13 Drivers in the 2013 Chase.
So the chase field is finally set!...Okay maybe. Remember when I told you all hell would break loose at Richmond? I was right. I just didn’t realize it was going to continue over to Sunday. Then Monday, and Tuesday, along with Wednesday continued with Thursday. Now it’s Friday, and well we’re still not 100% sure who is in and who is out.
On Saturday Night, Martin Truex Jr. was in the chase and Ryan Newman was on the outside looking in. On Monday Night, Newman was in the chase and Truex was out. This was the moment when I went what?! What the hell are you talking about?
Allow me if you will to set the scene, I am sitting in my living room watching the Redskins vs. Eagles game on Monday Night at about 7:00 pm. I’m waiting for Raw to start so I could flip back and forth. When out of nowhere, I receive a text that ruined my evening of beer, football, and wrestling.
The text read: NASCAR having a press conference at 8.
I text back: Why are they having a press conference at 8 in the morning tomorrow?
Responded text: No, tonight. They are having a press conference tonight.
I no longer needed any information from texts, Twitter, or anything to know what was going on. NASCAR was going to hammer Michael Waltrip Racing. However, there was this little voice in the back of my mind. “Meh, they are just trying to kill the controversy before we get into Chase Week Media.”
Then the lovely Jenna Fryer of the AP broke the news. MWR was being fined $300,000, all drivers and cars were being fined 50 points, Ty Norris an important personnel figure at MWR was indefinitely suspended, and Martin Truex Jr., out of the chase to be replaced by Ryan Newman. Bowyer’s penalty was pre-chase points fining. Thus he was basically untouched.
So I spent Monday Night keeping track of things on twitter, and updating my Monday column. Wednesday, I get a moment to myself after work, check twitter and see that now Fox Sports uncovered radio information that Penske made a deal with Front Row Racing for a position. Front Row and Penske are Ford teams, so they have a form of a technical alliance. This was a point Joey Logano needed to help his Chase chances.
As I was writing this preview, I mean right in the middle of it news broke. NASCAR had placed Penske Racing and Front Row Racing on probation. They also said they were allowing Jeff Gordon into the chase for a one year only thirteen driver field. I asked what I felt was a good question on twitter: How in the hell am I suppose to write a chase preview when they change every three days?!
Thusly with all these changes it makes doing a Chase Preview incredibly, irritatingly, and maddeningly difficult! Yet, I said I would do a Chase Preview therefore I will do a Chase Preview. Let’s start at the top and be quick before the lineup changes again.
Matt Kenseth has five wins, six top fives, and thirteen top ten finishes. He also has three DNF’s which is the second highest number of DNF’s in the chase. I think Matt will be strong up until the sixth race of the season, and then will fall to the Toyota jinx.
Jimmie Johnson has four wins, nine top fives, fifteen top tens, and one DNF. If you want a true preview for Jimmie, please go here.
Kyle Busch has four wins, eleven top fives, fifteen top tens, and three DNF’s. Kyle will be the strongest competitor to Jimmie in my opinion; I even think he’ll lead late going into the final three races. However, just like I think Kenseth falls to Toyota jinx, his teammate will lose the title because of it.
Kevin Harvick who was supposed to be the lame duck driver has proven anything but. “Happy” has two wins, six top fives, and thirteen top tens, and two DNF finishes. In the last few years Harvick’s been strong but except 2010 hasn’t been a contender. The trend continues for at least another year.
Carl Edwards has two wins, eight top fives, thirteen top tens, and one DNF. The Ford camp has been quiet, trying to adjust to the Gen 6 car and engine power issues. The hard work seems to be paying off as just as quietly, Ford drivers have been returning to the front of the pack. I think Carl will do well, and even get a couple of Chase victories, but he won’t be there in Homestead.
