The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Did Blown Engines Blow Championship Hopes For Each Driver? by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday October 11, 2010

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It’s hard to believe that a year-and-a-half ago, owner Jack Roush was smiling with Matt Kenseth in Victory Lane after the duo dominated the second race of that Sprint Cup season in Fontana. Not only has Kenseth gone winless since, but Roush’s teams had an awful day on Sunday where none of his four drivers finished better than 30th place.

Kyle Busch’s championship hopes officially went up in smoke Sunday

For all his success in the Nationwide and Truck Series, there’s something about the Chase that has Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team scratching their heads. Their latest misfortune came in the way of engine problems on lap 155, prompting Busch to come over the radio with the words that everybody in Fontana was already thinking:

“There you have it. Anybody who wasn’t sure the championship was over, it’s certainly over now.”

The resulting 35th-place finish knocked Busch down another two rungs in the standings and 187 points behind the sport’s most consistent driver, Jimmie Johnson. But the problem for Busch isn’t just the deficit, but the eight drivers in front of him. It would almost certainly take a string of five consecutive top-5 finishes just to be in the championship picture come Homestead, and consistency hasn’t exactly been the No. 18 team’s strong suit throughout his career. Any driver that can win races at the rate of Busch has a puncher’s chance, but it would take nothing short of a miracle to make it happen.

Also out of the championship picture is now the Roush Fenway trio

In this very space one week ago I adamantly expressed how much I loved Roush’s chances going forward in the Chase. But in the era of the ten-race playoff, one race can completely alter any team’s momentum and championship hopes. Unfortunately for Roush Fenway Racing, California claimed the title dreams of its two highest-ranked drivers. Last week’s winner Greg Biffle suffered similar engine issues to those of Busch, but much sooner in the race and finished 41st, while Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team had an unfortunate case of déjà vu after his car lost power, lost laps, and slumped to 34th. Just like that now, both teams have gone from sleepers capable of dethroning Johnson to two of the six teams that look to be losing ground in the championship hunt. Edwards is 162 points out, and winless on the year; it will be difficult to eat into such a deficit without several trips to Victory Lane. Further back lies Biffle, whose 215-point hole is simply too deep to make up in six races. Nonetheless, RFR has made the necessary strides late in 2010 to be formidable contenders next season.

Ryan Newman has established himself as the top non-Chaser

As Chaser after Chaser has eliminated themselves through the first four playoff races, it’s one of those drivers who just fell short of the championship cut that’s playing the role of spoiler. Tony Stewart may have won the race and reestablished himself as a contender, but it’s teammate Ryan Newman who has accumulated one of the highest point totals over the first month of the Chase. With his fifth-place run on Sunday, Newman has reeled off four consecutive top-10 finishes, and further than that he has six top-10s in his last seven races (worst finish, 11th). I’ve long doubted Stewart-Haas Racing’s championship chances this season, but Newman’s consistent top 10s on top of Stewart’s win has me reconsidering my stance that not only can Stewart contend for the title this year, but both he and Newman can be players the next few seasons.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Fontana Fall Finale Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: Johnson’s Biggest Title Threat… Jeff Gordon?
Bubble Breakdown: Regan’s Career Best Run And Robby’s Continued Fall From Grace
Running Their Mouth: Pepsi Max 400
Nationwide Series Breakdown: 300
Rockingham Business As Usual For Sheltra in Winning 2010 ARCA Crown

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
Going By the Numbers: Top-10 NASCAR Variety Hard To Come By In…
Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks



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Stephen HOOD
10/11/2010 08:00 AM

I don’t buy the Kyle Busch hype. Yea, he is a fine race car driver. I get that. But, in Nationwide and truck, he is competing against four to six others who can run with him. In Cup he’s competing against 15-20 each weekend. In Nationwide and truck he is one of the top two or three drivers and he is running in the top equipment. Even when he’s not in the Nationwide car, it finishes third or fourth. In Cup there are at least 12-15 drivers that can race with him toe to toe. I find it interesting that his brother Kurt has done slightly better this year with Kyle’s old crew chief.

Maybe Kyle will mature as people hope. I think Kyle is as good as he’ll ever be.

10/11/2010 08:37 AM

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.

The Achilles’ heel of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team, is reliability. This goes back to at least 2008. Until their cars can perform consistently for 36 weeks and 500 laps/miles each week, there will be no more championships.
Everybody at the race shop must be holding their breath waiting for the wheels to fall off Denny’s chances.

Roush’s cars have not been consistent all season. I have been repeating that as well. I don’t know if they were running the FR-9 this weekend, but if they were, we might have a reason that they have been ignoring it up until now, and why they might wish to keep ignoring it.

10/11/2010 09:22 AM

I was so glad to see “The Three Stooges” from “One-eyed Jack” blow up and thus blow any chance of winning the chase! None of them deserved to be in it anyway!

Go Jimmie!! The greatest driver in the history of NASCAR, if not all of racing!!!!!

10/11/2010 10:39 AM

Didn’t get to see the race but it sounds like both Kyle and Carl are getting a dish of Karma. They weren’t even getting wrecked by someone seeking revenge. I believe bad things happen for a reason. KARMA LOL

10/11/2010 11:34 AM

Jimmy Johnson is the luckiest driver in the history of motorsports. He’s got Brian France in his pocket.

Carl D.
10/11/2010 11:44 AM

Hey, at least Kyle and Carl can both say they’ve won a Nationwide Series title…

10/11/2010 01:46 PM

Looking like Carl’s wrecking pal Keselowski is going to be able to say he has won the NW Series also. 384 ahead of Carl. Again KARMA LOL

10/11/2010 04:00 PM

Connie, I could not agree more!! Well said by another Edwards hater!! Carl Edwards is the biggest jerk to ever compete in NASCAR and deserves all the bad luck he gets! But then again, look who he drives for!

10/12/2010 06:54 PM

Connie, here’s hoping KARMA gets to you pretty soon. Had a mammogram lately?

10/12/2010 08:38 PM

Why how nice you aren’t Susan. But thanks for asking about the Mammogram. Yes I have had all my tests done including a colonoscopy. Have you had yours yet? It might help clean out your hopes of poor health upon someone. I would never hope that upon someone. You are such a nice person lol. Schedule your colonoscopy today and get cleaned out. It might do your soul some good.

10/13/2010 02:33 PM

Connie, where did I wish you bad health? I just reminded you to be careful when invoking “Karma” that it doesn’t bite you in the colon.

BTW, colonoscopy doesn’t clean out anything – it’s the laxatives you take ahead of time. Maybe you should ask for another dose before you post again. Then you would be rid of the cr@p you talk about Kyle and Carl.

10/13/2010 10:08 PM

in·voke   /ɪnˈvoʊk/ Show Spelled
[in-vohk] Show IPA

–verb (used with object), -voked, -vok·ing.
1. to call for with earnest desire; make supplication or pray for: to invoke God’s mercy.
When did I invoke Karma? I just said I believe in it. You are the one that hopes Karma gets to me soon and then mention the mammogram. To late now to deny your ill wishes for me. And believe me I know it’s the nasty stuff you drink that cleans you out. Most people don’t drink that junk unless they need cleaning out for a colonoscopy which is what I meant for you to do but you were to dense to figure that out so you spout the same thing back to me. YOU ARE A HOOT LOL. Thanks for the laugh I needed that.

10/13/2010 10:27 PM

Connie, the “nasty stuff” apparently stayed with you instead of cleaning you out. You are spewing cr@p all over your keyboard. Better ask for a do-over.

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