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NASCAR Nostradamus: Looking ahead to 2nd round of Chase

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400 by Janssen

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 20: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 20, 2015 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan and Dustin Long discuss some of the key issues heading into Saturday’s Bank of America 500, which begins the second round of the Chase.

Should NASCAR ban post-race burnouts in light of some drivers suggesting that it can prevent NASCAR from checking particular areas of the car that are damaged?

NATE: It’s tempting to say yes, because it seems fair and logical to keep postrace inspection uniform for all competitors. And considering that celebratory burnouts were nonexistent for the first five decades of NASCAR, why not restore a modicum of civility without sacrificing emotion (any charges of being understated can be rectified with a raucous party in victory lane)?

But NASCAR should be careful about instituting rules that can be viewed as tantamount to legislating or restricting driver behavior. Fines for speaking out of turn haven’t been well-received, and sanctioning enthusiasm after a win stands even less of a chance of strong justification.

Stock-car history has a history of thriving on unbridled emotion and juicy controversies. Burnouts are at the nexus of both and thus shouldn’t be restrained.

DUSTIN: No. It’s the same for everyone. Win a race, wreck your car if you so choose. Call it the benefit of winning. If NASCAR has reason to suspect there is something suspicious with a winning car but can’t prove it because the car is too damaged, the solution is simple - require that car to go through inspection after the next several races. Do you really think if a team finds something that gets them a victory they’re not going to do it again?

The second round ends with Talladega Superspeedway. Should that race be an elimination race?

NATE: Given its tendency to produce arbitrary outcomes and results, the track probably shouldn’t be in the playoffs. But the objective of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, particularly with its 2014 revamping, isn’t promoting fairness, it’s producing drama. If Talladega is deemed worthy of being in the final 10, then it absolutely should occupy an elimination slot. It’s as nerve wracking and stomach churning as any track, and that’s why it’s an agonizingly perfect fit for unjustly determining drivers’ second-round fates.

DUSTIN: I’m fine with it. As long as it continues to be in the Chase, this race will play a significant role in who advances and who doesn’t based on its random luck factor. That it is the final race in the second round only raises the intensity and uncertainty.

Who is a Chase driver to watch in this round.

NATE: Jeff Gordon. After escaping the first round, he is in better shape than many realize. His team’s performance at 1.5-mile tracks such as Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway has been trending in the right direction, and the No. 24 Chevrolet has been fast in every restrictor-plate race this season. Talladega actually could be considered a bit of a firewall for the four-time series champion, who had the strongest car there in May but was burned by a pit speeding penalty.

DUSTIN: Kyle Busch. Kansas Speedway has tormented him at times, but he finished third there in this race last year. I want to see what he can do at Charlotte and Kansas and how that sets him up for Talladega - a race that eliminated him last year. After his spectacular summer, can he be as good now and advance to the third round?