For years we have been used to New Hampshire Motor Speedway being the ‘start’ of the “Chase for the Sprint Cup,” but Chicagoland Speedway has thrown a wrench in any ideal of normalcy, and some drivers are finding themselves on the verge of defeat.
The whole idea of the Chase was to implement a 10-race shootout, where the top-12 drivers in points compete for the most treasured trophy in all of motorsports. The only downfall of the Chase format- You can be consistent with top-10 finishes for the first 26 races, but one mess up in the 10 race shootout can leave you feeling as if you received the ‘short end of the stick’.
Granted, that is what has made this Chase format fun, but why has the Chase become so important? One reason. It’s everything any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver could possibly want.
When you think of Jimmie Johnson, what is the first think you think of? Five straight championships? Did you think the No. 48 team had a ‘slight’ advantage over some of the other Chasers?
Without question, Johnson’s crew had a set plan for the Chase, knowing the correct formula for success. Now, that has all changed as well as the other 11 Chasers who thought they had a plan for success have to alter their plans.
Think back to Chicagoland last week. Once again we witnessed another fuel mileage race, which left some feeling ‘perturbed’.
Here’s a prime example of a driver who has showed his consistency during the entire season thus far, and still dropped in the point standings; Matt Kenseth. Kenseth was one of the short-comers when it came to the fuel mileage run, as he received help from J.J. Yeley on the final lap (got a push across the finish line), which is a “no-no” in the NASCAR rule book. The end result is not of Kenseth’s liking, as he finished a lap down (since the rule states that the driver will be black flagged), and dropped to 10th in the point standings.
Honestly, it’s uncertain where Kenseth would have finished, being that he ran out of gas, but surely the help from Yeley didn’t help any.
Kenseth wasn’t the only driver who needs to experience a little ‘good luck’ Sunday, as they had their own version of a dismal performance last week. How about Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Newman? All of these drivers will be looking for answers heading into Sunday’s Sylvania 300 from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
I was fortunate enough to pay attention to qualifying and practice runs yesterday, before the column came out. Having said that, there are a few of those drivers mentioned up above that has what it takes to win at NHMS, or even finish in the top-10, which would be huge heading into Dover next weekend.
Personally, I would watch out for any of the Chevy drivers listed; Gordon, Johnson, and Newman. We all know Newman won the pole Friday afternoon, and also won this race a few month’s back. If you are Gordon or Johnson, he would be the driver you would need to beat to have the finish desired.
There are too many things up in the air at this point. We have only completed one Chase race, and we are already talking about who will emerge as the champion of the 2011 NASCAR season. I don’t believe we have seen the ‘real’ champion emerge yet, which will just add to the excitement of the racing.
So, what do you guys think? Will we see a driver who needs a great finish this week, come out strong? If they don’t, it could be ‘game over’, which would come way too early in this game we call the “Chase”.