September 10, 2006
2006 Chase Preview(Filed under: Race Recap)
It's been a while since I've done some NASCAR blogging. Having a kid can do that to you. But last night I taped the final race to the chase and watched it this afternoon (amazing how much faster a race can go when you fastforward the commercials).
Wow. With a scenario where one guys is out and eight guys are in I had no idea that of all the guys Tony Stewart would be out. I was thinking maybe Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton--but not Stewart. I have to say with a bit of biased glee that I'm pleased. I'm hardly a Tony Stewart fan. Stewart is amazing, but I'm fine with not having him in the mix for the championship.
The end of tonight's race was amazing with all of the guys who I thought might be in danger running well, and all the guys I thought would be safe were having problems. Stewart was back in the pack, Denny Hamlin had engine problems, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had brake problems. Any one of them could have been out.
One of the fun facts about NASCAR is that it's anybody's race. Last year's top three aren't even in the chase this year (Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards). Nobody would have expected rookie Denny Hamlin to make it. But Edwards proved last year that a rookie can make it. And Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. proved that veterans can fall out.
So who's going to win the championship this year? Let's take a look at the contenders:
Matt Kenseth - He's got the momentum, he's go the car, he's got the team, he's got the skills. Could it be championship #3 for Jack Roush? Quite possibly.
Jimmie Johnson - Despite his pathetic performance tonight, you can't count Johnson out. Every year he's been in contention. It's only a matter of time before he wins one. With his big wins this year (Daytona, Talladega, Indy) it'd be a nice year to bring it home. However, he also hasn't won it the past several years. After leading all year he's given up the top spot to Kenseth. Is it choke time already?
Kevin Harvick - This guy is on fire. He seems to be coming out of nowhere, just like he did to win the race tonight. Paired with his momentum from the Busch series I think Harvick will be a force.
Kyle Busch - Impressive run for this youngster, but I don't think he has what it takes. Much like Edwards last year, Busch just isn't as consistent. He's done well enough to be fourth in the standings, but I don't think he runs up front enough like Johnson and Kenseth to make it.
Denny Hamlin - Even more impressive run for this guy. Again, I don't think he has the experience.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Making the chase was a win for him. He's been so much better this year, but I think he's lacking the consistency. He may be in every other TV commercial, but he doesn't run up front enough.
Mark Martin - Ah, my favorite driver, the old-timer veteran in the Chase, again. As much as I love Martin, and as much as I love his four-time runner-up status, I'm not sure he's good enough this year. He isn't running well enough. Where are the wins? He'll come close, like he always does, but unless he really turns it up I think he'll end his Nextel career without a championship.
Jeff Burton - It is so good to see him running better. It's been a while and it's nice to see him back. Again, he's lacking the consistent, good finishes and he's lacking the win. I hope to see Burton get a win before the year is out, but he needs to work on closing before he can think about a championship.
Jeff Gordon - Like Earnhardt, getting back in the Chase this year is a win. I sound like a broken record, but Gordon isn't consistent enough this year. Not sure what happened, he used to be unstoppable.
Kasey Kahne - After the start of this year it would have been a shame to not see Kahne in the Chase. Well he made it, barely. If he can manage to be as consistent as he was in the beginning of the year, I think he'll do well. Maybe not win it, but he could end up in the top 5.
So in case you can't tell, I think consistency's the key. You've got to run well every single race. You've got to run up front and finish up front. My pick for the championship? That's never easy. I'm going to say Kenseth, which means I'll probably be wrong.
And I'm going to go out on a limb and say Tony Stewart comes back on a tear. You'll have people complaining that the Chase format kept him out of the championship.
Posted by kevin at September 10, 2006 4:52 PM
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