The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Breaking Down NASCAR's Chase Three Races In by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday October 4, 2010

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Fact or Fiction: Breaking Down NASCAR's Chase Three Races In

Mike Lovecchio · Monday October 4, 2010


None of the Roush Fenway cars have gotten much attention in the Chase so far, but Greg Biffle reminded everyone they can still be a factor with his win in Kansas.

NASCAR should just give Jimmie Johnson the title now

After a disappointing 25th-place finish to open the Chase, fans and critics were quick to write off the driver and team that have won the past four Sprint Cup titles. But in just two weeks following a win at Dover and a second place Sunday at Kansas, Jimmie Johnson is suddenly widely regarded as the title favorite once again by just about everybody – including myself. With an eight-point lead over Denny Hamlin and a host of favorable tracks on the remaining schedule, it’s easy to see why Johnson has more than a legitimate shot at championship number five. But as we saw in New Hampshire just two weeks ago, anything can and will happen, plus don’t forget Talladega is still on the schedule – the equivalent of Russian Roulette, a wild card track where he’s run into problems in the past. There is no denying the postseason is the No. 48 team’s time of year – 29 top-2 finishes in 63 Chase races isn’t too shabby – but a lot can happen in seven races. A lot.

The number one threat to Johnson’s title hopes is Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin has had a solid Chase thus far with his 12th-place run Sunday being his worst of the three races, and it shows with his second position in points. Hamlin has been widely considered Johnson’s kryptonite this Chase and with Kyle Busch running into problems by way of David Reutimann, the No. 11 is the Gibbs car closest to Johnson and Co. But don’t be so quick to label Hamlin as the top challenger. As the points tighten, it’s the driver sitting third in points (Kevin Harvick) who leads the series in top-5 finishes and was the top dog during much of the regular season, and with Greg Biffle’s win Sunday, don’t be so quick to count out at least one of the Roush cars. The moral of the first two points in this column is simple: it’s too soon to guarantee much of anything – that is, except for the fact Clint Bowyer is out of it.

Greg Biffle has joined teammate Carl Edwards as a title threat

Roush Fenway has struggled to win races this season and, in fact, it’s only been Greg Biffle who’s found Victory Lane. But suddenly, with his second win of the season Sunday and teammate Carl Edwards’ subsequent sixth-place finish – his twelfth consecutive top-12 performance – the two have emerged as legitimate contenders for the championship. The intermediate tracks have long been Roush Fenway’s bread and butter and with both Edwards and Biffle within striking distance – 53 and 85 points back, respectively – along with that Chase win checked off, the focus can now shift to reeling in the No. 48. It wasn’t that long ago when Edwards was a championship contender, and consistency may put him up there again… so don’t count either of these two teams out.

David Reutimann’s retaliation on Kyle Busch ruined Busch’s title hopes

Kyle Busch had a top 10 going and the points lead in his sights before David Reutimann got into the left rear of the No. 18 on Lap 154 and ruined the handling of Busch’s Toyota. It was a retaliatory move that relegated Busch to a 21st-place finish, leaving the championship hopeful 80 markers back. Heated at the moment of contact, Busch wanted NASCAR to reprimand Reutimann, but when asked to comment on the incident after the race, toned down his frustration… a good sign for Busch fans. It’s not the time of year to get caught up in a driver feud, and a newer, more mature Busch understands that. “New Kyle” understands he could be the championship leader right now, sure, but 80 points can easily be made up over a span of seven races. Watch the No. 18 closely next weekend, though, as it’s clearly a make-or-break weekend for the him and the Joe Gibbs Racing organization; Busch may not be out of it yet, but he’ll need to forget about Sunday and post a good run to clearly put this incident behind him.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: David Slays Goliath – Kyle Busch’s Double Standard Proves Faulty
Bubble Breakdown: Oh, Canada! Carpentier Delivers While Speed Shines In Kansas
Running Their Mouth: Price Chopper 400
Nationwide Series Breakdown: Kansas Lottery 300

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


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10/04/2010 05:16 AM

Now that we finally got to a Chase track in which the engine mattered… it looks like my theory about Ford’s FR9 engine may be correct.

