The NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field has been set and the contenders have been all over the country in a media blitz. Each of the 10 tracks that are included in the Chase hosted one of the 12 Chase drivers. They participated in everything from go-kart races to pep rallies to golfing and more.
Now it’s time to hear from the drivers.
It’s no surprise that five-time champ Jimmie Johnson is on everyone’s mind.
Although some have suggested that he may be more vulnerable this year, Kevin Harvick is not buying it.
“I heard the same conversation last year. They’re still the team to beat. They’ve won it so many different ways.”
But the other drivers are still hoping that Johnson will falter. Brad Keselowski quipped, “He is human, right?”
Jeff Gordon is looking forward to the Chase and thinks this could be the year he captures his fifth championship.
“I’m excited about going to the race track every weekend,” said Gordon. When I won my four championships, it was under the old format. You had to be consistent, and yeah, you had to win, but at the end you were trying to beat two or three guys. With this format you’re going up against 11 other guys. But I do think this is the best chance we’ve ever had at winning the championship [in the Chase].”
And while many consider Dale Earnhardt Jr. an underdog going into the Chase, he feels like he has a shot.
“I’m going in with the attitude that we have as good a chance as anybody. The opportunity is on the table. We’re going to make the most of it.”
One sentiment echoed by many of the drivers is that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is what they have been working toward all season long and each race will bring them one step closer to their goal.
Kurt Busch, who has been in the spotlight lately because of his rivalry with Johnson, is ready to leave the past behind and focus on winning a second championship.
“The Chase is intense. Every year you have your rivalries. I have a sibling rivalry with my brother Kyle, too. But you have to put that stuff away.”
Tony Stewart thinks this is the toughest group of drivers we’ve ever seen in the Chase.
Stewart went on to add that “Realistically, there’s seven guys who really have a shot at winning this thing.”
In no particular order, Stewart’s top seven picks include Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski.
It should be noted that he doesn’t include his name on the list of potential championship winners and says “I feel like we’re the underdog right now.”
The reigning champ, Jimmie Johnson, heads into the Chase feeling confident that the possibility of a sixth consecutive championship is within his grasp.
“We’re in a good spot,” said Johnson. “Our win total isn’t what it’s been in the past, but we’ve had opportunities.”
As the first race approaches this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, it’s time to get down to business.
Stay tuned for Round One of the Chase. The real fun is about to begin.