When the green flag drops in
……no more time off
……no more excuses
…..it’s now or never!!!!!
Though the second half of the season is two weeks in progress with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona marking the actual half way point, the break between
New Hampshire and provides a chance to evaluate the season so far and look to the future. The season will have a new look and feel when the field takes the green flag in Indianapolis . ESPN/ABC coverage begins so the sport won’t even look the same with new personalities, different emphasis and production values. Indianapolis
The big news coming out of
is the crew chief change for the #99 team. After being seconds away from a possible championship in 2011, tying the champ, Tony Stewart in points, Carl Edwards’ season has been a huge disappointment this year seldom being in the picture as races approach the checkered flag. Hanging in 11th place not making the top 10 in points and with no wins and four drivers having succeeded in bumping Edwards for the two wild card spots, the next seven weeks are crucial for this year’s success. Bob Edwards is out transitioning into a management roll in Roush/Fenway while Chad Norris is reputed as a tough competitor having supported the organization’s Nationwide teams and heading the Roush/Fenway R&D operations. Clearly the goal is winning, winning races and Carl doing back flips heading to victory lane. However, Kasey Kahne is well positioned for the Chase with two wins and could further squeeze the top ten field should he move into the top 10 in points also an almost certainty given his recent performance. Kahne is 20 points behind Edwards poised to move into 11th place further complicating Edwards’ chase prospects. New Hampshire
The bottom of the chase field just happens to have the driver who would top the field after points are set based on victories when the Chase field is established. Brad Keselowski, leading the series with three wins, would get that honor. His strong position makes the points bumble a little more interesting with Edwards on the outside looking in with a formidable wall to overcome to make the field without winning. Though Edwards is 46 points out of 10th place, 10th is held by Keselowski and 9th place driver is Clint Bowyer one point ahead and with one victory. That would put Martin Truex Jr. on the bubble in 8th place four points Kieslowski’s superior, but 50 points ahead of Edwards. Kevin Harvick in 6th is five points ahead of Truex.
The big fight right now is for the wild card spots. Kahne is sitting pretty with two wins for now and likely could ascend into the top ten but several drivers are competing with one win. Here are the contenders:
Kyle Busch, 1 win, 13th place, 545 points
Ryan Newman, 1 win, 14th place, 536 points
Joey Logano, 1 win, 16th place, 533 points
Tony Stewart is no lock for the chase on points at all but would be hard to beat as a wild card. He’s only five points above Keselowski. A couple bad finishes and he’s out of the top ten. Three wins keeps him in the Chase and at the top of the field with Keselowski with both in the top ten.
Of the unproven teams, certainly Burger King racing, Travis Kvapil and Landon Cassill are showing the most promise. While the Front Row racing operation only has David Ragan’s one top ten for bragging rights. Despite a win at
Darlington and some strong races, Furniture Row’s team with Casey Mears has been almost invisible on the track short of wrecks in 2012.
One last point of conversation, Jeff Gordon, stick a fork in the #24 car it’s done. If any of the one win drivers scores another win, he’s completely finished. Realistically, the only hope for Gordon would be three wins in seven races. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely. That not withstanding, with Gordon’s expertise, and the other three Hendricks’ drivers poised for a championship run, perhaps his function will be as the organization’s R&D operation to prepare for next year.
Is there any strong argument for one driver over another to be the champ at the end of the year? Based on five consecutive championships and much that resembles that championship year so far in 2012, it’s hard not to like Jimmie Johnson, regardless of who is a ahead of him. The top three drivers have one win. The next two have two. Three drivers have nine top tens, two have eight. They range between ten to fourteen top tens. Is that parody or coincidence?
Concluding our thoughts on Stewart, three wins is a huge plus while being -87 in points is bad news until judgment day after
. Kevin Harvick is simply not living up to expectations this year. Martin Truex and Clint Bowyer simply don’t look like championship material. If there’s a dark horse in the race, it’s Brad Keselowski, but when he has a bad day, it’s a really bad day. This is a driver who is maturing rapidly and has shown the talent to dominate a race. Richmond
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||691||-16||19||0||1||8||14||3,506,160|
|8||Martin Truex Jr.||617||-90||19||1||0||4||9||2,968,530|
|58||Sam Hornish Jr.||0||-707||3||0||0||0||0||330,625|
|59||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||0||-707||1||0||0||0||0||304,275|
|62||Robert Richardson Jr.||0||-707||1||0||0||0||0||110,318|
Take note of the money the qualify and quit, start and park, drivers have earned so far. The money absorbed by teams having no intention to race, but this is the era of play the system and to some, what value is achievement?
Tell that to the fellows who lay everything on the line to win, to move up the ladder, to constantly improve. Fellows like Phil Parsons and his drivers, Joe Nemechek and about another half dozen teams are gaming the system and nothing more. What a slap in the face to fans who put in a full day's work for a full day's pay.
Bring it on! The heat of the season is on.