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Three distinct groups make up Chase
I want to make sure that everyone doesn’t get so wrapped up in saying that Matt Kenseth is going to win the championship. We still have a lot of racing to go. You just can’t go ahead and give Matt his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship when you know Martinsville is still out there and, especially, that Talladega is out there. Everybody knows that is a crapshoot.
Now sure, with what we see right now, it’s a three-man race for the championship. You have those Joe Gibbs Racing cars, which for the first time in the 10-year history of the Chase format, have finished first and second in the first two races of the Chase. Then you have Jimmie Johnson, who is 18 points behind Matt, but let’s face it: The No. 48 car is there.
I think the combination this year of 13 drivers in the Chase instead of the normal 12, with the competition as solid as it is right now, I don’t think you can have a bad race. We are slowly eliminating drivers already. Both Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a bad race at Chicago, even though it wasn’t of their making. They are already a full race behind leader Matt Kenseth in points. One of those two could lead all the laps this weekend, win the race, Matt finishes dead last, and they still don’t catch him.
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Joining those two is Kasey Kahne, who following the crash at Loudon on Sunday is now 71 points behind. I realize we’ve only run 20 percent of the Chase so far and a lot of things can happen, but those three are really in a hole that they can’t get out of. People for years have been saying we need some kind of elimination. Well, guess what? We already have it. These guys self-eliminate themselves.
If you take Carl Edwards, who currently is in fourth spot, and go all the way back to Ryan Newman – those six drivers there in the middle are only separated by 11 points. So we have that lead pack of three cars. Then you have those next six drivers I just mentioned. Then you have Clint Bowyer, who is sort of in purgatory right now. He’s 48 points back and in 10th spot.
Then you have those final three that I mentioned that are way back. They can’t give up, though, and count themselves out. They have to just keep their head down and keep digging, even though I believe it’s simply too steep of a hill to climb with only eight races left.