Recall all the twists and turns that accompanied a thrilling finish at Watkins Glen .
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
Driver of No. 11 Toyota has strong history at final four tracks on the schedule RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin has had an up and down year, but that hasn't stopped the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from emerging as a dark horse to win this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. From an eye ailment that kept him out of a race at Auto Club Speedway , to his win at Talladega Superspeedway in the spring, to seeing his crew chief Darian Grubb be suspended for the six races before the start of the Chase to battling his way through the Challenger and Contender Rounds, it has been a roller coaster season. And with his advancement into the Eliminator Round of eight drivers, things are setting up nicely for " The Deliverminator" to get to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the title. "Really, this year, our expectations have been so low from everyone around that we've flown so much under the radar that we don't have any pressure from here on out," Hamlin said during Eliminator Round Media Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "I mean, no one thought we'd be here. Now, I love our chances at having a shot for a championship at Homestead. "This format is just tailor made for an average team that's just been squeaking by, squeaking by, to get hot at the right time and next thing you know, steal a championship." Martinsville Speedway , Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway are three of Hamlin's better tracks in the Sprint Cup Series. The 33-year-old has four wins at Martinsville (with an average finish of 8.8, his second-best among active tracks), two wins at Texas (with an average finish of 10.8, his fifth-best among active tracks) and one win at Phoenix (with an average finish of 11.3, his seventh-best among active tracks). "Looking at these three racetracks, I can win any of them, easily." Hamlin sees this round -- specifically Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) -- as a great chance for his team to take advantage of speed not being as big of an issue. "It's a huge opportunity for us," Hamlin said. "As average as our team, in general, has been this year, we go into a short track where horsepower doesn't matter. Aerodynamics doesn't matter. It's about the driver and mechanical setup. And I feel like that's our strong suit with our team." While speed has been an issue at times for the Gibbs group and the Toyota fleet in general, Hamlin sees no reason that the team can't be right there at the end. "I believe we've got all the tools necessary. We've got a pit crew that is very, very fast even though we've got a setback there with losing our jackman (Nate Bolling). There's no reason we can't be as competitive as any one of these seven guys that we're going to be racing against these last four races." Despite his good record at Martinsville, Hamlin finished 19th there in the spring after qualifying second. He warned that those results came with little practice time at the track as the final two practices were washed out by rain. Since then, Hamlin disclosed that his team worked on their Martinsville setup at a similarly-configured track in Sandusky, Ohio. "Normally I wouldn't give that information away, but there's no more testing," Hamlin joked referring to a change announced as part of the 2015 rules package for the Sprint Cup Series that bans private testing by teams. And should he reach Homestead, Hamlin has a strong record there with two wins and an average finish of 11.2, his sixth-best among active tracks. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota won there in last year's season finale. "Truth be told, if you ask me 'you have one race to race heads up for a championship, pick either Martinsville or Homestead?' I'd almost pick Homestead simply because we've just had a lot of success there over these last few years and its been a great track for us. No one saw us winning last year. We were running like 15th every week and all of sudden, we win Homestead." Hamlin came to Homestead once before with a shot at the championship. In 2010, Hamlin led Jimmie Johnson by 15 points entering the season's final race. Hamlin finished 14th that day, while Johnson finished second, securing his fifth straight title by 39 points. Since then Hamlin has learned plenty, but mostly he just wants that chance to race for a championship in the season finale again and the new format makes that a bit easier to reach. "What we learned in 2010 is to have fun," Hamlin said. "And this year is going to be fun no matter what, because the expectations have been so low. I always said that if you just give me that Homestead 2010 chance back, then I promise I'd win it. It's hard to do that knowing you are going to have to race three guys heads-up and its going to be the best of the four (that wins the title), but I just want that chance again to be heads-up with those guys at Homestead." 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
Alan Cavanna brings you Up To Speed following Eliminator Media Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The F-Post travels to the land down under to capture Kevin Harvick in the wild, training to be an Outback Steakhouse employee.
This episode of The Drive for Superior Performance focuses on how NASCAR and Goodyear work together to design and develop the ultimate tire for the sport.