Who will miss the cut to the next round of the 2015 Chase? There’s some pretty big names hovering over and under the cut line, leaving little doubt that one or two drivers that had big championship aspirations (is there any such thing as little aspirations?) will see their dreams go up in a vapor.
What may surprise some is the belief of this observer that Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch- two drivers below the cut line- advance. It’s not going too far out on a limb to say Busch goes through; after all, the man races for Joe Gibbs Racing, the Kings of 2015. Some say Shrub’s a choker at Chase time- I’m not buying it. Flat tires and mechanical troubles do not a choker make. He’ll get through because there will be others who will make the path clearer to go through.
Harvick has a steeper mountain to climb, but let’s not forget who’s had the recent history of coming through in the clutch. It’s just an opinion, but the feeling here is that it was two decisions not to come to pit road that have cost the defending champion. The cars have been just fine. Harvick wont have it happen three races in a row. Besides, there are other candidates more likely to fall by the wayside.
If I were a betting man- and I’m not- I’d bet Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard won’t make it through. It’s not a slam on the drivers; it’s just an observation that this trio doesn’t have a ride to roll with the big dogs. All three are winless, and have only six top fives between them.
Who becomes that last man not miss is a more difficult call, but there’s just a feeling that either Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. misses the cut. Gordon’s farewell voyage just hasn’t been what his fans had hoped, and while he has his good runs, there’s just something missing with this team. In fact, I will go as far as to say Hendrick Motorsports won’t win a championship this year.
As for Earnhardt, it’s the same deal as his teammates. There’s not nearly enough races where he seems like a legitimate contender to win. The 88 team has exceeded the expectations of many in Greg Ives’ first campaign as Junior’s chief. Earnhardt falling below the cut line would not be a king-sized shock.
If it’s not Earnhardt, there are others who could easily drop off Sunday. Anyone south of Jimmie Johnson- who currently sits in fifth- is a bit vulnerable. While Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin are already clinched, and Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Johnson just need to avoid early trouble. Beyond that, the drivers below that will have to be a little more aggressive.
Ryan Newman needs to finish at least 16th, Kurt Busch needs to finish 15th, Brad Keselowski 14th and Martin Truex Jr. 13th- if they lead no laps to clinch. Jeff Gordon has to make the top ten to clinch. The law of averages suggests somebody misses it.
I know some fans hate the Chase with a purple passion. I don’t blame them. For this sports fan, 2015 Chase bracketology taps into that same energy that I have for my March Madness brackets. There’s so many factors that can play into who makes the cut and who misses it in the 2015 Chase.
One thing’s almost a certainty: one or two big names won’t move on and bust a few brackets. Sometimes its a miscue, and sometimes its just dumb bad luck, or maybe even someone catching fire at the right time. Adding more intrigue to the picture are those drivers not even in the Chase who make strong runs and play a spoiler. Take Greg Biffle Sunday. There are some Chase tracks where he performs quite well.