NASCAR The Chase is on!
Last year's champion, Tony Stewart, grabs third, followed by Brad Keselowsku and Greg Biffle. Following behind Bowyer is Dale Earnhardt Jr, then Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. Kasey Kahne grabbed the first Wild Card spot with Jeff Gordon beating out the rest of the boys for the second Wild Card spot.
Am I surprised that all four Hendrick cars are in the Chase? Not really. I am more surprised (although I shouldn't be) that Michael Waltrip Racing has both Clint and Truex Jr. in the chase. Bowyer managed two wins while Truex didn't get one, but much like Dale Earnhardt Jr., his former owner, Truex had such a consistent season he should be in the Chase.
MWR has been steadily improving on all the tracks and hiring Bowyer seems to have been just the addition the racing team needed to excel.
The question now is who will be the dominant driver and team in the coming ten races.
The Chase schedule doesn't yet include a road course, but it does have just about every other type of track the teams race on. The "short tracks" include Dover, Loudon, Martinsville and Phoenix, while Talladega lends itself to the true Wild Card racetrack, being a Super Speedway. Talladega is the one track where set up and preparation could count for absolutely nothing, if a car is caught up in "The Big One".
The mid-size tracks, including Chicago, Charlotte, Kansas, Texas and the final race, at Homestead, encompass the majority of the Chase races.
The question is, who can win it all? Tony Stewart won five of the ten races last year, en route to his third Championship. This year, his closest competitor, Carl Edwards, isn't even in the Chase. Denny Hamlin has the benefit of Darian Grubb, the crew chief who guided Tony to his Championship last year. Wouldn't that be a kick in the face to Tony if Denny and Darian became the 2012 Champion? Of course, this fan hopes fervently that that does not happy. I am not a fan of Denny Hamlin!
The presence of Jimmie in the top two should be a worry to other teams. After all, he and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have been here before, and have succeeded five times. He can't be counted out.
Those are the top three, and yet there are nine more. Nine other drivers could have the season ending of their dreams.
One more week and it starts all over again. We'll see you in Chicago.