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Chase Race five in Charlotte tonight will draw the line for some that would like to be in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for 2011. Those at the bottom of the top twelve in points absolutely have to have a good finish tonight and hope that those above them in points have really bad finishes. Of course, just between you and me, the chances of that happening are about slim and none.
I can’t help but mention, (again), unless things really change for Denny Hamlin over the next six races, he is definitely out of contention from my view, (and many others, too.) The odds of him winning several of the remaining races and ALL of the others having extreme reverses in their fortunes are completely astronomical. (Uh, in case you’re wondering, that’s a nice way of me saying, “It ain’t gonna happen!”)
The way I see it, his only hope is that some continue to do worse and he can move up out of the twelfth position. If you listen to interviews with him, it appears they are trying to deal with the rest of this season and focusing on their hopes to be major contenders next season.
Ryan Newman is almost in the same boat as Denny. Being fifty-four points out and considering the drivers that are ahead of him, he would almost have to have miraculous intervention to move anywhere close to the first spot. Now, don’t get me wrong, he isn’t 100% out of the picture and I know he is starting sixth in the lineup tonight, but unless he consistently finishes the next six races in the top five with some wins, he is clearly on my “also-ran” list for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship.
Where it really begins to get interesting, and one of the things that makes tonight’s race so important at Charlotte, is where Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon are in the points standings. They are in ninth and tenth and forty-three and forty-seven points out of first respectively. They are definitely not out of contention but they do have a lot of work to do and neither one of them can afford to finish out side the top ten again. Even if they do finish in the top ten for the next six races, their future depends on how the ones now in the top eight places finish over that same time. From this fan’s view, unless they start finishing in the top part of the top five from here on out, they both need to start thinking about next year.
Next on my list would be Kyle Bush. Kyle has quietly been running fairly consistently, but if he wants to win his first Sprint Cup Championship, he’s going to have to turn up the wick a bit. I have heard rumors they’ve just been working their way through some of their not-so-favorite-tracks and some performance issues at JGR, but many are beginning to wonder if the Chase is just a bit out of his reach yet.
We all know he can drive, and win, but from this fan’s view, I expected more from him in this Chase just like I expected more from Jeff Gordon. With Kyle’s improved attitude this year and his ever increasing maturity and mellowing-out level, I truly expected him to be in the top four or five by now. Sure, I know twenty points isn’t that far out, but it doesn’t leave much room for error over the next few weeks either.
Tony Stewart sits on the pole for tonight’s race but it’s going to take a top five performance from him to make me see the #14 team has a chance at taking the Championship. Yes, his two wins were impressive but his performance has been a bit lacking most of the last half of the year. I’m thinking the Stewart/Haas teams are both a little concerned about their performance so far.
A quick look at the lineup shows seven Fords, four Chevys and one Toyota in the top twelve starters. I know you already know what I think about using qualifying spots to give an idea of who might win the race, but even I have to admit, the Fords are looking very strong for tonight.
Not only is it just Fords, but the Roush Fords of Kenseth, Edwards and Biffle have all qualified in the top five. Taking that in to account and considering how the Roush teams usually perform at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, they do have to be highly favored for a possible trip to Victory Lane tonight. Am I picking one of them to win? Nope, but I will keep an eye on them to see if they can maintain their speeds for more than a lap or two.
The race tonight is once again one that could see a non-Chaser in Victory Lane. Kasey Kahne has been running very strong during the Chase races and looks like a strong contender for tonight’s race as well. I can’t really rule out several others either. AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose and Paul Menard could pull off the victory tonight and it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Look, it wouldn’t even surprise me if someone like Trevor Bayne ended up pulling into Victory Lane at the end of 500 miles, but, that’s not really what I’m expecting. I’m expecting to see names like Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and a couple of others at the top of the scoring pylon by the end of the night; but then again, this is NASCAR and I do expect the unexpected, too…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 15, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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