The Chase Top 4
It’s time to gaze into our crystal ball and reveal who the final four drivers will be battling it out for the NASCAR Championship at Homestead in November. ( Yes, I have a crystal ball – I won it at the fair. It’s amazing the cool things you can acquire by knowing how much a pig weighs. . . )
If we were seeding the drivers, and we are, the top 4 would look like this:
1. Jeff Gordon. Yes, 57-year-old Jeff Gordon. All the bad luck he’s had the last few years, all the close calls seem to have gone away for now. Oh ya, he can still drive like hell too. He might even be able to do re-starts now. Gordon has had the sustained consistency this year that leads you to believe he can get another Championship. He is strong on the mile-and-a-halfs. He knows a thing or two about Talladega. He’s got Hendrick power. It’s hard to find any reason right now not to make Gordon a top pick. If you want to see what kind of momentum Gordon has going right now following a great run at Richmond, see what he does at Chicago this weekend. Since 2012 the joint at Joliet hasn’t been all that great for him. If he post a top-ten or better yet a top-five; you know he’s for real.
2.Brad Keselowski. “New” manufacturer, same beer. Same great talent. Taste great and he’s filling up his trophy case again this year. Keselowski and crew took a year off from the Chase figuring out the Blue Oval. They’ve got it figured out. I still think what happened last Spring at Texas also played a huge role in their down season last year. They just never recovered from the suspensions and suspicions. Now Keselowski isn’t just winning races, he’s blowing out the field. Chicago is a great track for him recently with a win and a top ten there since 2012. Penske Power has been the only thing to rival Hendrick this year and we give a slight edge to Keselowski over Joey Logano simply from the been-there, done-that aspect. Heck, Logano is still getting used to doing burnouts at the Cup level. He will factor in the Chase, but not make the top four.
3.Matt Kenseth. Why not? Why not have a winless-Kenseth show up at Homestead and crash the new format’s party and scare the hell out of Brian France that a winless driver will win under the latest incarnation of NASCAR’s play-offs. Think it can’t happen. Go back and look at why we have a Chase format at all. Mr. Consistency can get this done. If I had any guts at all I’d pick him to win this year without winning a race, but I’m gutless. That and I want to see Gordon win just to see if he goes John Elway and rides into the sunset with a trophy and a Miss Sprint Cup girl awkwardly smiling and waving. Kenseth is stellar on the types of tracks in the Chase. His personality is perfect for the format I think, never getting too high nor low. For the 20 car, it would also be some vindication for Joe Gibbs Racing that they haven’t been passed up by Hendrick and Penske.
4.Dale Earnhardt Jr. Maybe he’s lost a little steam lately, maybe not. It depends on who you ask. The consistency has been there though for this season and he’s run well at tracks he normally struggles a bit at. Chicago has been feast or famine lately for Jr. with an 8th place finish and a 35th landing spot, so this weekend could be telling. A little big like Gordon, if you want to know what the Chase may look like, a solid top ten run for Jr. would be a really good sign. Two months ago I might have had Jr. in the second spot. Now, it’s good enough to be in the top four I think for him. The story line of Steve Letarte leaving after the season will only grow each week, putting the team under the microscope even more than they already always are. If things are good, it’ll be a story and if things aren’t it will be the cheap media fodder to explain why. How they handle that may be the biggest hurdle other the other four guys I just mentioned.
So, the crystal ball is starting to cloud up a bit. It does that after a few beers sometimes. It likes the big ones. Keselowski-style. Of course Keselowski gives a better interview after that than my crystal ball does. It mainly just wants to sit on the table and gripe about why NASCAR won’t run more mid-week races. It’s a weird ball.
Well, those are my picks. Who do y’all put in your top four. I’m interested to hear from you. If you get a chance, listen to me and Nick DeGroot some Monday night from 6-8 Central on That Dang Ol Show. You can get it online. I hear it makes you be able to accurately guess the weight of hogs and win stuff. Then again, maybe that’s just urban legend. Sorta like Rutledge Wood’s hair. . .