The Chase is on! We’ve got 16 teams who have the opportunity to snare the Sprint Cup just 10 weeks from now. They’ve all enjoyed a certain level of success throughout the season, and now must capitalize on the swell of media and fan insanity to ride the wave all the way to Homestead-Miami. However, to get there, they’ve got to maintain the same high level of competitiveness that got them the nifty hats and additional photo-ops post-Richmond.
Who believes they’ve got what it takes? For if you’re about to undertake a massive mission in life, there is one thing you must have in order to attain your dreams: You gotta believe. Which of the 16 pictures themselves riding into Homestead as part of the Final Four?
It’s a pretty good bet that Keselowski, Gordon, Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Logano and Harvick are all feeling pretty solid regarding their teams right now. None of them have been stumbling through the summer. Between logging consistent wins and finishes, it’s more than apparent they’ve got the magic combination of set-up, pit crew and driver focus required to take their machine to the front each and every week–including at Homestead. However, they only represent six of the 16 drivers sporting Chase logos on their uniforms.
The No. 20 of Matt Kenseth really ought to be part of the elite. There’s no question that the only thing keeping this Gibbs’ crew out of Victory Lane has been bad luck–but not terrible luck. Not the sort that leaves one thinking they’d be better off just riding around for the rest of the year and to try again in 2015. Their halo simply hasn’t settled over their machine this year. It’s always attempting to land, and misses by “that much.” Kenseth could put on the afterburners and cruise into Homestead if those little gremlins would just behave.
Both Kyle and Kurt Busch are truly lacking in the belief department at the moment. Kyle didn’t have a whole lot of words for the media, post-race. But his body language said it all. He doesn’t own the amorphous issues with his car that seem to always leave him just outside that Top 10 world. He doesn’t fancy that there is a solution. He is checked out.
Kurt, on the other hand, is more stunned than anything that they snatched one of the coveted Chase spots. “We weren’t ready,” he told the cameras regarding his one win at Martinsville. He still has that, “How did we get here?” smile going. So, making it to that final four? Not going to happen.
Edwards, Hamlin and Kahne all know how this game works. However, the No. 99, No. 11 and No. 5 have all suffered from the “here now but gone again” problems this year. It’s not having bad teams, or inexperience, or poor attitudes. It’s simply a lack of, “I got this.” Those teams have never seen the trip to Disney as part of their daily mantra, and it translates into their on-track performances. “We had a good car today,” does not get you a trophy. You gotta be believing in, “We had a great car today!”
What about those final four? Look, Almirola and ‘Dinger are just plain thrilled to be in the sandbox, but their realistic approach to riding the rainbow is apt. Their teams just aren’t at the top of the game. Biffle and Newman, while visitors to the Chase in years past, also can’t believe a magic wand has been passed over their cars–sending them straight to Victory Lane at any of the next three events.
So yes, there are six races before the field will officially be whittled down to a probable eight. However, in all reality, the Chase is all ready at this diminutive state. Seven teams are ready for the battle, leaving one more spot for an adrenaline rush into fantasy land for some lucky car. It’s going to be an agonizing September and October while ESPN will beg you to believe the No. 43 could take it all. However, that’s just window dressing, until we pull into Martinsville. That’s when this will get real. That’s when we can all believe the Chase is the magical playoff format we’ve been promised all year long.
2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats
Top Three Rookies for 2014 Federated Auto Parts 400
1.) No. 42 Kyle Larson Started 8th, Finished 11th (1st in RoTY standings)
2.) No. 3 Austin Dillon Started 28th, Finished 20th (2nd in RoTY standings)
3.) No. 26 Cole Whitt Started 35th, Finished 30th (5th in RoTY standings)
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