5 Fords finished in the top 10 today. When is the last time that happened?

Supposedly the FR9 produces more torque and has a lower center of gravity, yet the Ford teams have only used it a handful of times this year. And supposedly that’s all they are running for the rest of the year.

If the top 5 Fords were running the FR9… it does make you wonder if this engine is just a tad too good and is why they held off on running it all year.

10/04/2010 05:20 AM

BTW, today was a perfect example of what is seriously wrong with the Chase format.

A non-Chaser purposely wrecked a Chaser.

What other sport allows teams that didn’t make the “playoffs” to factor into the “playoffs”?

The Chase is a joke.

10/04/2010 08:47 AM

PBFred: I’ll agree with you that the chase is a joke. I’ll do ya one better and call it a travesty. However, Reutiman’s hit on Busch isn’t a problem. It shows that at least one driver isn’t going to let another driver do whatever he wants, just because he is in the chase. Kyle should understand that he has more to lose than David, and if he can’t get that through his head, then maybe NA$CAR needs to add an I.Q. test to the driver’s credentialing process.

Mike, Johnson’s 30% win ratio in the chase, does actually lend credence to the idea of just giving him the trophy now. “Dega isn’t the wildcard that many people claim it to be. The fact is, if Jimmie wrecks himself at Talladega, odds are it will be a huge wreck, and half of the chase field will also go with him. That keeps the playing field leveled much more than the hype that the media wants to portray.
Greg is more of a contender than Carl. After all he has 100% of Ford’s 2 wins this season. Having said that, NEITHER of them will actually contend in the end. Rousch’s equipment is not consistent enough this season to pull a come from behind victory out in just 10 events.

10/04/2010 09:24 AM

NASCAR should just give Jimmie Johnson the title now


It’s been planned since before the Daytona 500.

Kyle Butch found out that David isn’t Jennifer Jo. I like the way Joe Gibbs handled it.

10/04/2010 12:15 PM

Chad K treats the first 26 weeks as a test session. They’ve done it four years running. They did it this year. Then they amazingly wake up and start winning everything as soon as it is time for the Chase. Big coincidence …….. FACT

How many cars have you seen spinning off Kyle Busch’s fender? He finally got a dose of his own tactic. So what he’s a chaser. That wasn’t the first time Kyle punted Reuti. Go David!

10/04/2010 12:21 PM

This is the NEW KYLE. He has learned from his mistakes and is a force to be reckoned with.

10/04/2010 12:43 PM

Card Edwards is a threat to win the championship?
The way I see it he still has a few doses of Karma to deal with. He’ll go winless this season. (i hope)

phil h
10/04/2010 01:02 PM

babydufus: I keep thinking maybe at Homestead Brad K might just wanna give Carl a early Christmas present!

10/04/2010 03:32 PM

“After a disappointing 25th-place finish to open the Chase, fans and critics were quick to write off the driver and team that have won the past four Sprint Cup titles”

I’m not sure who those people were but it wasn’t very many people. Maybe those hoping it would happen, but I think most people have it down. Test test test for the first 26 races, then come alive in the last 10. A minor hiccup at NH will not change anything. It only took him 3 weeks to get the point lead with his best tracks coming up (Fontana Martinsville)

It’s over folks! The 4 time 10 race champ will win another and not even a wreck at Talladega will slow him down. If someone else wins I will gladly eat my crow as I’m in the ABJ (anybody but Jimmie) group.

10/04/2010 06:47 PM

“phil h: babydufus: I keep thinking maybe at Homestead Brad K might just wanna give Carl a early Christmas present!”

I would watch an entire race live without a nap to see an early Christmas present. It would be my present too!!!!

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