One week makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s win at Martinsville on Sunday, while great for the morale of the team, was a case of too little too late. After being eliminated from the Chase one week prior at Talladega, Earnhardt pulled through and won the very next week at Martinsville, a move that, had he still been in the Chase, would have earned him a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earnhardt’s championship performance this season was already garnering some outside media attention, but a guarantee of his championship eligibility on equal standing with three other drivers would have been a huge win for this sport where the headlines are concerned.
That’s one side of the story. The other side is that Earnhardt took away a potential win from a Chase driver, which would have secured them a championship seat at Homestead. Now there will only be two more races for any of the championship hopefuls to seal the deal. That means that, best case scenario, two drivers will make it to Homestead on points.
Let’s look at the top four in points now as they stand: Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, and Matt Kenseth. Newman and Kenseth have not won a race this year, yet they would advance into Homestead anyway. Now, granted, a lot can happen in one race, let alone two and we’ve seen several Chase races this year that prove it only takes one event to make a world of difference. That could still be the case.
However, the fact that this is even a possibility is astonishing to me. I know that when I filled out my Chase Grid, Newman and Kenseth were certainly absent. Heck, when others said that a driver could sneak in and win this championship without a win, I vehemently shot it down. I still don’t think that will happen but the possibility is still sitting there staring me in the face.
With that said, Gordon and Logano have won a handful of races each for a reason, and I will be surprised if anyone other than a Chaser wins the next two weeks. That’s not to mention that a shuffle in points each week has become the norm rather than the exception. Would anyone be surprised if Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski redeem themselves next week, win the race, and advance onward? I know I wouldn’t.
I still enjoy this system and think that it really does emphasize winning more, but it turns out that consistency still has its advantages, especially when so many of the championship favorites have had problems in major races (which is pretty much all of them now).
If anything, though, I’m more intrigued to see what will happen with these dark horses now very plainly in the championship picture. Not only are there championship favorites in the mix, but there will now potentially be an underdog or two at Homestead. I would, personally, thoroughly enjoy that story. Though the odds are long for a team that has been mediocre to somehow be dominant at Homestead is unlikely, just the potential to see an underdog take the title sounds exciting.
Just don’t ask me to predict who the winner will be, because my Chase Grid is shot.
Now onto the mailbox:
“I was surprised to see that Danica said she wasn’t part of NASCAR’s diversity program and wasn’t even spoken to about it. I don’t understand that. Why wouldn’t they put the most famous female driver in the world through their program? That’s some serious star power they could use! Opportunity missed, in my opinion…” Terrence
Generally, the Drive for Diversity program is for drivers who aren’t already established in a major series and who don’t have their own funding to continue moving up the ladder. Obviously, Danica Patrick had already made a name for herself in the IndyCar Series and had plenty of funding behind her in the form of GoDaddy. So, she’s right, she didn’t benefit from such a program, but she didn’t really need it. Patrick already had all the resources she needed to make the transition to NASCAR.
I have to be honest, though. I liked Patrick’s comments. While I like the premise of what the program does (give drivers a chance to keep moving up), I don’t like that the opportunity is extended only to minorities and females. The opportunity to prove oneself in a situation like that should be extended to everyone, not just someone who fits into a specific category so NASCAR has a better image.
My favorite quote from her in this particular press conference was this one: “My parents never brought me up to feel like I was any different. So, I was never taught to be the fastest girl. I was taught to be the fastest.”
I know and understand that Patrick has been afforded many of the opportunities she’s had partially because she’s a female, but she doesn’t ask for that special treatment. She’s given it by the media and sponsors and she makes the most of what she has.
Yes, I know, she doesn’t win many races, is horrifically uncompetitive despite being in good equipment, and had limited success in the IndyCar Series. I’ve been as big a critic of Patrick as anyone. But I think, in this case, she was spot on.
“I was thinking about something and wanted to see if I was understanding this right. Earnhardt was the first ‘non-Chaser’ to win in any Chase race this year even though he was just in the Chase last week. Does he count as a non-Chase win and, considering that so many good drivers have been eliminated, it stands to reason that all three winners in this round might be ‘non-Chasers’ or ‘prior Chasers’, right?” Beau
Holy cow, I feel like I just read a riddle.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s win would qualify as a non-Chase win because he was eliminated last week. So I think the answer to your first question is yes. An elimination is an elimination, period.
Your second point is true, too. Considering that Johnson and Earnhardt, two drivers who had already won several races this season, are out of the Chase, it would be easy to imagine that one of them could also win the last two races of the Eliminator Round. Add Kyle Busch into that group, too. The more drivers are eliminated, the better chance there is that they could steal wins from the current crop of Chase drivers.
I still don’t think all three races in the Eliminator Round will be won by non-Chasers, though, whether they had previously been in the Chase or not. The drivers
who are still in the Chase are still there for a reason and I think the strongest of the strong will prevail.
And no I’m not saying that Newman or Kenseth (or whoever) deserve to be there more than Earnhardt or Johnson. I’m just saying that I think the cream will rise to the top in the same way it happened at Talladega. The best will find a way.
“So considering that ebola has been centered around Texas, is the speedway going to be handing out complimentary HAZMAT suits to all their paranoid patrons? I mean, I think that’s only fair. Personally, I’ll just bring some hand sanitizer.” Ashli
I sense the sarcasm in this post, but all the same, no HAZMAT suits. No air masks or respirators or anything preventive really because the so-called Ebola “epidemic” is no cause for alarm for anyone going to the race this weekend. Unless you plan on personally interacting with an Ebola patient, I would say you have nothing to worry about.
However, it’s still technically flu season, so keeping your hands clean and being careful about what you touch is probably not a bad idea. If it takes Ebola, though, to get that message across to people, I have lost all faith in our society.
I won’t lie, though. It would be funny as heck to watch a few humorous and/or paranoid fans walking around the grandstands in full body gear.
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