The Race for the Chase is on and it’s go time for competitors. Who will turn it up with their game on and who will fizzle on the backstretch?
With only six races left in the Race to the Chase, the competition is heating up and will be even more intense as the clock winds down to Richmond – the final race before the Chase begins at Chicagoland.
Every week watch for our newest Fan4Racing feature, Chase Tracker – The Contenders, on the journey to Richmond and then the season finale at Homestead-Miami.
This is where you’ll find my analysis and predictions for the Chase based on the current week of performance from the wild card contenders, as well as the contenders for the championship in the Chase.
Analysis will include, who’s fizzling on the backstretch, who’s bubble is about to burst and who’s turning it up with their game on.
Let’s begin with week four analysis…
Fizzling on the Backstretch
First on the list this week is Matt Kenseth. His 35th-place finish in Indy was a hard hit on his path to the championship. The next six races will give a better indication of how his championship hopes will shape up for the Chase. To be a strong contender in the Chase, he’ll need strong top-five performances from Pocono to Richmond and another win would be just the boost he needs to keep the championship within his sight.
As for the Wild Card fizzlers, at this point, that honor goes to Joey Logano and Carl Edwards. At this stage of the game their performance in the first four races – tracking from the first Race to the Chase – are dismal at best and in my estimation, it seems they’ve already eliminated themselves from wild card contention, unless they can step it up with at least one more win in the next six races and back it up with top-five performances from here on out.
Bubbles about the Burst
Again, keeping in mind these are early predictions, based on the last four race performances, among the current Chase contenders there are some surprises in this category. Topping the list of surprises this week is Tony Stewart and we all know how effective Tony can be in turning this around in a pinch. His Kentucky performance of a 32nd-place finish is countered with his first place finish in Daytona. Tony also has three wins under his belt putting him in one of the top-three spots when the chase begins. However of the current top-ten Chase contenders Tony currently has one of the lowest average finishes in the Race to the Chase at 14th. But he’s not alone, because there are two others with a 14th-average-finish status, including Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle. They’re all capable of turning this around, but at this stage of the game, they’re headed in the wrong direction.
Clint Bowyer seems to be solidly in place at 10th in the points but if his recent troubles continue, he could find himself chasing a wild card to be in the chase. He has one win right now, another would put him in a better position, as his average finish in the last four races is 16th. Bowyer will need to put more pep in his step and improve his average finish performance to be a real contender in the Chase.
In the wild card race, two in dire need of wins are Paul Menard and Ryan Newman and I give Newman the edge on this one. Menard along with Edwards are the only wild card contenders without a win. They both would need two wins and top-five maybe even top-three performances in the next six races to have any chance at wild card spots. Newman has a win, but he’ll need another or he must improve is point position of 14th to get his shot at a wild card spot.
The current second Wild Card holder, Kyle Busch could be in trouble if any of the other contenders get a second win winding down to Richmond. Although his point position seems solidly in place at 11th-place, if anything happens to lose this advantage, it will spell trouble for Busch. A second win would firm up his wild card spot.
Turning it up – Game on
Among the Chase contenders there are a few surprises here as well. Current points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking pretty strong right now with a high average finish of 7th. But there are two others ahead of him, both with an average finish of 6th. One is Brad Keselowski, who currently sits 9th in points, but has three wins under his belt giving him one of the top-three spots when the Chase begins. But performing just slightly ahead of Keselowski in the last four races is wild card holder, Kasey Kahne. In fact, looking strictly at statistical performance, Kasey Kahne looks to be the strongest contender for the championship.
With race four in the books, the strongest contenders for the final Wild Card spot are Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. In the last four races, Gordon is actually out performing Busch with an average finish of 7th – Busch’s average finish is 13th. Busch however has the edge in the point standings at 11th, compared to Gordon who currently sits in 15th-place. While Busch has the position edge, Gordon currently has the performance edge. They both need a second win to firm up their wild card potential. A mulligan in either case could be heartbreaking.
Checkered Flag – Week Four
That wraps it up for week four analysis. Your view is always valued, so sound off and give your analysis and predictions in the comment section below.