particularly nutso, but pressure works in mysterious ways. Cavanna : I agree about the Phoenix factor. At the very least we'll have five drivers competing for one at-large spot, possibly more. Bruce: If you think about it, all three tracks have had their share of memorable moments. The Bowyer incident, as you mention, Alan , at Martinsville; Gordon and Jeff Burton at Texas and Gordon and Bowyer at Phoenix . Hey, what is it with Gordon and Bowyer? Albert: Doesn't the 15 still owe the 24 one? Bruce: Possibly, Zack. If Martinsville was truly the site of paybacks, we could see a record number of cautions. Fortunately, I think some folks have too much at stake to get in the middle of a meltdown. Cavanna : I hope Gordon isn't a San Francisco Giants fan. A new rivalry may have started with Bowyer's Royals. 2. Team owner Roger Penske said after Talladega that he thinks other drivers are jealous of Brad Keselowski because of his driver's success this season. So, are others jealous of Bad Brad? Cavanna : I don't think you'd ever hear a driver say they're jealous of BK. I think some might be annoyed with him. And deep down, some of that has to be rooted in jealously. Albert: I think there's an element of every driver wanting to be the top dog. I think there may be some jealousy of the team he's with, but I don't know if it reaches a more personal level. Cavanna : At some point, I think it does Zack. In the hierarchy of the garage, Brad K. stepped over a lot of people who seemed to be next up to be crowned champion. Carl Edwards , Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch are all still searching for that first title. Bruce: Either they were laying it on thick earlier this week, or the other Chase drivers respect and admire what Keselowski has been able to accomplish since coming into Sprint Cup. Maybe they aren't fans of the way he carries himself, or the way he races in some instances, but they all know how difficult it is to be successful in this sport. Even Matt Kenseth said he admired how Brad came up through the ranks and what he's done. As you said, Alan , I think "annoyed" is a better description of how others feel about him at times. Albert: True, admirable. And the success without a perceived paying of dues can ruffle feathers. But actual respect only goes so far through all of Keselowski's outspoken nature in his comments through the years and the on-track antics in the Charlotte cool-down lap. Cavanna : I get the feeling some hoped BK would be an annoying fly they could swat away. But that doesn't appear to be happening. Bruce: Take his personality out of the equation and you have a driver that has won six times this year, won five poles and is considered one of the favorites for this year's title. Stout stuff. But as Zack noted, it's the "other" items that perhaps have some people questioning his position in the sport. Albert: Keselowski said in his 2012 championship speech in Las Vegas, "As a champion, I want to be your leader, and I want to help you make it happen." Are we there yet? Bruce: Well, maybe not just yet, Zack, but we could be getting there. Keep the cameras rolling, just in case. Cavanna : I don't think so Zack, and part of it may be other drivers' personal feelings toward him. It's like a reality TV show competition; you have to play both the professional and social game to win. 3. We mentioned Martinsville earlier. What is the likelihood that we will see payback in some form or fashion this week when the series heads up the interstate for this weekend's race? Cavanna : Payback just doesn’t seem worth it if you’re a Chase driver. Let's say Hamlin takes a cheap shot at Keselowski during the race. Then what? It certainly wouldn’t be over. Keselowski would have nothing to lose by coming back a getting Hamlin the week after. It'd be lose-lose for both of them. Albert: If we're going to see any, it's most likely going to be at Martinsville. Still, let's remember back to the spring when Keselowski leaned on Kurt Busch – it ultimately didn't matter since Kurt went on to win the race. So sometimes purposeful retaliation doesn't have all that much effect beyond the principle of the thing. Bruce: Payback comes in all forms and fashions, Alan . As Kevin Harvick noted earlier this week, payback isn't always about wrecking someone. At a track such as Martinsville, you can make it extremely difficult for another guy to get around you. You can be a pain on pit road. It doesn't even have to be in the actual race - you can annoy someone during practice if that's your goal. Albert: Or you can sneak into the infield concession stand and spike their hot dogs. Bruce: I know NASCAR cautions drivers each week during the Chase to "let the race play out" and not get involved in paybacks or things of that nature, but there's an awful lot that goes on out on the track that doesn't always come to light. Is that a P3 penalty, Zack? Or a guarantee that your car will be the random after the race? Albert: Doctoring hot dogs certainly falls under the heading of "actions detrimental to stock-car racing." At least a P3, season-ending probation and cutting off the supply of Goody's to the pit box. Cavanna : Excellent point, Kenny. We've seen Hamlin and Harvick have issues at Bristol. And I can remember a few drivers making it tough on Logano in the pits in the past. I forgot about those little things. Bruce: A driver never forgets, Alan . Just as Jimmy Spencer. Cavanna : Still, if you’re a driver with unsettled business, I'd be working the phones and text messages before Sunday. I think we saw some of that happen with Logano and Danica Patrick . Bruce: Which may or may not be settled, depending on whom you ask. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
NASCAR.com's Chris Rice and Alan Cavanna show us what factors can affect ride height at Talladega and Daytona.
