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Debate: NASCAR's burning questions

Our experts weigh in on four of the biggest questions in NASCAR this week:

Turn 1: Where do you place that last 50-lap battle between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson in the annals of Martinsville racing?

Ed Hinton, ESPN.com: Oh, c'mon. This was maybe a little above average, but that's about it. Little room in the annals of Martinsville for this one, up against, say, 2007, when Johnson won after Jeff Gordon had banged on his bumper relentlessly for something like the last 40 laps. Or, just take 2012, when Johnson and Gordon were dueling for the win on a green-white-checkered restart, only to both get knocked sideways by the hyperaggressiveness of Clint Bowyer and eventual winner Ryan Newman. What's misleading about Martinsville is that, immediately after any finish there, you deem the race a classic.

Brant James, ESPN.com: Among the best in recent memory. And yet again, the new NASCAR system used to create the Chase for the Sprint Cup field seemed to stoke the action. Both Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch knew a likely playoff berth was the reward -- as much as the grandfather clock -- for a win at Martinsville and it certainly felt like second place was no consolation prize. Two highly skilled drivers testing and exploiting weaknesses and racing tough but clean was compelling theater.

Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine: Those are large annals. So instead of trying to rank it, I'll just say that it was a battle and a finish that really have become standard operating procedure at Martinsville. I'm not sure why there are ever any tickets remaining for races down there. And it was also a testament to this new Chase format. Never did points ever enter either driver's mind, even Busch, who has desperately needed to start climbing in the standings. (BTW my all-time favorite is the 1987 fall race, when Terry Labonte hooked Dale Earnhardt on the final lap, letting Darrell Waltrip blow by.)

John Oreovicz, ESPN.com: I didn't get to watch most of the race, because it overlapped with the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. But the highlights looked pretty good. Any time you get multiple passes for the lead in the last 10 percent of the race, the excitement level is pretty high. And any time a Martinsville race ends with at least two drivers hacked off at each other, it's mission accomplished.

Marty Smith, ESPN Insider: It was great, but I won't go ranking it historic. It was really good, really clean racing by a pair of champions who made for some spectacular designs in the icing on Busch's comeback cake. No one ever questioned his ability. Everyone questioned whether he'd win again because few believed he'd get a another chance like this. Gene Haas made it happen. And Busch repaid him quickly.

Turn 2: With the new format rewarding winning, what big name do you see in trouble when we get to Richmond in September?

Hinton: Just give me a second to pull the Hope Diamond out of my pocket to use for a crystal ball. There are 19 races left before Richmond, and there certainly aren't 19 "top drivers." I doubt any big guns will be in trouble by September. But if I must take a stab, let's say there are more than 16 winners and points come into play. Kevin Harvick is 92 points out of the lead and Kurt Busch is minus-81. So both could run some risk of falling out of the top 30 and negating their wins if they remain at one each. Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are all winless thus far, but the only one of those I can imagine remaining that way until Richmond is Gordon.

James: Kasey Kahne. He's not a prodigious winner, never visiting Victory Lane more than twice in a season since he claimed six in 2006. He has finished as high as fourth in points, but often lingers around the periphery of the old Chase boundary. A high number of race winners could make for a nervous summer for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

McGee: I'm watching Jeff Gordon. I think about the kind of seasons that he's had of late. He has averaged a little over one win per year for the past seven years and more often than not he has entered the second half winless, fighting for a Chase spot, but with a bunch of painfully close second-place finishes. He's off to a great start this year, but if he doesn't convert one of these top-10s into a win this spring we might once again be on Gordon watch all summer and into fall.

Oreovicz: Does Danica count as a big name? If so, there's one obvious candidate. Beyond Ms. Patrick, I'd look at Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer as possibilities. They both tend to run hot and cold, and if they can't find the hot button in the next couple of months, they may find themselves playing the role of also-ran for the last 10 races of the season.

Smith: Nobody yet. Too early. Though I will say I'm quite perplexed why Kasey Kahne isn't running better.

Turn 3: Stewart-Haas Racing is the first team to win multiple races this year. Give us your top five power rankings of teams in the Cup series right now. Who is No. 1?

