NASCAR has a Chase again!
While neither Mark Martin nor Jeff Gordon were able to make the very best of Jimmie's bad luck by winning, the difference between them and the top spot has decreased drastically.
While before the race, we were joking that Jimmie could park the car and still have the lead, no one really expected that to happen. Unfortunately for him, that's almost exactly what happened.
Jimmie finished in 38th position, over 100 laps down to the winner, Kurt Busch. Mark Martin wasn't able to lead the most laps (or any laps), or win the race, Kurt's younger brother Kyle led the most laps, and almost won the race, but for running out of fuel, like so many others. Jeff Gordon wasn't able to make the most of Jimmie's misfortune either, calling his 13th place finish a "missed opportunity". He did lead some laps, and it seemd for a whilethat he might be able to do what he had donein the spring, but in the end, it wasn't to be. He ran into trouble and spun on the track, needing to replace the splitter on his car. Jeff doesn't like Texas much, and says so freely, but coming ouf of there with a 13th place finish was a bit of a victory.
In the end, the top three spots didn't change, although the points did tighten up. Mark is now only 73 points back of Jimmie, while Jeff is 112 back. Kurt Busch jumped 2 spots to fourth, while Juan Pablo Montoya dropped two, to 6th. Tony Stewart stays in 5th, but even he is closer to Jimmie than even Mark was before the weekend, only 178 points out of first.
So, who has a chance? Is it still all about Jimmie? With his 73 point cushion, Jimmie and Chad can call all the shots. They can determine how to "attack" Phoenix and, after that, Homestead. Mark Martin has a chance, but it isn't a great chance. Jeff, too, has a chance, but really, unless Jimmie crashes out again early this coming Sunday, it is still his Championship to lose, in my opinion.
I could spout a bunch of stats about what Mark and Jeff need to do, and what Jimmie can do and still win, but I'm not a stats kind of fan. I go with the gut, even though my gut may not always be right. Yep, that would be me who has been saying for the last couple of weeks that it was all done, that Jimmie was going to break Cale Yarborough's record and win four championship.
I still say that is the case. I still think Jimmie is going to win his fourth Championship in a row. I know there are a ton of Mark Martin fans out there, to say nothing of Jeff Gordon fans, all of whom disagree with what I say. I just don't see the comfort level or the commitment in those two that I see in Jimmie and Chad.
Unfortunately, Tony, Juan, Kurt and the rest are really out of this equation. Juan is over 200 points back, and with only two races left, there is just no getting around it, the rest are just racing for a win. Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya are in the top twelve, but none of them has won a race this year. Carl and Greg specifically are surprised to find themselves in this situation and really will be looking for the win and the bragging rights. Without at least one win, it will be a very long winter for both of them.
And by the way, I really hope Kurt doesn't win again, I don't want to see another of those backwards Victory Laps. Although I understand it may be his own unique salute to the fans, it doesn't work.
Two more races to go. I've told you what I think, that Jimmie is going to be the champion, but what do you think? Does anyone have a chance?