NASCAR wanted to generate excitement with the new Chase format, but I suspect they felt the odds of Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson not making round three were so impossibly large, that they weren’t even worth considering. Well, the possibility of two past NASCAR Sprint Cup champions and the most popular driver in the sport not making it too round number three are not astronomical after 400 miles of racing in the nation’s heartland.
After brushes with the wall-OK, not brushes at all, darn hard hits, Keselowski, Earnhardt, and Johnson ended up finishing 36th, 39th, and 40th yesterday, and along with Kasey Kahne are south of the elimination line for this round of The Chase. To make the elite 8, these drivers either need a win at Charlotte or Talladega, or two very good finishes. They cannot afford a mistake at all, so the pressure is on even more than it already was.
Yesterday was simply a disastrous day for Hendrick Motorsports, a team that does not see results like in the Kansas race very often. While Jeff Gordon is still on the plus side of The Chase cut, he is on the bubble, tied for 7th/8th with Matt Kenseth. The average finish of Gordon-Kahne-Earnhardt-Johnson was 29th, hardly a typical HMS day at the track, much more like a Roush Fenway Racing day.
When Joey Logano came into NASCAR, he was called “Sliced Bread,” as in the greatest thing since sliced bread. In the first six years of his career, he won 3 Sprint Cup races. With his Kansas win yesterday he has won five times in 2014, and while he may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, he is proving that his is a contender for the Sprint Cup championship.
Logano winning yesterday was no great surprise, but Kyle Busch finishing 3rd was. Kansas had been the worst track on the NASCAR circuit for the younger Busch brother, and it would not have been much of a surprise if he ended up where Keselowski-Earnhardt-Johnson did. Instead he is in second place in Chase standings, and looking good to advance to round three.
I have Carl Edwards going out in this round, and he may yet. However, after the Kansas race he is third in Chase standings, followed by Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. I wonder how many people have Edwards, Newman, and Hamlin advancing to round three.
I wonder even more how many people thought that Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, and Brian Vickers would finish in the top ten yesterday. Larson, yes; the others no.
So, it is on to Charlotte on Saturday night, a race that is for home town bragging rights, and now so much more for Chase drivers.
Thanks for stopping by.