|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
Powering Up for the Chase
I've been writing this blog every week. I've come up with various stories about NASCAR, INDYCAR, motorcycle racing, an old piece of junk car I owned in high school and whatever other idea seemed relevant.
This week's blog is one of the easiest and, considering we're busy ramping up for the race week here at NHMS, that's a needed relief.
It's the power rankings and the Granite Stripe's predictions for NASCAR's coveted 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup trophy.
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior's showed little life the second half of the season and, unlike those that finished strong, he looked like a football team resting its starters. That rarely works in football and it won't work in NASCAR. The No. 88 has finished with just one top-10 in the last 12 races. Why change now?
11. Denny Hamlin - When the checkered flag waved at Richmond last week, he had the fewest points of all Chase drivers. He hasn't had that "it" factor this year and hasn't strung together any series of top-fives and few top-10s, for that matter.
10. Tony Stewart - Stewart himself has admitted on several occasions that he doesn't think he's running up to his standards. He's even gotten irritated that people keep questioning his honesty. Look, if the guy's disappointed that his team isn't a top Contender, let's take his word for it!
9. Ryan Newman - I like Newman and he does a good job on a regular basis. However, the key word is good, not great. He just doesn't log the wins nor the top-fives to really be a front runner.
8. Brad Keselowski - Keselowski's hotter than a pot of water waiting to boil some late summer lobsters, but he's got to stay that way to pose a threat to win the whole thing. That's a tough task to ask for a guy that didn't even get into the top-20 in points until the 21st race of a 26-race regular season.
7. Kurt Busch - Kurt Busch is kind of a snake in the grass. If you forget about him, he could bite you. That said, if you're looking for him, he's often hard to find. The plain and simple being that he has the potential to win, but probably won't reach it.
6. Matt Kenseth - Kenseth is a more lethal version of Kurt Busch. At just 35 points back, he was the last of the top-six with a reasonable shot at leading the regular season points standings. I expect that, likewise, he'll be the final one in the Chase with a reasonable shot to win; the last one on the lead lap, if you will.
5. Kevin Harvick - Harvick enters the Chase tied for the top spot with nemesis Kyle Busch. He lands there thanks to four wins on the year. However, he went eleven weeks before that win without a top-five. He's very streaky, which makes him dangerous, but if he's on the wrong end of the streak, he'll quickly become an after thought.
4. Jeff Gordon - Gordon's simply one of the best drivers out there. Like one of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates who people refer to as "Five Time," Gordon is peaking as the Chase approaches. He could easily end up with a fifth Cup title for himself.
3. Kyle Busch - Kyle Busch enters the Chase tied as the top-seed with Harvick, which is fitting since he finished first in the regular season standings. Despite his four wins, he didn't run away with anything as he finished just four points in front of Jimmie Johnson, who had a final race tiff with Kyle's big brother Kurt. His small lead over the field raises some doubt. He lays a few eggs now and again and he can't do that during the Chase if he intends to win.
2. Carl Edwards - Edwards was on fire to start the season and spent 10 straight weeks as the top seed in the regular season. He also tied for the most top-10s with 17. He has what it takes. He just needs to rekindle the heat to get over the final hump.
1. Jimmie Johnson - As mentioned, it's "Five Time" from Hendrick Motorsports. He's won five consecutive titles to earn that name and has often shown up for the Chase with less momentum than this season. At this point, until someone proves otherwise, there's no reason to think he won't win again!