This Week’s Question: Can the first race in the Chase seal a team’s fate for the next nine races?
The first week of the Chase has passed, and there were some clear cut winners and losers. On the winning side was Kevin Harvick, scoring his second straight victory in Nextel Cup, along with fellow Chasers Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin… and Mike. Landing on the other side were Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch… and Cami, who all suffered setbacks. Up next is the Monster Mile… who will slay the beast, and who will be beaten? Let’s find out.
Who was hurt more on Sunday – Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson? In particular, what has happened to the No. 48 team since August, and can it be fixed?
At this point, everyone knows about the misfortune the No. 48 team experienced at New Hampshire. Losing a cylinder in the engine before a quarter of the race was complete, Jimmie Johnson underwent a lengthy pit stop under a lap 81 caution to try and fix whatever was wrong. Coming out in the back of the pack, Johnson left himself vulnerable to the type of chain reaction accidents that often happen at the flat 1-mile oval, and paid the price.
Harvick dominated at New Hampshire Sunday, leading 118 of the final 123 laps to take the checkered flag first for the second week in a row. Finishing .777 seconds in front of second-place Tony Stewart, Harvick took not only the win but the points lead for the first time in his Nextel Cup career, starting his Chase out on the right foot.
As fall nears and a brisk chill begins to fill the air, the battle for the 2006 Nextel Cup championship is just starting to heat up. Just one race into the 10-race Chase, the points standings have already jumbled up faster than the leaves can start to change colors. With the driver points for the top 10 reset so that everyone was separated by just five points, Sunday’s race caused each Chaser to leave in a different position in the points standings than where they started. For some teams, that was good news; they withstood the first test of the championship battle and came out of Sunday’s race intact. For others, though, the day turned out to be anything but sunny, and they now find themselves in jeopardy of staring at an empty trophy case far earlier than they should be.
Now that the field is set, who will win the 2006 Chase for the Championship? Read on to find out who your favorite Frontstretch writer picked… and why.
New Hampshire is a relatively flat 1-mile oval. While it can offer two lanes of racing, the second groove usually doesn’t come in until the second half of the race. Track position, as always, is important… but not crucial, as three of the past five races here have been won by cars who started outside the top 10. Now that you’re not fooled by qualifying, what should you concentrate on?
If you had the power to change the Chase field, would you replace one of the drivers currently in the top 10? Or did all 10 drivers deserve to make it in?
As we head into the first race of the playoffs at Loudon, let’s take a look at Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the upcoming Chase for the Championship.