There are drivers you like and there are drivers you do not. If a driver should be a whiney revisionist weasel who does his best to avoid cashing the checks his mouth keeps on writing, I am not a fan. This is how I once viewed Kurt Busch, and it is how I presently see Brad Keselowski. For him to not make the Chase finale came as a welcome conclusion to the activities at Phoenix.
I love Kevin Harvick. He does what he does and if you do not like it, you know where you can find him. At Phoenix, that would have been up front. He dominated the Harvick 500 from start to finish and every restart to win his fourth of the season to punch his ticket into the final four.
I am not a fan of Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano. To be honest, I cannot tell you the deep dark reasoning behind it. I guess I just need some black hats out there on the range to go with the cowboys in white. They finished fifth and sixth respectively and had enough in the bank to go through to the final round themselves. Only tough luck has kept Hamlin from taking a championship in the past, while the 24-year old Logano is a legitimate contender no matter what measurement one wishes to use. One day, I might even get excited when they take the checkered flag.
Jeff Gordon has been outstanding in 2014, robbed of something better by Keselowski at Texas. Ryan Newman, whose eight win season in 2003 was trumped by Matt Kenseth’s title run, used Kyle Larson’s car as a buffer on the final turn on Sunday to pick up the spot that got him in. In doing so, he also put Gordon out. Fan reaction to that move, and the end result in the Chase standings, I dare say, is much different than if it were Keselowski bouncing off Larson to end the dream for Gordon.
By in large, it comes down to one driver being basically liked while the other is essentially not. It is not a universal feeling, granted, but by enough that it matters. While it might affect how many t-shirts he sells, being liked by the fans is not as important as being respected by your peers. They do not have to love you, but they need to have an appreciation for you that, despite his unquestionable talent, Keselowski still appears to have failed to earn.
What the boy needs is charm and the cojones to meet head on any challenges that comes his way. Sure, he might get shaken like a rag doll from time to time, but he won’t get punched, unless someone has the cash to spend. With his talent in the car and his gift of the gab outside of it, he has the tools to jaw and charm his way through damn near anything. J.R. Ewing did it. So did Dale Earnhardt. Why not Brad? Heck, he could even continue to wear the black hat.
Why was Brad driving the winning Nationwide car at Phoenix on Saturday? Why are any Cup guys running that circuit enough to claim 21 of 32 events this season, and nine of the past 10? Maybe NASCAR just wants to kill the circuit and this is what they have come up with. Chase Elliott has already claimed the season crown, winning three races in Texas, Darlington and Chicago against Cup talent. The lad turns 19 at the end of this month. We need to see more young talented drivers in this circuit like Chase Elliott, and less of the likes of Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.
To see either in more than one race at Homestead is likely, but neither will be in the running for a title in the season finales. What we will have will be four drivers, each seeking this first Cup championship, and come Sunday one of them will be successful. Nothing to not like there.
CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR…
1 – Kevin Harvick – 1 WIN – 4102 Points
2 – Denny Hamlin – 4112 Pts
3 – Joey Logano – 4111 Pts
4 – Ryan Newman – 4103 Pts
FOUR SHOWN THE DOOR…
5 – Jeff Gordon – 4102 Pts
6 – Matt Kenseth – 4100 Pts
7 – Brad Keselowski – 4095 Pts
8 – Carl Edwards – 4088 Pts