The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Early Title Favorites In 2011 - Is Edwards Now Among Them? by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday November 22, 2010

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Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have proven once again they have the ten postseason racetracks figured out by winning a fifth consecutive Chase title.

Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus can’t be beat in the current Chase format

With Jimmie Johnson’s come from behind fifth consecutive championship, the No. 48 team made a strong statement to its competition and NASCAR that under this current Chase configuration, they can’t be beat. Now, it’s up to the sanctioning body to decide if it is going to make a change to the current playoff format, something CEO Brian France strongly hinted is coming at a news conference Sunday. Let’s face it; this team has these ten tracks figured out, and they showed that even when they’re against the ropes, they can fight back. In comparison, Denny Hamlin looked like a fighter who’d lost by decision in a 12-round fight. It’s almost like Johnson lulled his competition into a false sense of security; when he opened the door one week ago and Hamlin failed to capitalize, it was over. It’s not like the target on Johnson’s back will be any larger next year, and it’s hard to imagine any team will carry more momentum through the Chase than Hamlin did this year. Even without running a flawless Chase, the No. 48 team came home champions again. And, it’s scary to say, but it’ll be difficult to stop them from number six next year.

Denny Hamlin will rebound and return to championship form in 2011

Denny Hamlin showed all throughout this year’s Chase that he could go toe-to-toe with the sport’s Goliath. But just like in other sports where the team that loses the championship game struggles the following year, you should temper your expectations if you think the No. 11 will be in this same position come 2011. Hamlin and Co. put plenty of sweat and tears into these final three races and by not getting it done, it’s only natural to expect some type of hangover. Every year, there is one driver that gets hot and makes a run… and while 2010 was Hamlin’s turn, next year it will be somebody else. There’s no doubt about it. Will he make the Chase? Certainly. But he won’t be back in this position until at least 2012.

Carl Edwards will be next year’s Denny Hamlin

It didn’t matter how long his winless streak was, Carl Edwards showed in his final two races that he could return to championship form next season. Prior to his final two wins, Edwards had finishes of 17th and 19th, hinting that those victories came even further out of left field than initially thought. Both those races came at two completely different types of tracks, too, one of which makes up the majority of the schedule: intermediates. Roush Fenway as a whole had been struggling for wins for much of the year, but Edwards was still able to break through and help build a foundation that can carry him from here to Daytona. Indeed, expect that momentum to carry over to next season, and anticipate another four or so victories and a top-5 points finish by the end of the year.

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11/22/2010 06:39 AM

I remember previous years when a driver has had a breakout year andtouted as the next year’s shoo-in champ. Jeff Burton and Cousin Carl have both been there before. And neither one of them followed up with the same success. Face it. With the ‘chase’ format, the whole thing is a crapshoot. Did anyone think Harvick would lead the points for 20 of the 26 week ‘pre season’?

11/22/2010 08:27 AM

Of course Jimmie and Chad have the chase figured out. And as much as I hate it, Jimmie could win 10 in a row as long as the chase is present and mostly run on intermediates. The proposed elimination style format wouldn’t have stopped him from taking this year’s trophy after Denny and Co. dropped it, then kicked it, and finally threw it away.

Momentum doesn’t carry over from one season to the next. It is just as likely that Martin Truex, Joey Logano, or Kasey Kahne will be the contenders to lose next year’s CRAPTACULAR chase as either Denny or Carl.

11/22/2010 09:54 AM

Maybe, NASCAR will be bold. Originally they scoffed at any changes to the COT, and by next year the two worst features of the car will be gone (the splitter and the wing). Maybe Brian “Silver Spoon” France was working off an assumption Denny would win. Maybe just maybe the Chase will get scraped, but probably not. At the very least regular season standings need to be reflected in the Chase seedings again along with wins. Like the Chase or not the changes made in 2007 have been awful failures. The bonus points for wins are nice, but not when everyone gets reset to even. 12 drivers haven’t changed anything either, and now they want to go to 15?

Sharon J
11/22/2010 10:03 AM

A quote from Matt McLaughlin-
Under the classic points system, Harvick would have beat Johnson by 285 points. And yeah, I’d have been cool with that.

11/22/2010 10:15 AM

The last rumor I read was having 15 cars in the chase and resetting points a SECOND time with 2 or 3 races to go.

Really??? How freakin’ stupid is that? Why even bother racing the other 33 races. Just have a 3 race shootout season and be done with it.

GO BACK TO THE OLD POINTS SYSTEM. Award more for wins, fine. Award extra for a pole, fine. But don’t wipe out 26 races worth of the season to reset points with 10 to go. Or, worse yet, with 3 to go. Not every season is going to be a barn-burner. But you made it for nearly 30 years with the old points system and did just fine.

11/22/2010 10:16 AM

Better to respect the tradition of before the chase.Congrats Jimmie,Chad and the Hendrick team.

11/22/2010 02:34 PM

Kyle got exactly what he deserved. He was quite vocal about helping the 11 car all day. Kyle has dished out plenty of bumper all season – it had to come back around at some point. Gotta love Harvick……….. He had the best season of 2010.

Brian France Sucks
11/22/2010 07:36 PM

Have to disagree Gail. Edwards, Hamlin, Stewart, and Harvick all have the talent to beat Jimmie. Jimmie is really good over the last ten races, but his season stats are no better than 2-3 other drivers each year. Under the old, consistent, points system he’d only have 2 championships. Jimmie is a good driver, but his success can also be attributed to godly luck and Chad Knaus. Without either, he wouldn’t have 5 championships, maybe one. Knaus is undisputed as the best crew chief going. As for pure driving ability, Johnson is no better than 3rd behind Stewart and sadly, Kyle Busch. I’d put JJ right there with Edwards, Hamlin, Harvick, and Gordon, who has fallen a bit in recent years. But, as we all know, a champion in NA$CAR has to have a good crew and good luck in addition to talent and good equipment, and Jimmie has the best combination in NA$CAR. Don’t be suprised if the crew swap has lingering effects next year. Some guys won’t like getting dumped. And his frighteningly good racing luck has to change one of these years. Next year might be it.

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