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
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.
Tensions boil over in latest Kenseth-Kes incident RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Oct. 17: Kesenth has no regrets With some time to reflect, Matt Kenseth offers his assessment of what happened at Charlotte and led to his garage scuffle with Brad Keselowski . " Read more Oct. 17: Keselowski responds Brad Keselowski heard what Matt Kenseth said on Friday and offered his own thoughts on the matter. " Read more Oct. 15: Bowyer weighs in Clint Bowyer weighs in on the scuffle between Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski and offers an interesting take. " Read more Oct. 15: Analyzing the punishment NASCAR.com reporter Kenny Bruce takes an in-depth look at the penalties handed down to a pair of drivers. " Read more Oct. 14: Penalties issued Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart are both reprimanded for their actions at Charlotte. " Read more Oct. 14: NASCAR statement Read the complete penalty announcement and the official statement from NASCAR. " Read more Oct. 14: Logano weighs in on teammate's dust-up Joey Logano says of the post-race fracas involving his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski : "I didn't know what to think." " Read more " Edwards shares his thoughts Oct. 14: NASCAR expected to rule Have suspensions been the norm in cases like these? Kenny Bruce investigates. " Read more Oct. 14: New Chase has created serious drama Playoff intensity has reached new heights as exemplified in Charlotte. " Read more Oct. 13: Go inside the garage for a look at the scuffle See the post-race fireworks from the time the cars got to the garage with an All-Access look. " See the incident from a different view Oct. 13: Kenseth vs. Kes makes NASCAR's top-five scuffles But is it the best? Check out our rankings of NASCAR's all-time best scuffles. " See the list Oct. 13: Photos of the fight aftermath See how drivers and their cars looked at the end of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . " See the photos Oct. 13: Breaking down Kenseth vs. Keselowski Two of NASCAR's top drivers in a number-by-number comparison. " Read more Oct. 12: Kes tweets, NASCAR investigates, drivers react Former Sprint Cup Series champion addresses incident; NASCAR continues investigation. " See what Brad said Oct. 11: Pemberton responds to post-race incident NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition and Racing Development, Robin Pemberton, comments on NASCAR's talk with Brad Keselowski after the race in Charlotte. " Watch the statement Oct. 11: Social reaction: Tempers flare, Twitter explodes The twittersphere was buzzing after Saturday night's events. See tweets from Brad Keselowski and other drivers. " Read full story Oct. 11: Hamlin to Kes: 'Acting like a dumb (expletive)' Denny Hamlin explains his frustration with Brad Keselowski , and Paul Wolfe reacts to the post-race altercation. " Watch the reactions Oct. 11: Keselowski fired up after Hamlin/Kenseth scuffles Brad Keselowski explains what happened Saturday on and off the track with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth after the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . " Watch his response Oct. 11: Sparks fly between Kenseth, Keselowski Matt Kenseth runs down Brad Keselowski and an argument ensues at the haulers after incidents between the two in the Bank of America 500 . " Watch the fight Oct. 11: Keselowski, Hamlin tangle post-race Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth 's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin make contact during cool-down laps after the checkered flag falls on the Bank of America 500 . " Watch the flare-up Sep. 21: Keselowski goes around A few weeks before the fight, Brad Keselowski spins out and crashes while trying to pass Matt Kenseth . " Watch the crash May 4: Wiped out Kenseth critical of Keselowski Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon sound off on Brad Keselowski after the 2012 champ was involved in the 'Big One' at 'Dega. " Read the full story May 4: Keselowski sparks big crash at 'Dega Brad Keselowski gets loose, makes contact with Trevor Bayne , and takes out Matt Kenseth and others in the Aaron's 499 . " Watch the 'Big One' April 29: Kenseth, Keselowski exchange Twitter jabs The pair of former Sprint Cup Series champs were still not over their Richmond incident and took it to social media. " Read the quips April 27: Keselowski: 'It was a mind-boggling move' Brad Keselowski explains his displeasure with Matt Kenseth after a questionable move at Richmond. " Hear Brad's comments April 26: Keselowski, Kenseth clash in frantic finish Matt Kenseth on Richmond drama: 'I was the leader, and I was trying to protect my spot' " Read full story Nov. 2, 2013: Keselowski predicts Kenseth wins Cup title Brad Keselowski predicts Matt Kenseth will win the NSCS title. Hey, they haven't always been at odds with each other. " Watch the video MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
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Whittling list down to just five always a tough task
Panel of experts debate that and more as the roundtable returns RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. OK folks, the field of 16 for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has been determined. Looking at this year's roster, is there a favorite in the field? Alan Cavanna: I filled out my Chase Grid (like I hope you have, print a blank one out here) -- and started with my champion, Jeff Gordon . Huge year, fast speed, and the sense that the driver from the late '90s is back. Brad Norman: I'm not so sure there is a "favorite," but there's definitely a group of "favorites." That would be the Team Penske duo and the three heavyweights at Hendrick Motorsports – sorry, Kasey Kahne . Throw in Kevin Harvick , if he gets the pit-road problems cleaned up with a new over-the-wall crew. I can't imagine a scenario in which the final four drivers at Homestead don't come from that group. Kenny Bruce : For the first time in, well, a long time, I don't think you can assume that Jimmie Johnson is a clear-cut favorite. The No. 48 team started the season slower than many expected, caught fire at mid-season but has been "average" (for them) recently. Cavanna: OK fellas, I'm the only one going out on a limb with a solid pick. C'mon now. Norman: True, Alan. If forced to pick one, I'd go with top-seeded Brad Keselowski . He's back to form, he's got a great strategist in Paul Wolfe calling the shots and the Team Penske cars have been phenomenal on those intermediate-type ovals. Of which there are five in the postseason. Bruce : I'll lean toward