Cup Stuff Blog

Ruminating All Things NASCAR

New Chase Format Claims Another Would-be Champion

Posted by Keith Murray on September 24, 2008

All we have heard from the pundits leading up to the Chase was that Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have this thing locked up and are the favorites to take it down. All along I have dissented and spoken my disagreement with that mentality. Love it or hate it, the new Chase format is here to stay (which means nothing in this sport – just ask Nextel, errrr, I mean Sprint) and having success or even domination over the first 26 races means little to nothing. Don’t believe me? Just ask Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.

Both of those guys had outstanding numbers going into the ChaseĀ  – Gordon last year, and Busch this year. I have also been hearing people that are complaining about the new format and how it does not reward consistency over the long haul. Well, the fact of the matter is that every driver in the garage knows what the rules are and how the format works, and every one of them have the same opportunity to flourish or to crash and burn.

Busch has had some really bad luck the last couple of weeks, and that is exactly why the regular season is inconsequential once we leave Richmond and head to Loudon each year. If you peak too early in the season as Busch and – in my humble opinion – Carl Edwards did this year, you can be hung out to dry in the Chase format. Yes, Edwards is leading the points, and he could continue to run strong, but he is coming up on some tracks that have not historically been good for him, and although it could happen, to maintain that momentum much longer is unlikely, but it would be impressive.

Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson are the two drivers that have come on strong and gotten momentum at the right time. They have used the regular season to hone their programs and get things ready to roll, and have both taken off and had success the last 4-5 races. Both of those guys have some tracks coming up that they run well at, as does Edwards, so the title is still up in the air. I also think that you should keep an eye on Kecin Harvick. He has been quietly amassing consecutive good runs and could turn it up a notch and steal this thing before it is over. But Biffle has two consecutive wins in the Chase format, and the last two times that has happened in the Chase, the driver to do that – Jimmie Johnson – went on to win the championship both times.

Two races into the Chase, it is still up for grabs. Unless Denny Hamlin or Busch can pull a Jimmie Johnson ala 2007 and string together three or four wins, you can count them out this year. Early season success is no longer the determining factor for our sport’s championship. But Biffle and Johnson have timed it right and turned up the heat at the perfect time and they both have a strong chance to run away with the title. I predict that when we get to Homestead, it will be a two man race between those two, with a possible third contender being Kevin Harvick. In any case, it is going to be exciting coming up to the end of the season and hopefully be a close race to the Chase like the last few laps at Dover were. That was some great racing.

Please remember to pray for our troops and for our country’s future during this election cycle. Thanks for reading and God bless each of you!

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