This Chase is becoming more and more like one of those reality series. A week goes by and somebody’s nice chef coat gets skewered and their photo bursts into the flames. They get their torch put out, they dance their last waltz, or sing their final tune. Whatever the race’s outcome, somebody seems to get eliminated, though unlike those shows we still get to see them back on the track the next week.
[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]This week at Charlotte, a few more were at least sent along to Exile Island, as Matt Kenseth came through for his third win of the campaign, and 21st of his career. He had the car to beat and nobody, including a game Kyle Busch, could do it. The victory leaves Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR champion, one of three who need to have bad things happen to them to allow the rest a chance.
Kenseth is seven points behind Carl Edwards, who finished third Saturday night, with sixth place finisher Kevin Harvick just five points back. With just five events left on the season calender, if any one of this trio can keep out of trouble the title could be their own. Not that anyone is wishing them bad fortune, but if it does…
Last week, we pretty much put to bed the chances for Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, and Denny Hamlin, all at least 60 points out into the weeds. Kyle Busch is 18 back, and he is in fourth. Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch now sit between 24 and 27 away. As for Jimmie Johnson, the late wreck that buried him in 34th and left him thirty-five big ones out of the hunt, could have taken him out of the mix for six. Unless, of course, bad things happen to three certain amigos.
I imagine one would need to be within 30 points at Homestead to even have a shot. You know there are a dozen or so cars out there that have no business even starting and can be expected to be back in the garage before most of the rest. The way this season has gone, it is a good bet that the contenders are going to average a minimum of 30 points per race, the champion at least 35. By my way of calculating, that would mean Edwards needs only to average 30 points from here on to maintain a shot at the crown, Johnson 37, and Junior 42. Yes, definitely bad things need to happen to our top three if the rest want to have any hope.
This Sunday they take on the great equalizer, the Talladega Superspeedway. It is a track where Johnson has won twice, including this spring. Harvick also has a win there, but neither Kenseth or Edwards have had the good fortune. In fact, over the past three seasons Carl’s average finish has been 20th on the 2.66 mile circuit, Matt even worse at 27th. Hey, maybe bad things do happen to good people…at least at Talladega.
It has been more than a decade since we lost Dale Earnhardt, but we were again sadly reminded how dangerous this sport can be this past weekend at Las Vegas. Dan Wheldon’s death in what was to have been the IRL’s season finale has taken from us a most talented and likeable young champion. We think of him and those he leaves behind this week.