Alan on the Gordon pick, but I've got to give props to 2012 champ Keselowski as well. The No. 2 team has been pretty stout of late, and that momentum's got to be worth something. Cavanna: I understand though. The four drivers in the Championship Round aren't necessarily the four "best." They're the three winners, and the most consistent. A great driver will be left out of the championship race at Homestead. Norman: One thing that's most interesting about Keselowski is that Joey Logano is one of his biggest challengers. They share a garage, share info. After Logano won at Bristol and Keselowski finished second, Bad Brad was asked about how those two will continue to share info during the Chase -- and it was a topic the 2012 champion was reluctant to discuss. Bruce : I think it's interesting that Gordon and Keselowski probably feel as if they have something to prove. Keselowski for not making the Chase last year and Gordon for not winning a title in the Chase-era. And I'm not sure how much you can compare 2013 to this season, but Mr. Kenseth reeled off back-to-back wins to open the Chase a year ago, I believe. Cavanna: You beat me to it, Kenny . Ten weeks from now we'll all look like fools when Matt Kenseth is hoisting the Sprint Cup trophy. Bruce : My biggest concern with the entire JGR group is their win total this year. Three teams, two combined wins. That probably won't cut it in the Chase. Norman: For Gordon, I imagine what he's feeling is just like what a veteran may feel at any job. You see these upstarts come in and win races, you don't perform as well and perhaps you wonder if you can still hang. That's a wonderful motivator. Mr. Gordon (hey, respect your elders) can most certainly still hang. 2. Speaking of JGR, Kenseth is one of three drivers in the Chase without a win this year and two drivers, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger , are making their first appearance in the "playoff." How do we expect these guys on the bottom half of the board to fare? Norman: Certainly, you expect more from Kenseth than you do Almirola or Allmendinger because of his pedigree, his team, his equipment ... all that stuff. I'm not sure Kenseth can get to Homestead still in contention for the championship, but there's no reason he shouldn't be in the Eliminator Round. Of all the guys on the bottom of the board, I think he's clearly got the best chance. Cavanna: I'm not totally worried about the winless drivers just yet. The consistency we've seen from drivers like Kenseth and Ryan Newman should carry them forward for a round or two, even without wins. Bruce : You're spot on Brad. Given Kenseth's consistency, I expect him to advance beyond the first round, probably the second. Gets tougher after that, though. Newman has been consistent all year, Greg Biffle more so of late. I think Aric and AJ test the waters and see what it's like. But advancing would be a surprise. A nice one, but a surprise just the same. Cavanna: I hate to say I have little faith in the 47 team (Allmendinger) moving on. But, Aric Almirola is riding into the Chase with two straight top-10 finishes. If he gets three more, that will put him in the next round. Norman: I do think we're going to see a "surprise" driver advance, though. I'd pick Allmendinger, if forced to give a name. He's gotten better at intermediates. More than that, though, I can foresee a scenario in which a guy more favored to advance wrecks at Chicago, and then has a couple of gambles fail as he tries to get back in it over the next two weeks. Cavanna: Brad, I like your thinking for a roundtable rookie. I think the sport and fans are in for a big surprise. It's easy to think of the better drivers and assume they all advance. But one glance at any NCAA Tournament tells you that never happens. There's always an upset or three. Bruce : The thing about it is if a driver advances beyond the first round (Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover), Talladega looms as the cutoff race for the Contender Round and as we know, anything can happen there. How cool would it be, Alan, to see the 43 battling for a title? OK, battling for a spot in the next round? A lot of history there. Cavanna: It's a long shot, but the 43 will certainly be a chic pick for advancing to the top-12. Norman: I am the Kyle Larson of the roundtable, Alan. Cavanna: You're a dry wiper? 3. Now that we've determined who will win, who will advance and who can go ahead and start taking the yellow ID markings off their cars ... which teams on the outside are most likely to pick up a win during the final 10 races? Norman: It was rare to see that happen with frequency when there were 12 (or 13) drivers in the postseason. Now with 16? I think it'll be even more rare. The biggest contender to me, the roundtable rookie, is ... Kyle Larson. Maybe at Charlotte. Heck, he could win any of them. Bruce : I don't think it was that rare ... but the folks that won were often guys you thought would have been in the Chase to begin with most of the time. Tony Stewart , Jamie McMurray , Biffle, Denny Hamlin , Gordon. But you make a good point about the numbers decreasing the likelihood. Cavanna: Prior to the start of the season I picked Austin Dillon to win a race, with Talladega in mind. I'll stick with that. Clint Bowyer showed some promise at Richmond Saturday night, but I worry that may be the team's best performance of the season. Norman: To be fair, it happened three times last year. And if you look at who won those races, two of those guys are in the Chase field this year – Keselowski and Hamlin. And McMurray was the other, winning at Talladega which is a wild card. So if anyone outside the Chase field wins, I think it could portend a big 2015 season. Larson, Bowyer, Dillon ... what about Stewart? Cavanna: I think a lot of people are overlooking what a win by a non-Chaser does to the championship run. Every time that bell rings, it's one less automatic spot for a guy going after a championship. Bruce : Bowyer is tough at New Hampshire, so maybe it's better late than never for him and the MWR team, Alan. But I wouldn't be surprised if one of the rookies, Dillon or Larson, gets a win now that there's no Chase pressure. Norman: Alan, you make a good point about the championship run. Can you imagine in any round, if somehow a non-Chaser wins two in a row? Bruce : Your comments reminded me of something, guys. If a non-Chase driver wins a race in the Chase, does he get one of those yellow "winner" stickers to go above his window? For that matter, does anyone? Cavanna: Everyone likes rewards, Kenny . I hope the stickers remain. Norman: Everyone's a winner here, Kenny . Cavanna: Even Brad Norman's Chase beard. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation