When looking at the schedule of the 10 races in the Chase, most people would have pointed to Talladega as the track where both wrecks and bad luck could turn the tide in the championship. But in Dover on Sunday, it was the Monster Mile played tough as the new Talladega asphalt, taking a swing at some of the biggest names in the sport – and making contact. By the end of the day, 13 caution flags had waved, and four Chasers found themselves finishing 20th or lower. As is always the case when some people find misfortune, others reap the benefits.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson won both Cup races at Dover in 2002, as well as this event in 2005. He has top-10 finishes in seven of 11 Cup starts here – but has missed the mark the last two times out.
Clint Bowyer’s first career NASCAR Cup win Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway has catapulted the Emporia, Kan. driver into the limelight. His feel-good win came at an opportune time for NASCAR, as the first race in the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship was otherwise – well, frankly pretty uneventful. But to me, the second-year Cup driver’s win goes to the very essence of what has allowed NASCAR to succeed – it was an all-American winning in what is perceived as an all-American sport.
Clint Bowyer’s win: Flash in the pan, or a statement that he can be a major contender for this year’s title?
One race down… nine races to go. After his dominating performance on Sunday, Clint Bowyer has to be asking himself what the big deal is about all this Chase pressure everyone kept talking to him about. The only winless driver in the playoffs, he threw that status right out the window Sunday, coming out of the gates strong to score the first victory of his Cup career and climbing to fourth in points in the process. But Bowyer didn’t stand alone in his success. In fact, the top seven finishing positions on Sunday went to drivers within the Chase field; only three ended the day outside the top 15, leaving the 12-car lineup more tightly bunched at this juncture than ever before.
Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
0 – points that Jimmie Johnson leads Jeff Gordon by in the Nextel Cup point standings. Technically, they are tied, but if this was the end of the season, Johnson would get the nod for having more race wins.
This one was pretty well decided when the green flag flew. After resuming the lead on lap 185, Clint Bowyer drove away at will.
Come Sunday, it’s playoff time in the world of NASCAR… and what would playoffs be without predictions? All of us here at Frontstretch got together this week, stared into the crystal ball, and each came up with our own special theory as to how this year’s Chase for the Championship is going to play out. Each writer has picked the finishing order of first through 12th, their “Darkhorse” championship pick, and the best driver not in the Chase who’s threatening to spoil the party altogether – diverting the most attention away from the battle for this year’s title.
Jimmie Johnson – The top seed in the Chase with six wins, Johnson won both NHIS Cup races in 2003 and is averaging an 11th-place finish here after 11 starts.
And then… there were 12. Now that the field for the Chase has been decided, all the questions of who will make it in and who will fall out have been answered. But plenty of questions still remain ahead, especially for fantasy team owners. Normally, there are a few drivers who make the Chase that fall on hard times early, while other drivers left behind realize they have nothing to lose… laying it all on the line. Well, to take your Fantasy team to the next level in the next 10 races, you need to be able to separate the contenders from the pretenders… luckily for you, that’s what we’re here for!
This Sunday, just 12 men will take the green flag at New Hampshire with their dream of a 2007 Cup title intact. It’s been a remarkable season for them to get this far, as both consistency and talent have put them in position to achieve the ultimate goal. But of course, from the 12 only one can emerge to watch their dream turn into reality. Who will that person be? We’ll try and figure that out over the next two days, handicapping the Chase field to dissect what drivers stand a chance at the trophy, and which ones are better off walking away.