Hinton: 1. Hendrick Motorsports; 2. Joe Gibbs Racing; 3. Stewart Haas Racing; 4. Penske Racing; 5. Roush Fenway Racing. You can't call Stewart-Haas No. 1 because it is just a satellite of the real power, Hendrick. The SHR wins at Phoenix and Martinsville were largely Hendrick wins. Even if you label them SHR wins, those two don't equal the one Daytona 500 Hendrick won out of the gate with Dale Earnhardt Jr. And Jimmie Johnson should have won the past two races, but his crew let him down, first by underinflating his tires at Fontana and then by giving him a too-loose car for the Martinsville finish. Hendrick remains the real power over the long haul, and any slump is just that. It won't last.

James: 1. Hendrick Motorsports -- three drivers in the top five, including points leader and presumed Chase qualifier Dale Earnhardt Jr., and defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Still the lead dog. 2. Joe Gibbs Racing; 3. Team Penske; 4. Stewart-Haas Racing; 5. Richard Childress Racing.

McGee: 1. Hendrick; 2. Gibbs; 3. Penske; 4. Roush; 5. SHR. Hendrick has "just" one win, but it also has three cars in the top five in the championship standings and all three of those teams have four top-10s, which is tied for the series lead. As always, the "fourth-car curse" is hanging around, but even though Kasey Kahne is back outside the top 20, when he has been strong he has been very strong. If he has his annual spring hot streak, then HMS's ranking will be undeniable.

Oreovicz: 1. Hendrick Motorsports; 2. Team Penske; 3. Joe Gibbs Racing; 4. Stewart-Haas Racing; 5. Richard Childress Racing. I think you have to put Hendrick at No. 1 because not only is it consistently the Cup series' strongest team, it is also providing the equipment for another of NASCAR's most competitive front-runners. Dale Earnhardt Jr., arguably Hendrick's No. 3 driver, is flying high, and there's no reason to believe that he won't be joined in the Chase by the 48 and the 24. I can't think of another team outside of the inconsistent Joe Gibbs Racing that is capable of putting at least three drivers in the Chase.

Smith: 1. Hendrick Motorsports: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 500. Jimmie Johnson easily could've won the past two races and will win very soon. Jeff Gordon was in position to win Fontana and is running well. Again, I don't know where the 5 is. 2. Stewart Haas Racing; 3. Team Penske; 4. Joe Gibbs Racing; 5. Richard Petty Motorsports. (Fast everywhere, boys.)

Turn 4: What does it mean for Kurt Busch's month of May (when he will attempt the Indy-Charlotte double) now that he has a Sprint Cup win?

Hinton: Not a thing, as far as the Indy 500 part is concerned. Sure, he gained some confidence at Martinsville, but that in no way applies to open-wheel cars on a track nearly five times as big as Martinsville. Confidence, in fact, could be dangerous at Indy, if it leads him to apply his over-the-edge style. As for Charlotte, I still wonder whether he has completely cured his temper. He had an outburst at Martinsville but it wasn't costly. He managed to contain his temper and wildness enough for 600 miles to win at Charlotte in 2010, so he can do it -- but that was almost an anomaly for his turbulent years with Penske.

James: Busch seemed struck by the question Sunday, then relieved at the prospect of being almost assured a Chase spot. Pressure off, he can focus on and enjoy one of the most difficult and revered propositions in motorsports, without the worry of wasting a valuable chance to earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. It will be interesting to see how his considerable talents apply to open-wheel racing. That should be fun to watch.

McGee: It's huge. You could see the relief on his face when he was asked about it during postrace interviews. The most difficult part of the Memorial Day double has always been the mental strain of handling the insane logistics of it all, particularly at Indy. Now he doesn't have to sweat every rain drop or every minute on the clock. If he's late to Charlotte, it really doesn't matter, but this is assuming he can keep running well enough to climb up the points standings and that we don't have more than 16 race winners. I think those are both safe assumptions.

Oreovicz: It certainly eases some of the pressure, because he can afford to devote more of his focus and attention on Indy -- which, let's face it, is where it needs to be on this particular day. There is much less need for him to be counting points or doing something crazy to try for a victory at Charlotte knowing that he already has a Cup win in the bank that should guarantee his place in the Chase.

Smith: It just got a whole lot easier. The stress of the inevitable logistical challenges just washed away for the most part.