The 2005 Chase for the Championship contenders have been determined. There is no more concern over drivers battling for a place in the Chase, and now the attention will be directly on the points championship. Many people believe that the next ten races will bring about an exciting battle over the Nextel Cup, with consistently dominant drivers racing on a variety of venues from short tracks to super speedways. However, with two teams inside the top 10 and a lack of fan favorite drivers competing for the championship, this year's Chase may prove to be one of the least popular and most uneventful points battle in recent history.
Jack Roush has a fifty percent chance of claiming a third consecutive championship with his entire team inside the Chase. Penske Racing only has one car not inside the Chase, but Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace are the only other teammates in the top 10. That leaves Jeremy Mayfield, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers in the Chase without teammates. Since early summer we have seen all of the Roush cars running up front, often exchanging the lead to one another to allow for more bonus points. Whether or not this will continue now that the Chase has begun has yet to be determined, however it is an example of the teamwork and unity that exists at Roush Racing. Dodge only has one victory among three drivers in the Chase, which is simply not enough to compete with the consistency of the other contenders. Johnson and Stewart are at a disadvantage because they do not have teammates in the Chase for the Championship, and their 2005 statistics are becoming more and more overshadowed by the Roush drivers. I believe that it is very likely Roush Racing will quickly claim the points lead, and eventually claim a third consecutive championship with the entire team finishing inside the top 6 or 7 in points.
Aside from the fact that Roush racing has the advantage in the Chase for the Championship, an absence of big name drivers is going to cause some diehard fans to wait until February to return to NASCAR. Without names like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Junior in the Chase, NASCAR doesn't have two of it's most popular drivers to market. While NASCAR is in no danger of losing too many of it's fans, the fact remains that without the possibility of popular drivers winning the championship will discourage fans from really enjoying the Chase. Finally, the Richmond race may help to show how the Chase will not be as exciting as last season. Last Year, Jeremy Mayfield raced his way into championship contention with a win at Richmond and a 14 point lead over 11th place. This season, Ryan Newman earned a chance at the championship with an 11th place finish and nearly 60 points over 11th place in the standings.
There really isn't many appealing aspects to the Chase for the Championship this season. As stated, Roush Racing clearly has a sizeable advantage over the other competitors in the Chase. Johnson and Stewart will not win the championship if they cannot contend with Roush racing in winning races. This is highly unlikely, as Johnson and Stewart have won a combined seven races this season, while Roush Racing has earned 11 victories and an All-Star win. With the struggles that Dodge has had in 2005 and their lack of wins, it is doubtful that a Dodge driver will claim the championship. The only enjoyable aspect of the Chase will be watching Rusty Wallace make a final bid at a championship before his retirement. However, fans that are looking for an exciting points battle without a team element will need to wait until next season, As Roush Racing has all but claimed a third consecutive championship in 2005.
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