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Last week it was the Magic, this week it’s the Monster and some drivers have to have monstrous success in Chase Race three on Sunday afternoon. If the trend continues for some, they may have to just contend for the Championship next year and take what they get for this year. That’s not to say it is all over for most (other than maybe Denny Hamlin) but with every passing weekend they drop further back in the points, the harder it is for them to move back up. When one of them has a bad weekend, there is no guarantee those ahead of them will have a bad one to help them get back into contention. That’s what makes the Chase format, as it stands now, so interesting (on a week to week basis, that is.)
The Chasers are already somewhat separated when it comes right down to it and no one is eliminated yet, but there is a big difference between being less than fifteen points behind the top spot and being twenty three or more points behind. In case anyone doesn’t get what I’m getting at, let me make it as plain as I can. That means even Jeff Gordon has to be considered as an also ran if he has another week or two finishing outside the top ten. Yes, I know he moved up six places after last weeks race in Loudon, but, if he doesn’t continue to finish in the top ten, (better yet, the top five), then this could turn out to be just another year he was in contention but didn’t take home the big prize.
Okay, I admit it, maybe I am jumping the gun a little early in talking about drivers either being in or out of the Sprint Cup Championship hunt, but time is getting short and someone is going to step up to the plate and take it to the rest of them. It could be Tony Stewart (who has already won the first two races) or it could be Brad Keselowski who has already had an outstanding nine weeks and was considered by many to not even be able to make the Chase. Yet he sits in third spot in the points and hasn’t faultered at all. It is certainly obvious, he has the most momentum of all the drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, (unless we consider Tony Stewart because of his two latest wins.)
I don’t know about you, but from this fan’s view, this Chase is definitely shaping up quite a bit different than I expected. I have to admit, in my mind I thought the drivers that would have jumped on the first two races and been at the top of the points had different names than the ones that are. I really thought Kyle Bush, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson would have been the early leaders. I honestly expected Tony Stewart to still be struggling a bit and would have expected Brad Keselowski to have faded. As it is, they both have impressed me as being the ones to beat and Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are right there with them.
Today at the Monster Mile could be one of the races won by someone outside the twelve Chasers. I think everybody expects the Bush brothers and Carl Edwards to be atop the leader board when all is said and done, but there are others that did show some good speed in the practice sessions and look who is sitting on the pole. This fan didn’t expect to see the name Martin Truex Jr in that position but it definitely is. Take a look at some of the others in the top fifteen. Some of them are names not mentioned much, at least not for being possible winners or top ten finishers.
Paul Menard qualified third and could win this race. I’m not saying he will but I am saying by qualifying third he has some speed and that could be the thing that propels him to the victory. AJ Allmendinger, Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle all qualified in the top ten and although it is a long shot, any one of them could pull off a victory if things go well for them and not like usual.
The Monster is a very fast and tricky one mile track. Simply because some one qualified in the back of the field doesn’t mean they will stay back there all day any more than someone who qualified at or near the top will stay there either. From this fan’s view, this is going to be a race that won’t decided until the last thirty or so laps and it is going to depend on whether there is a late race caution or two. The closer they come to the end, the harder it will be to call the winner and if the last fifty or so laps are run under green, well, it’s going to be all about track position, consistently fast lap times and how that last pit stop goes.
Personally, this fan thinks this is going to be another week the points situation is shaken up again. I’m not so sure Danny Hamlin is going to make a big jump, even though he did qualify eleventh. The biggest change could come in the top four since they are the tightest in points at the moment, but that’s not to say there won’t be some surprises. Yeah, I think it is possible there could be an unexpected winner, but I’m not ruling out Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon either. Wait a minute, looking at where they qualified, they would probably be unexpected winners, too, wouldn’t they?…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 2, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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