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Martinsville resets the Chase to eight. That doesn’t mean there are eight new competitors qualified to compete for the Cup Championship; it just means there are four less actually competing for it. Over the next three races the field will be cut once again down to four and those four will compete head to head for the Championship at Homestead.
We all know the most recent Chase format has increased the fan interest in the final ten races of the season and the quest for the coveted Sprint Cup, but from this fan’s view, it has also increased the intensity of the competition and the stress levels of the drivers as they try to make the cut every three races until the final four at the finale. It seems they get a bit testy when things don’t go their way and they look for someone to blame for their lack of performance. Admittedly, there have been some interesting things happen during the last six weeks of Chase racing but some of the ones that don’t move on to the next level seem to look for someone to blame other than themselves. Those choices range from other drivers and their actions to NASCAR itself.
Although there have been times in this Chase other drivers have affected another’s ability to move on – like the Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth incident from a couple of weeks ago – for the most part the ones that haven’t moved on have caused their own demise. Some would argue that NASCAR’s rulings at Talladega kept Dale Jr. from moving on but that’s a whole other story and he accepted the results without blaming anyone other than circumstances. From this fan’s view, mistakes and lack of performance on the track and in the pits have been the culprits for most of the ones that haven’t made it to this Elimination round of eight.
So far in the 2015 Chase, no one has really been a match for Joey Logano. Although some haven’t liked his tactics, there is no arguing with his success and his winning all three of the races in round two. If he continues to dominate the way he has recently it may be no contest when it comes to the championship race at Homestead. Of course that little word “if” always looms large when it comes to racing. It has happened that a driver’s or team’s “racing luck” and performance can turn on a dime and someone else get on a hot streak.
There have been those that have mentioned that Logano has peaked too early and that is always a possibility although not very suspect at the time of this writing from this fan’s view. Although his teammate Brad Keselowski hasn’t had the same performance, (sometimes described as luck), it is possible the tables could turn for Joey in the same way – or Brad for that matter. Since Martinsville resets the points for those still in the Chase back to even, and Brad and Joey are two of the eight still in the Chase, stranger things have happened in NASCAR Cup racing.
There are two drivers that are pretty much flying under the radar so far in the Chase and that would be Kurt Bush and Martin Truex Jr. They haven’t been talked about or mentioned much lately but so far no one can argue they haven’t been performing consistently well and keeping themselves in the battle for the Championship at least points-wise. If nothing else, they could be the dark horses for being in the Finale at Homestead.
The two Joe Gibbs drivers still in the Chase, Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush, are great examples of what I just talked about with Joey Logano. Coming into the Chase, all four of the Joe Gibbs teams looked as if they were going to be the ones to beat for the Championship. Since the Chase started, the Gibbs teams haven’t looked as strong and they do look much less indestructible and Kenseth and Hamlin have already been eliminated. With the Martinsville reset, Edwards and Bush once again have a chance to flex some of the previous muscle they displayed earlier. It is also possible they could both not make it to the Finale at Homestead.
I’m not sure what to think about Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick as this Elimination round starts. Both have had their ups and downs during the first six races of the Chase and if they don’t show a little more consistency I am concerned whether they will make it to the Championship round. I have to admit, as a NASCAR fan, I would like nothing better than to see Jeff Gordon end his final season with his fifth Championship. I do think that would be a fitting end to a very successful career but I am not so sure he has the speed to compete with Joey Logano or Kevin Harvick for that matter.
One thing that bothers me about this race this weekend and that is the fact that there are several drivers that could win and some of them were once competing in the Chase before they were eliminated. Any of them could win this one and that could make it very interesting for those still qualified to go for the Championship.
As we enter into this Elimination round I have to admit that I do have a few favorites and a few “I hope they don’ts” if you know what I mean. Only one would really be a disappointment to me, but then that’s just me…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 31, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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