CHASE FORECAST: WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT

One-third of the way through the Sprint Cup season, and conventional wisdom suggests we have a good idea of who will make or miss the NASCAR Chase for the Championship. See if you agree with who’ll make it and who won’t….

In Like Flint

Kevin Harvick has the wins, and has the consistency. With three checkereds he’s the provisional number one seed. It would be nice to see him be a little more dominant once in a while. Winning races is rarely an issue for Kyle Busch. Even better for him is an increasing capacity for keeping his cool when things aren’t going right. Of concern for Rowdy is the maddening propensity for untimely mechanical issues at Joe Gibbs.

Consistency is key for becoming points leader, and that’s what Carl Edwards is at the moment. Out of 12 races, he’s only failed to reached the top ten three times. Edwards has the total package, and I’ll go on record as saying he has the best shot at dethroning Jimmie Johnson. One of those reasons is his solid organizational backing that also makes Matt Kenseth a front runner. If one dare call Matt The Brat a dark horse, that’s what he is.

If you ask me, Jimmie Johnson is just a tick off his game this year. His team is making mistakes they don’t typically make. With that said, they won’t go away quietly.

Solid Bets

If Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stays on his current pace, he’ll be there. Crew chief Steve Letarte has been just what the doctor ordered for Lil E’s confidence. Wins should come soon. Clint Bowyer displays flashes of brilliance, yet like Earnhardt, the racing gods seem to have it in for him sometimes.

Should Be There, But….

Something isn’t right with Kurt Busch and the 22 team. He’s spending too many races rallying from the back. SHR teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman have serious talent, but things aren’t right with their cars. Denny Hamlin isn’t rolling the same way he did in 2010. Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised he hasn’t had a meltdown over some of the issues that have plagued him this year. The usually cool Greg Biffle has been a little volcanic lately. Another win at Kansas would sure do him good.

Party Crashers?

Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin will know how to win races. It’s a good thing, because that’s what it may take to punch their ticket this time. What has to concern them is that it’s not an insane idea that Regan Smith could likely seal a wild card with a win at Daytona. With a win at an oval- in combination with a road course- Juan Pablo Montoya or Marcos Ambrose muscles their way in. Ditto that for a steadily rising A.J. Allmendinger.

Stick A Fork In ‘Em

Do you realize Jeff Burton has NO top fives, and NO top tens this season? If this year’s format were in place last year, Jamie McMurray would have made the Chase. Since it’s more about winning than consistency for Jamie Mac, he could still mount a charge, but time is not his ally.   
 

So Who Gets In?

These are my picks for the Top 12: 1. Harvick, 2. Kenseth, 3. Edwards, 4. Kyle Busch, 5. Johnson, 6. Bowyer, 7. Newman, 8. Earnhardt, 9. Hamlin, 10. Kurt Busch Wild Cards: 1. Gordon, 2. Kahne.

Other articles by this author include:

Dale Jr’s 2011 Progress Cause for "Nation’s" Optimism

Kevin Harvick Is The Blue Collar Candidate

There’s Room At The Top For A Matt Kenseth