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It’s already quite evident that the newest Chase format is doing what it was supposed to do since it was instituted last season and continues on through this one. Tensions and emotions are running very high and we’ve only had one race. This second race in the Chase at New Hampshire takes on its own significance and the only one that doesn’t appear to be very stressed this weekend is Denny Hamlin.
One other driver in the JGR camp that seems to have a lot of confidence going into this weekend is Carl Edwards. He took the pole position which was a repeat of what he did at the earlier race in July. Apparently the Gibbs teams are still thriving on the momentum of their performance over the last few months or so. At this track in July they made a very good showing with Kyle Bush taking the win and Kenseth and Edwards finishing in the top ten. (I guess it’s a good thing Denny won last weekend since he was the worst finisher for JGR in July at fourteenth.) Even though all of JGR didn’t make a good showing in qualifying, they still seem pretty confident with their race setups and possibilities.
Kevin Harvick has come to New Hampshire to make up for his bad finish last weekend at Chicagoland. Judging from his performance so far this weekend, I’d say he’s shown up ready to make his presence known. We all know how disappointed he was and that he thought he was wronged by Jimmie Johnson (though some of the blame should probably go to Jimmie, from this fan’s view there is plenty of blame to go around for both of them.) Even though last week’s incident is water over the dam, this fan thinks some thoughts of payback might resurface during the race if the opportunity presents itself. Of course, Kevin knows he can’t let that keep him from his main goal of qualifying for the next round in the Chase so I do think that main goal will override those thoughts. At any rate, he did qualify on the front row for the start of the Sunday’s race. That in itself could give a glimpse of how things might go by the time the checkered flag drops.
Kurt Bush has been quietly flying below the radar and qualified third for the start of the Sunday’s Sylvania 300. After finishing third in last week’s race, at least according to points, he looks pretty solid to move on to the next round in the Chase. Well, that is depending on how he does on Sunday. The thing about this format for the Chase is it doesn’t leave much room for bad finishes. All it takes is a finish like Harvick had last week and Kurt could be in the same boat. With the consistency he’s shown recently, I really don’t expect that to happen.
I think one of the things that puzzles me most so far is the performance of the Hendrick teams. They just haven’t shown the usual strength that always seems to surface around Chase time. It might be a little bit early to start counting them out but after this weekend one or more of them might be in a position of having to win to make it in to the next round.
That can’t be a pleasant thought for them considering they appear to this fan to have been struggling over the last ten races or so. It is unusual, although not unheard of, for them to struggle a bit at times but for none of them to be showing up as contenders at this point has to be cause for concern. I keep hearing the rumblings that Dale Jr has a good chance to win the Championship this year but without them improving their performance and finishes, I just don’t see it happening. Yeah, I do realize we’ve only had one Chase race so far but time is definitely running out for all three of them.
I think it has to be particularly disappointing for Jeff Gordon to run good in a race and finish poorly at the end. Last week he went from the front all the way back to fourteenth in just a couple of laps. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) he did manage to stay in the top twelve in points but I don’t think he wants to go out of this year as an also ran. He and his fans, for that matter, would much rather see him go out on top.
At this point he isn’t even really contending, he’s just scraping by and for a four time cup champ with a bunch of wins I’m sure he would like much more. For Jeff Gordon, it is about winning, something he hasn’t been able to do this season even though he has been close. Although he will prove himself to be an iron man of sorts when he starts this race and becomes the driver with the most consecutive starts without missing one, he wants more. He has accomplished a lot as a premier driver in this sport and I’m sure this is one title he can appreciate but still, he wants more. He won’t want to be remembered as driving in his last Chase for a Cup championship as one that just showed up and quietly rode off into the sunset and faded away. It is this fan’s opinion he would not only like to win this weekend but would also like to be contending for the Sprint Cup Championship as a part of the final four at Homestead in November. Anything less just doesn’t sound like Jeff Gordon. Will he make it? Well, that remains to be seen.
Earlier in the season he was asked if he “had to win” and he answered with an answer from the heart of a true champion. He said, “I don’t have to win… I want to win!” At New Hampshire this weekend he doesn’t have to win… he wants to win and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 26, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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