Did You Notice? … Brad Keselowski is quietly having a career year? The 2012 champion was a quiet number one seed after an impressive regular season, and after two Chase races he currently leads the point standings. He is on pace to break his season bests in top 5s, top 10s, and his average finish of 9.3 is both the best of his career and only behind Kevin Harvick among all drivers this season.
The storylines of this season so far- the dominance of the Toyota teams, Harvick’s success and pit crew drama, the Dale Earnhardt Jr. situation- have relegated Keselowski to an unusual position of being in the background. Keselowski has been well known for controversial or at least outspoken comments and actions, such as his fight with Jeff Gordon at Texas a couple of years ago or when he felt that Team Penske was being unfairly targeted by NASCAR after failing a pre-race inspection a few years ago.
This season, save for a run in with Matt Kenseth in their on-again, off-again feud at Richmond a couple of weeks ago, Keselowski has quietly built a very impressive record this season. In some ways, it is similar to Kyle Busch‘s maturation last year, where the typically hot-headed Busch kept his cool on the way to a championship. With a 35-point cushion heading into Dover, it’s very likely Keselowski will advance to the next round of the Chase and serves as Ford’s best chance at a championship.
Did You Notice? … Toyota right now is actually leading the manufacturer’s standings? Currently, it has a 28-point lead over Chevrolet, on the strength of 14 wins compared to Chevrolet’s eight. If Chevrolet cannot make up the difference over these next eight races, it would be the first time the bowtie loses out on the manufacturer’s championship since 2002.
It would also be the very first manufacturer’s championship for a foreign car brand in the history of the Sprint Cup Series. After having an amazing 2015, the Japanese car company hasn’t stopped in 2016, where it is on pace to win more races than last season and has won all four crown jewel events.
The manufacturer’s championship is a little unique. Points are only calculated by the best finishing driver in each race by each manufacturer. For example, Toyota could sweep the top three positions in a race and have only the amount of points the winner receives. Jimmie Johnson‘s Chevrolet could finish fourth and Chevrolet would be awarded with as many points as Johnson gets.
Chevrolet’s eight wins puts the manufacturer on track to have the lowest amount of wins since that 2002 season. Most of that can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of Hendrick Motorsports and to a lesser extent Stewart-Haas Racing in the summer months.
Ford isn’t mathematically out of the hunt yet, but it’s lagging 84 points behind Toyota and 56 points behind Chevrolet. Even if Ford wins the next eight races, the blue oval would need a lot of luck to steal the championship away from the other two manufacturers.
Did You Notice? … Unless something changes in the next couple of days, XFINITY Series driver Ryan Sieg may become the first unsponsored Chaser in NASCAR history?
We are a @XFINITYRacing chase car going to Dover WITHOUT a sponsor. If anyone is interested please contact us – email@example.com
— Ryan Sieg Racing (@RyanSiegRacing) September 27, 2016
The 29-year-old Georgia driver, whose family owns his No. 39 Chevrolet, has been unsponsored for four previous races this season. Sieg has two top 10s this season and has an average finish of 18th. He made the XFINITY Chase on points.
Sieg sits just five points out of making the second round of the XFINITY Chase. As ESPN.com reporter Bob Pockrass noted on Twitter, Darrell Wallace Jr. and John Hunter Nemechek found sponsorship for unsponsored races in the Chase this season. Although there’s no fear Sieg will be forced to start-and-park, the sight of an unsponsored car making it to round two of the Chase would not be a pretty one for the sport.
Did You Notice? … Jimmie Johnson is still the best at Dover the last few years? Although the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion struggled in the spring race and fall race last year, he still has the most wins and has scored the most points of any other driver in the past ten races,
Dover has also been a good track for Clint Bowyer. In that same time span, Bowyer has the most top tens of any other driver in the series at the one-mile oval with eight, and his worst finish was 14th in last year’s fall race.
Finally, Jeff Gordon in what could be one of his final starts in the Sprint Cup Series heads to one of his best racetracks in recent years. In his last nine starts, Gordon has won one race and had an average finish of eighth at The Monster Mile.
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