by Brett Forte
So let’s talk about the “Chase” and a few predictions:
#1 Mark Martin….what can you say about Mark. Rick Hendrick lured him back into NASCAR with a smart, young crew led by Alan Gustafson (remember this guy crewed Kyle Busch when he was @ HMS). Mark knew he couldn’t pass this deal up, would it ever happen again? Look for him to be a strong contender, but I don’t think he will do what it takes to win the “CUP” this year.
#2 Tony Stewart….Who’d a thought it? First year team, sure Tony is one of the best drivers on the out there, but it takes MUCH more to make the races, much less qualify for the Chase. 3 wins (and let’s not forget the Million $ race) prove Tony is going to be one of the favorites.
#3 Jimmie Johnson….You can’t bet against Jimmie with crew chief Chad Knauss. With the last 3 Cup Championships trophies in his shop and a 4th close enough they can smell it. Jimmie reminds me of the old saying “dumb like a fox”, he’s one wise race car driver, cool under pressure and poised to win again.
#4 Denny Hamlin…Coming off a win at his home track, Denny might have a little momentum going into the Chase, but I’m not sure he’s mentally ready for it. He doesn’t seem to be able to get settled into the series and race, always got something else on his mind.
#5 Kasey Kahne…Wow, just to see a Petty Motorsports entry in the Chase is amazing and the last time in a Chrysler. Not that there’s anything wrong with the organization over there but the talent pool is not quite up to the likes of RCR, HMS, or Roush. The merger with Yates, if it happens, may make this team a powerhouse, but they still have to get a couple of household name drivers. I’ll leave it at that, but I do hope Kasey does well, he’s a hard core racer that would be well-deserving of a Cup championship.
#6 Jeff Gordon…Jeff is finally having a year close to what he is used to, but it took a long time to get here. It doesn’t seem like he has that spunk that made him a threat to win every week, but some of that can be attributed to the COT (more about the COT later). I think life has caught up with Jeff, he’s going to be like a sharp pain in your back side in the Chase, but not a contender, sorry.
#7 Kurt Busch…I don’t know why Roger Penkse has Kurt on the payroll, Roger needs teamwork and commitment, neither of which Kurt brings to the table. Although he has matured much the last few years, there’s just not a lot to get excited about here. No chance of another Cup for Kurt this year, maybe next year. That, of course, is if they can find a crew chief that can work with the guy.
#8 Brian Vickers…This is one of the surprises this year, Red Bull Racing putting a car in the chase. A fine accomplishment for this team, and I’m sure Brian did his part to make it happen. Congratulations to Red Bull for a fine effort, maybe they can be a Cup contender next year. Brian is developing well in the series, but he won’t make any noise this year.
#9 Carl Edwards…If you had told me at the start of the year that Carl would not win a race and run in the middle of the pack (all year, it seemed), I would have called the men with the little white coats to come take you away. Hard to believe he is struggling this year, but then again, look at all of the Roush entries this year. Jack better figure out what the heck is going on quick, or he’ll have another season like 2009. Course you had to think everything was fine (when Matt Kenseth won the first 2 races back to back), but the season has past Roush by, and I don’t think Carl has anything for the Chase.
#10 Ryan Newman…I knew Ryan was a better driver than his finishes with Penske had shown, but it surprised me that he made the Chase. Not that he’s a bad driver, far from it, but again, that first year team stuff. Don’t be surprised to see Ryan in the mix at Homestead he’s very determined to silence the naysayers.
#11 Juan Pablo Montoya…Juan had a couple of great runs this year, and I’m sure he is thrilled to be in the Chase with EGR, no less. Just goes to show how much grit this Columbian has, sticking with a team that didn’t have much to offer and all. The team has come together nicely towards the end of the year, giving a glimmer of hope to Cup hopes in 2010.
#12 Greg Biffle…”The Biff” has been the quiet, sneak up from behind guy he always is, locking in the final spot in the Chase for 2009. A pretty good racer, very competitive, but he won’t draw blood when it counts. Another Roush car that’s a little behind the curve.
So who’s going to win the 2009 Sprint Cup Championship?? I can only narrow it down to 4 drivers: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, & Ryan Newman. One of these will hoist the Trophy at Homestead not a doubt in my mind. The other 8 are equally talented, but lack something that these 4 have (or will have, if needed). Jimmie has to be the favorite, but I see 3 others that will have no problem playing the spoiler this year.
So let’s get the Chase under way, and may the smartest (I mean best) man win!!
I remember back in the mid-80’s when Bill Elliott was running away from everybody like he had a bad haircut and I thought racing was getting boring. Well, I’ll have to retract that remark, because at least I could tell what kind of car he was in. I gotta tell ya, NASCAR has left the fans that help build the sport behind in search of the almighty dollar. Shame on you, Brian France, you know Big Bill would not be happy with the direction you are headed. I, for one, would love to see the old philosophy come back. Buy the showroom car, put in a roll cage, tighten up that motor, and let’s go racin’, boys!!
It seems as if NASCAR is trying to appeal to a crowd that couldn’t care less about them. How else do you explain the splitters and wings and whatever else. I can only imagine what Dale Sr. would say if he had seen one of these COT’s. Speaking of Dale Sr., what is going on with all the blocking in NASCAR these days? In the old days, if you blocked, you got put in the wall. I don’t see the complication here, block me and you’re in the wall. Problem solved. The guys today (in any series) wouldn’t think about blocking Ernhart, not unless you wanted to end your day early. That’s just the way it was. Na$car, either stop enforcing your aggressive driving rule, or START enforcing it, one or the other. The call never seems to be toward the driver that requires it, maybe NASCAR as just trying to keep it interesting.
These are just some views of mine, next time I have a whole bunch of issues to rant about. Let’s see, women in NASCAR, Multi-car teams, drug policies, the list goes on and on.
Enough about me….WHAT DO YOU THINK???
by Brett Forte