Ok… picture this… just a nice, relaxing and pleasant drive on a Sunday afternoon in the fall in Alabama. Ok… now picture this… all of the above at around 200 mph. That’s what Chase Race #6 will be like Sunday afternoon, right… ???
Well, at least for all but two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers it won’t be like that at all. This will probably be the least stressful race at Talladega Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have ever had. The reason is they could finish in the 43rd and 42nd positions and it won’t affect their standings and advancement into the next segment of the 2014 Chase at all since they both have wins and advance automatically into the Elimination round. For the other ten still looking to make it in to the next segment of eight with only six open slots… well… let’s just say this race at Talladega “ain’t gonna be no relaxing and pleasant drive” on a this Sunday afternoon…
For ten of the drivers still contending for a spot in the Chase to continue a bid for the 2014 Cup Championship, this will be the most intense and dramatic race they have probably ever faced. You can hear it in their interviews and you can see it in their faces and on the faces of their crew chiefs and crews. This one is for all of the available marbles and, for four of them, there won’t be a next week as far as the Chase for the Championship is concerned.
I think, as a fan, I did kind of underestimate just how intensely dramatic and exciting this Chase was going to be this year. I didn’t really think about it that much during the first twenty-six races other than the fact is was going to be different – completely different. This Chase has completely changed the scenarios each week for the ones that will advance to the next segment and this could be a year when someone that only had a marginal year up to the Chase could win it all simply because they had a stellar performance in the last ten races of the season. (Well, at least compared to the ones they’ve out-performed in those weeks, anyway.)
So far, of the top five performers for this season, one of them is on the verge of not making the cut to the Elimination round and that would be Brad Keselowski. He absolutely has to finish at the front on Sunday afternoon or he is done. Of course we all know he can win at Talladega because he has before but he cannot afford to have any “situations” take him out of contention for this one or he will have to wait at least until next year to make his next try for his second Cup Championship.
Anyone that has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Chase so far knows he’s not alone in what he has to do. Six time Champ, Jimmie Johnson, really needs to win this one or he is likely done for this year, too. His teammate, Dale Jr, has to win to guarantee his passage into the next segment or his stellar year for 2014 won’t go down as his first Cup Championship year. He will be just another also-ran and for his fans (which are many) it will be another disappointing year.
Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne are separated by one point which basically means the difference of one spot. If everything else stays the same as it is right now when the race is over, either one of them could be on the outside looking in. From this fan’s view, neither of them has had what could be called a Championship year and for one, or both, of them to advance to the next segment would be a surprise, at least to this fan. I expect to see Brad Keselowski advance more than I do them but, with the way things have gone so far in this Chase, anything can still happen (like Dale Jr winning again at Talladega and moving back into contention for the Championship.)
This fan finds it interesting that the Joe Gibbs teams seemed to struggle for most of the season and now there is the likelihood of all three of them making it at least to the Elimination segment of the 2014 Chase. Kyle Bush, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth have all been performing much better in the latter part of the season than they did in the middle months especially. It seems the fortunes of the Gibbs and Hendrick teams have swapped, in particular since the Chase has started. At one time, this fan didn’t think any of the Gibbs teams would be left by the Elimination round and it would be the Penske and Hendrick teams along with Kevin Harvick moving on to the next segment in preparation for the finale at Homestead. At this point, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen that way. (Oh well, so much for being a NASCAR prophet… but, I don’t think I’m alone in that either.)
Once again this weekend, this race is going to be all about intensity and drama mixed with pulling out all the stops when it comes to strategy. All of the ones that want to advance into round three of the Chase are going to have to finish at or near the front and that will be a challenge. After all… this is Talladega and there is always the possibility of getting caught up in someone else’s problem and being eliminated simply because of being in the right place at the wrong time.
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 18, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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