NASCAR.com's Chris Rice and Alan Cavanna explain how brakes play a significant factor in success at Marinsville Speedway.
Alan Cavanna brings you Up To Speed following Eliminator Media Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Bobby Labonte and Alan Cavanna teardown the top stories, including the fight, from Richmond and look ahead to the weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Alan Cavanna recaps how the GEICO 500 left Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing with mixed reviews after some of their drivers advance to the Eliminator Eight and a few are left behind.
Alan Cavanna and Kenny Bruce break down all the action from Talladega Superspeedway and explain what it means for the drivers on the bubble in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Alan Cavanna gets you set for the first race of the Eliminator round as he previews the action this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Alan Cavanna looks to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s past to see how the No. 88 can advance to the Eliminator Round after the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Our experts address this week's hot topics in NASCAR RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize 1. Were the penalties for the post-race turmoil at Charlotte appropriate for all parties involved? Alan Cavanna : I think not issuing a points penalty was the proper call. The incidents in question were not competition-related, and I don't feel the penalty should have been. That said, I do think the fine for Brad Keselowski could've been higher to send more of a message. The garage is crowded after a race, and it needs to be respected. Kes is among the best drivers in the world, but one small slip while trying to do even a small burnout could be disastrous. Zack Albert: I don't know that if I were in any sort of ruling position that I'd have gone to the lengths of issuing a suspension, but I felt like the punishment could've been stiffer -- especially for Keselowski as instigator and Hamlin for that cut-through in the garage. Stewart's fine seemed about right. A Kenseth probation could've at least put him on notice, but making a no-call there was OK by me, too. Kenny Bruce: I know the big kickback from the fans is that taking away money isn't much of a penalty for these guys. And probation? A slap on the wrist. But I think taking away points should be left for technical infractions, because those incidents can impact the results of the race. Taking away points for bad behavior doesn't make sense. The money might not seem all that much, but keep in mind, it would escalate for a future offense. Albert: And even if you do penalize with points deductions, a victory this weekend would advance a penalized driver to the Chase's next round, no matter how many points you take away. Bruce: Good point, Zack. It could impact a driver trying to advance without a win, but if they take points away and the guy wins, where's the penalty? … I was surprised that Kenseth wasn't at least fined for his role in the altercation with Brad. Would have liked to have had a better explanation of how they came to that determination. C avanna : No punches thrown, Kenny. I think Matt inched up to the line, but didn't cross it. The Ambrose/Mears conflict at Richmond in the spring featured a direct punch and left another competitor with a black eye. Once Kenseth got a hold of Kez, I think he just wanted to talk. Albert: Is giving a noogie a P1 violation? If we'd had a Kermit Washington impersonation by Kenseth, maybe there's more to it, but I think it falls under the heading of a shoving match with no blood spilt. Bruce: Oh, he wanted to talk, all right. But Mears threw no punches and was fined. Of course, he was deemed "the instigator." Should have a T-shirt made up with that on it. Albert: I know we dealt with a good amount of unhappy fans Tuesday, but had there been a suspension, the howls would've been about NASCAR officials hand-picking a champion whose name doesn't rhyme with Reselowski. C avanna : Gad Reselowski? I think he raced in the '50s. 2. Brad Keselowski , Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr . rank as the bottom three in the Sprint Cup standings. Who has the best chance of staving off elimination in the Contender Round finale at Talladega? C avanna : Tough question to answer. I picked Dale Jr. to win the race in this week's NASCAR.com Preview Show . So by that logic, he has the best shot. Albert: By that logic, he's jinxed beyond all hope. Cavanna : But in terms of points, Kes can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. If he avoids a big wreck that takes out someone like Kenseth or Kahne, Brad advances. Kenny Bruce: I think Mr. Reselowski, I mean Keselowski, has the best shot. Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. are tied, and eight points or so behind Brad, so that's eight positions they need just to finish ahead of him -- not including all those ahead. Plus, teammate Joey Logano made no bones about helping his teammate this weekend. Also, Ryan Blaney , who will be in a third Team Penske car, mentioned helping BK out. Cavanna : Hey! I've picked a few winners, Zack! Bruce: Isn't that our version of the SI cover jinx, Alan ? C avanna : I don't need the Nation mad at me. ... I like your point about the Penske cars, Kenny. Logano and Blaney need no other agenda than helping out the 2 car. Albert: That said, I think Brad is going to need all the aero help and/or reinforcements he can get after last weekend. But to your point, Alan , I think Dale Jr. finds some of that 'Dega magic from days of old. Bruce: Correct, Alan . Hendrick guys and the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch have enough on their own plates without worrying about a teammate; Harvick, Edwards, Newman ... they're lone wolves out there. C avanna : This format is so odd. Who's more nervous on Sunday? Kes/Junior/Jimmie or Hamlin/Edwards/Newman, etc.? Albert: It's going to be crazy. The live standings might resemble a roulette wheel. ... Funny that there's this guy we haven't been talking about -- Johnson. How does a six-time champ fly under the radar like this? In years past, I don't know that I'd have bet against the 48 camp come Chase time. Now? Just not seeing the bulletproof aura around them. C avanna : Radar only extends so far. Jimmie is barely within striking distance. Bruce: Right about the 48, Zack. Who would have thought we could have described them as average? But truthfully, that's where they're at right now. They need to change the Lowe's slogan from "Never Stop Improving" to "Improve Faster." Albert: Maybe they surprise us, but there's room for (home) improvement. Bruce: Nice. 3. The last few Talladega races have given us surprise winners, major multi-car crashes and stunning finishes. Will we see more intensity in Sunday's Chase elimination race? Is that possible? Bruce: I think so. The racing there has gotten so crazy the last few years. If they come across the start/finish line six-wide with half of them upside-down, I wouldn't be surprised. C avanna : It'll all depend on the situation and who is running where and when. If the "bottom 3" are in the back half of the top 10 with two to go, I predict chaos. Albert: The only two drivers sitting pretty right now are Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick , who have already punched their tickets to the next round. The rest? Who knows. C avanna : If it's a guy like Edwards/Newman/Hamlin, etc., I think they do all they can to bring it home in one piece and advance. Bruce: I've wondered all week if there was a chance that we "over-sell" the race, but honestly I just don't see that being the case. Heard someone say the other day that even with the multicar incidents in the spring race, there were still 20 or 21 cars on lead lap at the end of the race. So more than half the field still had a shot. How often do we see that? C avanna : It'll be interesting to see if someone advances because his team makes quick repairs from an early wreck. Every position is going to matter. Bruce: I don't think we'll see shades of Benny Parsons' team rebuilding his car to get him back out and win the title, but you're close, Alan . Albert: Not only that, all the alliances and grudges will come into play. And even if crews tell you they won't pay attention to the standings as they run, here's betting they'll have it in view out of the corner of their eye. Bruce: I more expect pit-stop calls of "So and so stops for four fresh Goodyear tires, two cans of Sunoco fuel and a shot of Mylanta ..." Albert: Will officials allow an extra crewmember over the wall for antacid relief. Cavanna : What would Gad Reselowski do? Kenny Bruce: Drive it like he stole it? Zack Albert: Someone stole the pace car during pre-race at Talladega several years back. He also drove it like he stole it (fans, don't get any bright ideas). MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation