This coming weekend is the most important weekend of the year for some of the NASCAR teams because spots six to twelve in the Chase are definitely up for grabs and that means a race that should be chock full of drama right down to the checkered flag. That doesn’t mean all of those places will change hands tonight, but it does mean there could be a real shakeup of who ends up in the Chase and who doesn’t.
This is the year of the closest Chase since Nascar instituted it several years ago and, from this fan’s view, it is why they made the change in the first place.
I am absolutely amazed with the year Mark Martin is having. Another pole for the “old guy” which is his sixth for the year. He is having a great year and, if it weren’t for a few bouts with bad luck this year, he could very well be leading the points standings instead of Tony Stewart. Yeah, I know that’s stretching it a bit, but seriously, had things gone just a bit differently at certain times during the season, he would be right up there amongst the top four or five any way you look at it. As it is, he sits in tenth, 69 points ahead of thirteenth place, Brian Vickers.
After the race happenings in Atlanta last weekend, the points race for the top twelve this Saturday night in Richmond really looks set to be a nail-biter for several of the teams. It is my opinion, that although it could be a night of several teams trading places between sixth and fourteenth, I’m not so sure too many of those spots are going to change. I do think there is a very good chance that there could be some real drama between spots nine to thirteen. In particular, I think the real drama is going to be between positions eleven to fourteen. It will all depend on how the cautions fall and who is involved in them.
The problem as I see it is, some have to finish at a certain spot or above or they will miss out. Now all of that depends on how the ones that are close to them finish also. All of those wanting to get in have to finish near the front and those wanting to stay in can’t afford to have a disaster happen; things are just that close and judging from some of the interviews with the drivers, they are feeling the pressure, too.
Since we’ve been talking about Mark Martin, let’s take his situation as an example. No matter where he qualified, if he doesn’t finish twelfth or better, his spot in the Chase is in jeopardy if he falls short. It could be very possible to see Brian Vickers or Kyle Bush move up into the top twelve at that point.
Of course Matt Kenseth would almost definitely have to have a terrible night also, (he only leads Brian Vickers by meager 20 points and Kyle Bush by only 37) and with that slim of a margin, he has to finish ahead of those two. When all is said and done before the race this weekend, Matt Kenseth is probably in the most volatile position. He just about has to finish up front to seal the deal for himself.
As the race progresses tonight, I expect a lot more attention will paid to those trying to get into the Chase and those trying to stay in the Chase rather than the the ones leading the race. If the commentators follow their usual course of action during the broadcast, we will almost get tired of hearing about those guys and long to hear who is leading.
As usual, it is hard to look at the way the qualifying ended up and how the race will actually go. I believe the most important thing tonight will be track position and that will often be determined by the pit stops. I also expect to see a lot of long green flag runs tonight so that adds the element of setup back into the mix. Once again, I believe the winner will be the one that can run the fastest lap times near the end of a long green flag run.
Now, all of that will go down the tubes if there is a late race caution. If that does happen, I look for a mad dash for the checkered flag and anything –and I do mean, ANYTHING — can happen.
At the end of the night, I think we will all be surprised to find who is standing in Victory Lane. Will it be Carl Edwards, Kyle Bush, Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon? How about Jimmy Johnson, Juan Montoya, Greg Biffle or David Reutimann? I’m not really sure, but I know I’ll be watching and I know it will be a race to the finish line for all involved. When it is all over, I think it will be a Chevy that takes the win and that Chevy will either directly, or indirectly be associated with Hendrick Racing… What do you think??
See ya next time…
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© September 12, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just a Fan’s View and Rusty Norman