By Amanda Ebersole – Do you hear that?
That’s the sound of the clock ticking for those who hope to make the 2013 Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship. Each race that passes, that sound gets louder for those on the bubble and in desperate need of a win.
Who is safe and who needs to step up their game? Let’s look at the contenders one by one.
Jimmie Johnson – Cheer or boo as you wish but as we stand, the 5-time champion is 77 points ahead of second place. (Please don’t send me hate mail, the facts are the facts!)
Clint Bowyer – For Bowyer to legitimately have a shot at Johnson one of two things need to happen… 1. Bowyer wins or 2. Johnson chokes under pressure Again, say what you want about the 48 team but they know the Chase like the back of their hand. Look for option 1 and for Bowyer to take Michael Waltrip Racing head-to-head with Johnson and company.
Carl Edwards – The highest of the Roush Fenway Racing drivers, the Fords have been struggling this year. Twenty-one races into the season and the blue oval has only been to victory lane three times. Edwards himself has one victory this season but to contend in the Chase, he and Crew Chief Jimmy Fenning will have to play a game of Chess with the Chess Master himself, Jimmie Johnson.
Kevin Harvick – Why is Kevin Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing? With two wins this season, he is currently fourth in the points and 97 behind. Oh… I think I just answered my own question. Consistency is missing! Those two wins should easily have him second in points if they can get solid finishes week in and week out.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – While fifth in the points isn’t terrible, the results that the 88 team have had are up and down like the stock market. JR Nation is among the most loyal fans you could ever see – good, bad or indifferent, they have their drivers back. Imagine if it were Jr. versus Johnson head-to-head for the championship?
Kyle Busch – Anytime the Chase rolls around and Kyle Busch is mentioned, I think of the song “Under Pressure” by David Bowie. Busch has been in the Chase and cracked like an M&M being stomped on time after time. Can they make it through a Chase without blown engines and numerous parts failures? I’d like to see that because Rowdy always puts on a good show.
Matt Kenseth – Since moving to “The dark side” we are seeing a new Matt Kenseth! Four wins this season has Joe Gibbs smiling from ear-to-ear and Kenseth fans throwing ticker tape parades. Why is he seventh in the points? Bad luck with engines, crashes, etc. Personally, I would love to see Kenseth be a strong contender by the time we reach Homestead with the hopes that he’ll bust out into song and sing, “A change would do you good!”
Kasey Kahne – Kahne’s win at Pocono (his second of the year) may just be enough to give him the edge over over teammate Jeff Gordon. The real question is, can Kahne and Crew Chief Kenny Francis go toe-to-toe with their teammate Jimmie Johnson once the Chase points reset?
Jeff Gordon – Looking at all the potential drivers to make the Chase, no one beats Jeff Gordon in terms of experience. Gordon was so close to a win at Pocono and to secure his spot in the Chase, a win in essential! Side note: It’s hard to believe that Jeff Gordon is the lowest of the HMS teammates!
Greg Biffle – Much like his teammate Carl Edwards, Biffle’s season is nothing to write home about. With one win, Biffle’s average finish is 15th. To make the Chase, he and Matt Puccia have to dig deep and throw the kitchen sink at the No. 16.
Chasing the Chase:
With one win a piece, Tony Stewart (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (14th) and Ryan Newman (15th) get a Chase nod over someone higher in the points with no win. It pays to win, in more than one way!
Tony Stewart – Tony, Tony, Tony… on top of having a broken leg, you are now stuck with the horrible job of any owner/driver and finding a replacement. Get well soon!
Martin Truex Jr. – Last year Truex shook the NASCAR world when he made the Chase, a first for MWR. With one win this season and teammate Clint Bowyer in second, having two MWR cars in the Chase would be a monumental moment for the young team. Can you imagine Michael Waltrip’s reaction?
Ryan Newman – Of all the potential drivers to make the Chase, Ryan Newman has the most on the line as he awaits a ride for 2014. A Chase berth will have him on the radar of every team and sponsor clamoring for more exposure. The question is, who has a vacant seat? I’ll save that for another story.
And on the outside looking in, desperately needing a win:
Brad Keselowski – The champ is in danger of missing the Chase! Everyone panic!!! Seriously, raise your hand if you think “Bad” Brad won’t make the Chase? If it comes down to the last lap at Richmond,
Kurt Busch – For the love of the underdog teams, Kurt Busch NEEDS to make the Chase. How awesome would it be for Furniture Row Racing to make the Chase! Forget about what you personally think of Kurt and focus on the team as a whole. He is just a part of a larger sum that would benefit from a Chase berth.
Let’s Talk About This…