Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Talladega drafting

The Sprint Cup hits its final superspeedway of the season at Talladega and it may be the final chance for the Chasers on the fringe to get back into the mix for the title. Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson has a six-point lead over Denny Hamlin. Kevin Harvick is 62 points back and then there's Kyle Busch at 172 back. Really, anyone after that needs a miracle to get back in it, and Busch needs a minor one. He needs to win at least twice to get back into the mix.
The unpredictability of a restrictor plate track and the close racing means the Chase leaders could get knocked out early and have a 30-plus finish. Or if one of them survives and wins, while the others do not, he could make a big gain.
At any rate, here's a look at my top five for this week:

Jimmie Johnson. He's still the leader and has a knack for missing the big wrecks.
Jeff Gordon. He's had some bad luck, but the Chevys are always strong in the superspeedways.
Tony Stewart. He's pretty much out of the Chase picture at 236 back, but he's become very good at restrictor plate tracks.
Kurt Busch. He's figured out the restrictor game in the last couple of years.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Probably a reach to pick him here, but if he's going to win one this year, this is the place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Martinsville picks

The Sprint Cup guys are back at a short track with Martinsville and sometimes that can be a little tricky for the Chase contenders. They won't want to get a lap down and really, if there are any scores to settle here, it could happen in a very innocent looking way as "just one of them racing deals."

Here we go with this week's Five Guys:
Denny Hamlin - If he wants to challenge Jimmie Johnson, now is the time. He's just 41 points back, but he needs a win and this is a good chance for him as he starts on the pole.
Jimmie Johnson - He dropped to 37th at one point last week, then finished third. That's what championship teams do. All of the contenders know Johnson needs a 30th or worse finish to let them back in. They also know it's not likely to happen.
Tony Stewart - He's a short track guy, and even though he's pretty much out of contention for the Chase at 171 points back, he'd love to win at this place.
Greg Biffle - He qualified at third and has shown the ability to win this year, even though he hasn't been consistent.
Juan Pablo Montoya - He's my non-Chaser pick of the week. He doesn't mind being aggressive on the short tracks, so if he can keep his cool, and pick the right time to bump guys out of the way, he could be there at the end.

Kahne puts the brakes on RPM and Jimmie the good guy

Kasey Kahne's comments after last week's race about his situation at RPM racing pretty much expedited his exit from the team. Kahne has had brake issues this season and he was suspecting it might have to do with the type of brake fluid the team uses, which was apparently a little cheaper than what most other teams use.
Just speculating here, but one has to wonder if the fact that Kahne was signed to join Red Bull Racing next year made working on his car a little less of priority. Not that anyone would do anything intentional to his car, but maybe when a final check was done on the car before going on the hauler, maybe his car wasn't being checked quite as good. It just seems odd that his car was the only one on the team to have brake issues when date showed he did not use his brakes out of a normal range.
At any rate, Kahne, starting with this week's race in Virginia, will be with Red Bull Racing. That's no surprise after he questioned openly questioned the team after the brake failure last week.
And one other thing, Kahne, even though he became during Saturday night's race, still got up Sunday morning and ran a 5K for his foundation. And Jimmie Johnson, yes that Jimmie Johnson, was one of the drivers who showed up and ran as well. So, like him or not, it's not something Johnson had to do, but did anyway.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some real shocking picks here

NASCAR is on its home track in Charlotte this week, amounting to a week at home for the on-track crew and drivers. It's a week without a lot of travel that they all appreciate.
One driver who probably appreciates Charlotte as much as anyone is Jimmie Johnson. He's in the lead for the Chase for the Championship and is the favorite to win a fifth straight title. So with that in mind, here's the picks for this week.

Jimmie Johnson. Knew you'd be surprised.
Jeff Gordon. He's on the pole and if anybody needs a win, it's him.
Tony Stewart. If not for running out of gas at New Hampshire, he'd be right on Johnson's bumper.
Denny Hamlin. If he wants to truly challenge Johnson for the title, he needs to win this week on a track that Johnson has been traditionally strong at.
Kasey Kahne. He seems to run well at Charlotte, and I'm not picking all Chasers this week.

Who's the real champion?

NASCAR named its latest class of five Hall of Famers this week. The organization limits it to five per year, and this is the second class that was named. There was one driver named this year, who should have made it last year, and one driver who could have made it this year, but didn't that helps us yet again define class.

Last year, the first class was named and in what was a definite error, David Pearson was left off. He won 105 races, second only to Richard Petty's 200. Pearson without question should have been in that first class. The fact that he was overlooked put a serious dent into the credentials of the voters. His rivalry with Petty when the sport was first hitting the television airwaves in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped draw fans to the sport. Just five guys or not, he deserved to be on the first ballot.
However, Pearson was an easy pick to make it in this year, and he did, being named on 94 percent of the ballots (what those other six percent were thinking, who knows?). When Pearson was asked if he was bitter about not making the first ballot, he said he certainly was not. That's a champion-like reaction to what could have been a not-so-pretty situation.
One former driver, and current announcer, who didn't make it this year was Darrell Waltrip. He's going to make it eventually, probably next year. He deserves it at some point, with over 80 victories. However, all Waltrip could was go to Twitter and tweet about how disappointed he was and how unfair the process was for not letting him in.
Not the reaction of champion. So, if I was on the voting panel (which I'm not), I'd have to think about it before I vote for him next year. If someone wants into the Hall of Fame, having a Hall of Fame attitude when things don't go your way when you want them to should be requirement.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Yellow Brick Road

The NASCAR boys are in Kansas this weekend and this, the third race in the Chase, is when we start to get more separation between the haves and have nots in the Chase.
So, with my five picks for this week (yes, I had Jimmie Johnson last week at Dover), maybe we can get a little more clarity in the Chase.

Jimmie Johnson: Yes, he's second to Denny Hamlin in the points, but he's the guy to beat.
Denny Hamlin: Probably the only driver who has the combination of consistency and win-ability to challenge Johnson.
Carl Edwards: He says he would rather win in Kansas, about 90 minutes from his hometown of Columbia, Mo., than anywhere including Daytona or Indy. Really? Well, he could use a win right now and has been pretty consistent for a while, so it might be about time for a visit to Victory Lane.
Clint Bowyer: Cheatin' Clint (I know, he has no idea what exactly the crew does to the car, but he's guilty by association here), would love to win in his home state and get a legal victory.
Kasey Kahne: He's starting up front, and as you may well know, clean air is everything with these cars

The guy I probably should have picked but didn't ... Jeff Burton. Just a hunch.