NASCAR Chase Preview Extravaganza!
After a week filled with controversy, more controversy, and Mike Helton once again not seeing exactly what’s in front of him, it’s time to get to the fun stuff of NASCAR. By that, I mean the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR’s beloved playoff and one of the most exciting times of the year for the sports world. So with that, why don’t we get away from the doom and gloom and have some fun? And by that, I mean introducing some in depth analysis, and some pictures that may make you laugh. Like this one.
Anyways, here’s the plan; this week, I will give a close look at all the Chase contenders, ranking them 12 through 1 on where I believe they will finish the Chase, followed by predicting the winner of this weekend’s race and a listing of how the points will shake out following the race. As of right now, I’m not sure how next week will be formatted, but that’s for us to worry about then. Alright, enough of the explanations; on with the show!
Chase Preview Extravaganza!
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Is it just me, or is anyone else surprised that Junior actually made it in this year? While Earnhardt hasn’t been bad by any stretch, his average finish has been, well, average (14.2) and I’m pretty sure the villain from The Avengers has had a better chance of winning something than him. Unless a Tony Stewart circa 2011 run occurs, the most beloved driver in NASCAR will have to wait one more year for another shot at glory.
11. Greg Biffle: If this were 2005, I’d say the Bif would have a good chance. That said, he has an even worse average finish than Junior did this year (15.1), and hasn’t gotten close to sniffing the trophy since 2008 when he finished 3rd in points. Will always be the reigning NASCAR king of recycling though.
10. Kevin Harvick: Has a dark horse chance thanks to his penchant for pulling off miracle victories. That said, Harvick hasn’t been a dominate driver in a couple of years, and will need to add that to his great closing ability to be a serious contender. That and his wife should go back to the fire suits. Harvick’s wife without the fire suit is like a Mighty Ducks movie without Gordon Bombay.
9. Clint Bowyer: If this was last week, I would’ve put Bowyer as one of the top five favorites to win the whole thing; despite no wins this year, only Carl Edwards equaled Bowyer’s average finish (12.3). Now I wonder if he’ll even be able to make it the whole way with everyone and their brother gunning for him (and yes, there will be a few out for revenge whether on a teammate’s behalf or their own). If I’m Bowyer, I tread carefully here, although knowing him he’ll probably embrace the whole thing, give himself the nickname ‘The Fixer’ and come out during driver entrances to Coldplay’s “Fix You.” Seriously, how much would you pay to see that happen?
8. Kurt Busch: Doesn’t matter what he does; Kurt has already won by simply getting into the Chase with a single car team that couldn’t pit to save Clint Bowyer’s reputation. That said, his average finish in tracks featured in the Chase (24) is the second worst of amongst contenders and that pit crew likely isn’t getting better. Don’t be surprised to see Kurt potentially there at the end though.
7. Matt Kenseth: I’m sure you are wondering why I have the man who enters the Chase first overall all the way down in seventh in terms of chances. The fact of the matter is, Kenseth has proven to be a better pre Chase driver than once he’s inside; in fact, he hasn’t even finished in the top three in the Chase since 2006, seven years ago. Perhaps this year will be different with Gibbs, but I doubt it.
6. Kyle Busch: Based on talent, he’d be number one on this list. Alas, Kyle has never provided results in the Chase, finishing in the Top 5 only once, with his average finish in the Chase being 9th. Like Kenseth, it could be a different year. That said, I’ll bet on Krazy Kyle making an appearance again before I pick him to win it all.
5. Ryan Newman: Has the lowest of all the Chase contenders with an average finish of 16.0 (his average finish at the Chase tracks is also the lowest, an unbelievably bad 26), and is fortunate (though deserving) to even be contending at all. So why is Newman 5th? One, few were better than him during the final stretch of the season, where he had four Top 5’s, one win, and an average finish of 8.7. Secondly, can you imagine how motivated this guy has to be after the events of this past week, not to mention how he has something to prove to his future ex-employer? I don’t know if Newman wins, but I think he surprises a lot of people here. Plus, would there be a better way to end the Chase other than Newman and Bowyer battling it out for the top spot? That be the most exciting thing since James Cameron discovered 3D film making.
4. Joey Logano: Very much like Newman, Logano average finish wasn’t spectacular (14.7 during the season, 22.5 on Chase tracks) and he is in a way also very fortunate to be in the Chase following the Waltrip fiasco. Also like Newman, he’s been white hot the final seven races, with one victory, three Top 5’s and an unbelievable average finish of 7.4. It may be a year early for the 23 year old (the youngest in the Chase), but he’s streaking, has motivation (defending the title for Penske and sticking it to Joe Gibbs racing), and is finally starting to realize just what he can do inside a race car.
3. Jimmie Johnson: Always a top three favorite in the Chase due to history, and was at one point the favorite after having one of the most dominate mid season stretches ever (especially at Chase tracks, where his average finish of 7.8 was the best of all Chase contenders). That said, Johnson has been terrible the past several weeks, finishing in the Top Ten only twice, and averaging a finish of 23.8. No doubt that Johnson can recover, but he will have to recover quickly if he wants to end his two year drought away from the top.
2. Kasey Kahne: Realistically, you could talk me into Kasey Kahne winning the whole thing or even finishing dead last in the Chase. That’s the deal with him; when he’s on, few are better; when he’s off, he’s off. I’ll bank on him putting it together here, partly because of he was quite solid at the Chase tracks this year (average finish of 14.3, sixth best among the contenders) and partially because the man is just due. In short, don’t be surprised to see Kasey Kahne become the youngest looking champion in the history of NASCAR.
1. Carl Edwards: After an off year that would make Brad Keselowski feel good, Consistent Carl is back in the Chase yet again, thanks to, well you guessed it, a whole lot of consistency with two wins and an average finish of 12.3 (his average finish at Chase tracks was an even better 9th). And while he may not have been the flashiest nor the best driver this year, keep in mind Carl had the second greatest run in Chase history two years ago, and only lost the Championship because Tony Stewart was simply that good. If he can even duplicate half of that, this Championship should easily be Carl’s.
First Chase race: Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
Predicted winner: Brad Keselowski (the defending Champion will remind everyone why he was the best last year, even if he can’t be that this year.)
Predicted Points leader: Carl Edwards (Consistent Carl sets the tone on week one)
Predicted Points standings:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Kyle Busch
5. Joey Logano
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Ryan Newman
9. Kurt Busch
10. Greg Biffle
11. Clint Bowyer
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
That’s it for today. Till next week!