Joey Logano has one win, eight top fives, fourteen top tens, and two DNF’s. Joey has come on extremely strong in the end of the regular season. He’s also going to finish twelfth and won’t be in Vegas on the stage. I think Joey and the 22 team are going to be much stronger contenders in 2014; they will have all the growing pains ironed out. I don’t have that same confidence for them this year, and expect them to have issues putting together ten solid races.
Greg Biffle has one win, three top fives, and ten top ten’s but no DNF’s. That stat about his lack of DNF’s shocked me. To be the only driver of the thirteen who does not have a DNF is impressive. Biffle could very well be the sleeper or dark horse pick.
Clint Bowyer has no wins, eight top fives, thirteen top tens, and two DNF’s. A season of consistency has been the best way to describe Bowyer for twenty-five races. I say twenty-five because well…Richmond. Bowyer needs wins to make any ground, and now has a wealth of distraction not to help.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., will win the Sprint Cup Title. Sorry, day dreaming. Dale has five top fives, fourteen top tens and two DNF’s. He won’t. I do believe he will get his first win of the season, and I believe he’ll get another. The tracks to watch him at are going to Martinsville, and Phoenix. I think he makes the stage this year at Vegas.
Kurt Busch has zero wins, eight top fives, thirteen top tens, and two DNF’s. “The Outlaw” is the little team that could with getting Furniture Row its first Chase appearance. But like Dale Jr., and Bowyer if they don’t win, they won’t win a championship. Also like Bowyer is the distraction factor a problem?
Kasey Kahne is the first Wild Card driver with two wins, eight top fives and eleven top tens, but three DNF’s helped put him in his spot. The 5 team are hit and miss. When they are on, only the 48 team is better. When they are off, they are way off.
Ryan Newman is the second Wild Card driver with one win, six top fives, twelve top tens, and the tied for leading five DNF’s. Ryan replaced Martin Truex Jr., has mentioned above, in the chase. I don’t know how Ryan will fare, but if he doesn’t finish in the top ten then giving him Martin’s spot was for nothing.
Jeff Gordon has zero wins, five top fives, twelve top tens, and five DNF’s to tie with Ryan Newman for the most. Gordon was added late Friday Afternoon to the chase. He also better make something of this deal, or it was for nothing to add him.
Here is what my guess the final standings will look like.
1st Jimmie Johnson – 2013 Sprint Cup Champion
2nd Kyle Busch
3rd Greg Biffle
4th Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5th Carl Edwards
6th Matt Kenseth
7th Kevin Harvick
8th Clint Bowyer
9th Kasey Kahne
10th Jeff Gordon
11th Kurt Busch
12th Joey Logano
13th Ryan Newman
I picked Jimmie in July, and I won’t pull a Jerry Lawler and switch horse mid race. I actually feel pretty good about my guess, as I think Ryan Newman is going to have a terrible Chase. I’m concerned Joey and the 22 team can’t put the needed ten races together, and Kurt might edge out Gordon to make it on the stage at Vegas, but I’m always going to bet on Gordon in those types of deals.
In random news:
Bobby Labonte is planning on returning to action in New Hampshire. The 2000 champion has been nursing broken ribs from a bicycling accident.
Richard Childress Racing and Furniture Row Racing will continue their alliance into 2014. This will keep Furniture Row as a Chevy team.
NAPA Auto Parts and 5 Hour Energy the respective sponsors to Martin Truex Jr., and Clint Bowyer have released statements saying they are doing an internal examination on how this week’s news will affect their relationships with Michael Waltrip Racing. Personally I hope nothing comes of this news.
Kurt Busch was not able to get the needed funding together to run the IndyCar finale at Auto Club. He and Andretti Motorsports are still working on a deal for the 2014 Indy 500.
Random Sports/Non Sports Thought:
When news broke that Jeff Gordon was being added to the Chase, the press conference was on Fox Sports 1. Right after the announcement the channel went to Camping World Truck qualifying with Michael Waltrip in the booth. Talk about awkward.
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So until we meet again just know, I’ll be waiting for you at the next left turn, in the wreckage that will be Richmond International Speedway