If you were looking for a moment when this new format of The Chase for The Sprint Cup championship would grab another gear, burn a little rubber, and spew out some unmitigated drama out of the exhaust pipes, well dude we are there!
There are now just two races left in this segment, Charlotte and Talladega. This week in Charlotte the urgency level will be ratcheted up severely for the bottom four drivers in The Contender section. Of those bottom four drivers, three drivers, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Jimmie Johnson were, up until Kansas, among those drivers that were favored to win the championship this year.
However, Kansas has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the equation!
Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway became just as perilous as Blazingly Bad Brad Keselowski had predicted a few weeks earlier. Now, in the aftermath of that race, Keselowski (blown tire), Dale Earnhardt, Jr.(blown tire), Kasey Kahne (nearly a blown tire), and Mr Six Pack, Jimmie Johnson (wreck of someone else's doing), are all now looking up in bewilderment, and wondering just how they will be able to pull themselves together enough to make into the next round of playoffs.
Those four drivers have a combined 12 victories in the first 30 races of this season, seven championships in the last eight years, and that does not even include the driver who is sitting vulnerably in the 8th spot, Jeff Gordon. Gordon has four victories this year, and four championships to his credit. Additionally, up until last week, it looked like NASCAR may be celebrating a championship by on an old crusty veteran, Gordon. Gordon's messy race results at Kansas has him "on life support" at this time! Presently, Gordon is the last driver in a transferring position!
The current situation has all four of these drivers in an extremely uncomfortable position. It seems reasonable to believe that not all four of these yearly contenders can score enough points at Charlotte and Talladega to advance through to the next bracket.
The bottom four, Kahne, Keselowski, Dale, Jr., and Johnson, are likely going to need more than a pair of top five finishes to advance. At this point, they will need to score a win at Charlotte and Talladega for their advancement to the next round of playoffs!
It is a fact that 2014 has been the best year for Dale Earnhardt, Jr in a decade, nevertheless, the blown tire while leading the race at Kansas, could be the key to the unraveling of Junior's year. After Kansas Earnhardt, Jr sits in 11th place 42 points behind the leader and 25 points below the cutoff point
Keselowski's luck seems to have equally turned in it's track, considering Brad's strong showing in the first three races of The Chase. Keselowski started out The Chase by winning the Chicago race in a very dominating style, additionally scoring the most points in the first three races, 128. However, after the first race in this segment Brad K. sits in 10th place 39 points behind the leader, and 22 points below the cutoff point.
Kahne's season has been riddled with inconsistency and disappointment! Kasey just barely got into The Chase with his win at Atlanta, but quite honestly, has not been a contender all season!
For the greatest surprise after Kansas, "Mr. Six-Pack", Jimmie Johnson, sits at the bottom of the standings. Johnson in 44 points, nearly a full race, behind the points leader, and 27 points below the cutoff point! Being caught up in Greg Bifle's spin, sent Johnson careening off the track, and directly into the inside retaining wall, bringing his race day to a dismal conclusion!
Now that I have discussed the present dilemma that we are observing in The Contender round, I have only one thing to say:
Desperate people do desperate things in desperate situations
Watch the next two races, Charlotte and Talladega, with this thought in mind and you will see what I mean!
Nevertheless, it is time to let the big dog eat!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!
Photo credit: Glenn Bure - OnPitRow.com