It certainly has been quite an eventful week in the NASCAR community. The situation that happened last weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway is still being discussed in social networks and among media members.
There's no reason not to, because what happened deserved to be talked about. It was discussed just as much as the action on the track.
But now, with the shift away from Texas, NASCAR is heading west once again, this time making a return trip to the Phoenix International Raceway. This track saw one driver end a winless streak in the spring, but nearly immediately following the race, things began to change. Bulldozers were on the track, tearing up the asphalt.
A repaving plan was in place to put down a new racing surface in time for the fall event at the track. In doing so, the track has been changed.
Some progressive banking has been added to the track, and the infamous dogleg in the backstretch has been slightly altered.
What does this mean? It means this year's Chase not only has one wild card race, Talladega, but now has two. It's an entirely new race track, and one that could play very pivotal in the hunt for the championship this year.
With our own Fan Vs. Fan Pool in just as tight of a race, picks have become critical, especially since each week is a new driver, and new hope.
Here's a look at who the writers have chose for the next-to-last race of 2011, the Kobalt Tools 500:
Misan Ayuka: Brad Keselowski
Keselwoski has had a dream second half of 2011 that has put him into a postion to be a Cup superstar. Kesewlsoki may not be crowned the champion this year but he will go out with a bang and willl hold his head high.
A win at Phoenix could put the perfect period on his season.
James Broomhead: Kevin Harvick
I’m ventilating into a paper bag – way down the stretch and I’m in the lead. Happy Harvick make me smile!
Kelly Crandall: Brad Keselowski
Really have none of my heavy hitters left. For Phoenix I thought about Denny Hamlin but he's been hot or cold every week. Thought about Kasey Kahne because he's been a strong non-Chaser, but Keselowski continues to impress every week so he should at least bring me a top-10 finish.
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
I gotta do it. A week after getting parked, hopefully Busch will enter this race with a clear head and see this as a chance to redeem himself and focus on what he is; a very, very talented race car driver.
Michael Hirshbein: Jimmie Johnson
No reason given.
Christopher Leone: Carl Edwards
Been saving 99. Time to break it out.
Kara Martin: Kurt Busch
Now I'm just randomly picking for sure.
Ryan O'Hara: Tony Stewart
I saved him for up for a reason. He's on fire.
Dustin Parks: Jimmie Johnson
Truthfully, I was tempted to use him at Martinsville. But, I just couldn't pull the trigger on him yet. Now, with me falling down last week with Hamlin struggling yet again, I had no choice but to load up the gun with a bullet I know can find it's mark.
How can you go wrong with this guy. Yes, it is a new surface, but Johnson averages a finish of second. It was this race last year where he put the pressure on Hamlin heading into the season finale. He won't get his six-pack this year, but that doesn't mean he can't get a victory to salvage something this year.
With that kind of attitude, I'm loaded with No. 48 bullets and waiting to pull the trigger.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jeff Gordon
No reason given, although Sal has the honor of being in attendance for Sunday's action at the track.
Rob Tiongson: Kasey Kahne
I've got nothing to lose since losing the points lead - why not go with a guy who's got that same attitude as he heads into his new chapter of racing with Hendrick Motorsports after this season.
Phoenix is virtually a new track and I expect the craziness to ensue!
Standings following Texas:
James Broomhead (2301) Tony Stewart WON (3)
Billy Fellin (2295) Carl Edwards finished second (3)
Misan Ayuka (2291) Matt Kenseth finished fourth (4)
Michael Hirshbein (2289) Matt Kenseth finished fourth (6)
Kelly Crandall (2281) Tony Stewart WON (5)
Kara Martin (2279) Matt Kenseth finished fourth (1)
Dustin Parks (2278) Denny Hamlin finished 20th (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2266) No. 18 car finished 33rd (5)
Rob Tiongson (2265) Denny Hamlin finished 20th (3)
Christopher Leone (2258) Kevin Harvick finished 13th (4)
Ryan O'Hara (2225) NO PICK SENT (2)
Final Thoughts: The points battle heated up following Martinsville, and the fire was lit at Texas. Could this weekend be a deciding factor in the champion, or will it just make everyone put everything on the line at the final event of the year and go all-out?
It's a wild card race, and no drafting will be involved in deciding the winner. Without question, Phoenix now becomes a very interesting race for everyone.
The race will go green at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Summary of Picks: