Say what you will about this race at Phoenix but, all things considered, it’s going to be one of the most intense and dramatic races of this 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season. It seems I say that almost every week so far in this Chase and with this Chase format. This format, along with the way the points now add up, has totally changed the way the Championship is decided. All it takes is one bad day or one win to completely change those considered to be the final four that will compete for the Championship at Homestead. Consistency still plays a part in the sense that a driver can’t afford to have a bad day, especially at certain critical times in this format and this weekend’s race at Phoenix is one of those critical times. Seven of the eight still qualified to contend for the Championship have to either win or they have to finish near the front, ahead of those they’re competing against I might add, to make it into the final four.
Joey Logano’s last chance to make it to the final four is winning this race. He has no other options. All it took was one bad finish, whether or not it was because of his own actions or not. He can do exactly what his teammate Brad Keselowski did last weekend – lead the most laps and run up front all day long – finish second and still not move on. Even though he had plenty of wins this season and won three in a row during the second round of the Chase it won’t make one bit of difference. All it took was one terrible finish and one not so good finish and he could be eliminated unless he wins on Sunday afternoon.
The pole sitter, Jimmie Johnson, didn’t even make it to this round. He was eliminated by a parts failure that kept him from advancing even though he was in the original sixteen contenders. A win by him this weekend won’t put him in the final four but it could very well help someone else move on to the final four. It may be the only chance that one, or possibly two, has to move on.
Kurt Bush’s last chance isn’t quite like Logano’s but it is quite similar. He doesn’t have to win to move on but it would almost take a miraculous intervention for him to move on to the Championship round without a win at Phoenix. He and Logano really are pretty much in the same boat. Even if one of them does win, the other one won’t be moving on.
Brad Keselowski can advance into the Championship round without a win but a win would make it quite easy for him. Unfortunately if he wins, his teammate Logano’s chances are done. As it is, he has to finish very near the front without the win and all of those ahead of him that are still in contention have to have very bad days. The likelihood of that happening is like zero and none without the win but it is his only other chance. This present format and existing points system has added that drama and intensity to the Chase.
Carl Edwards could move into the final four simply by winning or by having a much better finish than the three ahead of him in points. He is only seven points out of the final four going into this weekend but those ahead of him have been finishing better than him on a regular basis every weekend. Even though he likes this track and usually performs pretty well at Phoenix. His biggest problem is that of the three ahead of him in points, two of them usually do too. Of course, those two would be Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick and Harvick has the best record of all of them. I can’t rule out Martin Truex Jr. and the way he’s been performing throughout the Chase. He could win but all he really needs to do is what he’s been doing over the last few races.
There really isn’t a way that this fan sees any of the seven left contending to get in as safe going into Sunday afternoon at Phoenix. The Chase this year has certainly been one of the most entertaining and dramatic ones, at least in my memory. NASCAR has certainly come up with what it wanted as far as making the Chase for the Championship as intensely interesting and dramatic, more so than any other sport I am familiar with. Of course those that aren’t into motorsports will probably disagree with me but they wouldn’t watch or get involved in it anyway. Too bad for them, they’ll never know what they’re missing because they’re just not watching or paying attention.
The way the Chase this year has been going, there is no telling what the results will be until the checkered flag falls and the engines go silent at Phoenix. I don’t know about you but I expect this one race could be even more exciting to watch than the one that will follow it at Homestead next weekend. Well… maybe not that exciting; but it will certainly be one of the most intense and stressful ones for fans and drivers alike as the laps click away and drivers chances for being in the final four either advance or diminish along with them. To that this fan says, “Boys, have at it.”
There is one thing more I have to add and it is probably the only certainty for this race. Jeff Gordon IS going to be in the final four, his drive for championship number five is still alive and winning, losing or even not finishing at Phoenix this weekend won’t change that…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 14, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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