One big question is constantly being asked this weekend and it is, “Will this be the race that brings the Chase back into a competitive phase or is this year’s Chase only a race for who will finish second or worse?”
I can tell you what most people would like to see happen and that is that Jimmie Johnson either not show up on Sunday or, at the very least, finish either last or as close to the back as possible. Now, no one really believes he is going to have major problems this weekend even though there is the faint possibility of something drastic happening and affecting the #48 Hendrick team.
As is the usual case since about week one of the Chase, many have already conceded the Chase to Jimmie Johnson, crew chief, Chad Knaus and the #48 team. In reality, it does seem they do have it sown up because they presently have a commanding 184 point lead over second place, Mark Martin and 192 points over third place, Jeff Gordon. In fact, the #48 team could actually miss the race on Sunday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway and still be in first place points-wise. (Now that’s not likely to happen but it sure would make for an interesting next two weeks if it did.) Facing the actual facts, Jimmie Johnson only has to finish tenth or better in all of the next three races and he definitely walks away with his historic fourth Cup championship in a row.
Except for Jimmie Johnson, the others in the top twelve are trying to make it interesting between themselves. Only 8 points separate second place Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, 47 points separate Gordon and Juan Montoya and 30 points separate Montoya and Tony Stewart. After those, 33 points separate Stewart and Kurt Bush and only 28 points separate Bush and Greg Biffle. Newman, Kahne, Edwards and Hamlin are all within 46 points of each other and the only one of the top twelve, in this fan’s view, that has his place pretty well locked up is Brian Vickers and he is probably going to finish the year in twelfth place (without some miraculous intervention.) However, there could still be a lot of position swapping in the rest of the top twelve over the next three races.
It was good to see Jeff Gordon extend his pole winning status to seventeen consecutive years. This latest one was his 68th and says a lot about why his career is hall-of-fame material in the future.
There are several things I find interesting about the Chase and the race this coming weekend. Five of the top eight in the Chase standings, so far, are Hendrick or Hendrick associated teams. All four of the Hendrick teams qualified in the top twelve for the Dickies 500 as well as Tony Stewart, which would be five Hendrick or Hendrick associated teams starting in the top twelve Sunday afternoon as well.
Now, if you’ve been around “Just A Fan’s View” much in the past, you know how much stock I put in qualifying — and the answer is — Not much! Just because someone can run fast in qualifying doesn’t mean they will run consistently fast enough to stay out front or even get out front, and take the checkered flag and the trophy. Very seldom have we seen the pole winner take the victory in the last few years, although we do know it can and does happen. (By the way, Jeff Gordon did qualify second and finish first earlier in the year… Hey, I’m just saying…)
Performance in the practice sessions usually tells a much different story than the qualifying and this weekend is no different. According to my observations, it looks like there are several that have a very good chance at a victory this weekend. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr all clocked consistently fast times over several laps in the last practice.
Who knows, this could be the week that starts a streak for Dale Jr, which would make him and his fan base extremely happy. From this fan’s view, and judging from the last practice session, it could happen.
At this point in the season, (and the Chase), I don’t think I’ll even try to pick the winner although I will give some honorable mentions to several right now. Other than, Dale Jr, it is highly possible Kyle Bush, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart or Martin Truex Jr could take the trip to victory lane. Oh what the heck, I’ll even stick my neck out and say Jeff Gordon or Kurt Bush could to.
Unfortunately, it does look like Jimmie Johnson has every intention of showing up to race on Sunday afternoon and, judging from his performance thus far in the Chase, it is a pretty good bet he will be somewhere in the hunt at the end of the race. Do I think he will win? Well… you know…
See ya next time… Rusty
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© November 7, 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman