Skip to content

Questions to ponder as the Chase begins – finally

Sep 15, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

GEICO 400 Getty Images

Clint Bowyer’s fateful spin with seven laps to go last Saturday night at Richmond began one of the most tumultuous weeks in the history of NASCAR.

And as the sanctioning body scrambled to restore credibility in the eyes of its fans – twice altering its post-season field in the span of five days – surely there was a moment where everyone involved surveyed it all and inwardly sighed.

“Sunday can’t come soon enough.”

Well, folks, Sunday is here. And so is a Chase that, before it has officially begun, is already unlike any other we’ve seen in its 10-year run as the Sprint Cup Series’ post-season system.

The first battleground: The 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, the kind of bread-and-butter intermediate track that makes up the majority of the Chase schedule. What we see today outside the Windy City could very well show who will have the edge this fall and who’s gonna have to dig a little deeper.

As NASCAR’s big stretch run to the championship begins today, questions are plentiful about a Chase that feels very tough to predict:

    • After a stellar regular season with five victories (three of which came on those all-important 1.5-mile ovals), can top seed Matt Kenseth cap off what has been his most competitive season to date with a second Cup title – and his first in the Chase format?
    • Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 crew hit the skids heading into the Chase with four straight finishes of 28th or worse. Can one of the sport’s most dominant squads find their groove again when it counts?
    • Kyle Busch has been very strong this year, racking up both wins and consistently high results. Could he be the one that delivers the biggest push for Kenseth, his teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, in the Chase? And if so, what kind of effects would it have on the JGR team as we get closer to the Homestead finale?
    • Kurt Busch has already pulled off a major feat by getting the small Furniture Row Racing team into the Chase. But while he’s got the talent and the pace to make an impact, will his pit crew ultimately help or hurt his chances?
    • The Ford camp seems to have picked up the pace, as evidenced by Carl Edwards’ victory last Saturday at Richmond. But will it be enough to enable Edwards, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano to overcome their Chevy and Toyota rivals?
    • There’s been nothing “lame duck” about Kevin Harvick‘s final campaign with Richard Childress Racing, but can he get R.C. his first Cup title since 1994 (Dale Earnhardt, Sr.) before going off to Stewart-Haas Racing?
    • Prior to Richmond, Logano had been the hottest driver in the garage. But last Saturday was far from his finest hour on the track, and he’s been part of this week’s mayhem. Will that distraction help derail his drive for a title in his first Chase?
    • Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Ryan Newman have had their ups and downs this regular season, and not many are picking them as legitimate title contenders. Can they find the consistency that hasn’t always been there for them in 2013?
    • Now in the playoffs as a 13th Chaser, Jeff Gordon maintains that a fire has been lit under him and the No. 24 team. But he too has been admittedly iffy at times. That said, will he be so inspired by being in the Chase that he’ll have a proper say in its outcome?
    • Finally, there’s Bowyer, the one that started the whole firestorm but is still in the mix for a championship even after the penalties against Michael Waltrip Racing. His question is the same as Logano’s: Will the controversy prove to wear him down? Another valid query: What kind of unholy rage will the NASCAR diehards unleash if Bowyer does do well?

Latest Posts
  1. IndyCar working to reduce hand/wrist injuries among drivers

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Firestone 600 - Practice Getty Images

    Among the possible options: A new steering damper, a thumb/wrist brace adapted from motocross, and energy-absorbing material for steering wheels.

  2. NASCAR AMERICA: Monday Round-Up (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    Jeff Gordon reflects on fifth Brickyard victory; Joe Gibbs Racing starting to peak; the impact of Carl Edwards’ exit from Roush Fenway Racing.

  3. Everything you need to know for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono

    Jul 28, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    HarvickPocono1 Getty Images

    All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as the Sprint Cup Series makes its second visit to Pocono.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA recaps Brickyard at 5 p.m. ET

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    Coming up today: Highlights from Jeff Gordon’s fifth win at Indy; Carl Edwards on his upcoming exit from Roush Fenway Racing; Kasey Kahne’s missed opportunity.

  5. NASCAR AMERICA Minute: The legacy of Jeff Gordon (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 - Practice Getty Images

    The NASCAR AMERICA crew talks about Gordon’s history of success at Indianapolis and throughout his NASCAR career.

  6. Petty, Childress, JTG, Furniture Row teams testing at Watkins Glen

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 at The Glen Getty Images

    Chase hopefuls target the Glen’s road course event on Aug. 10 as a chance to get into the post-season.

  7. Team planes for Stewart-Haas, JGR collide at North Carolina airport

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Credit: @Jesse_Sanders_ Credit: @Jesse_Sanders_

    No one was injured Sunday night when a Joe Gibbs Racing plane clipped a parked Stewart-Haas Racing plane while returning home from the Brickyard 400.

  8. Team Penske trio has mixed fortunes in Brickyard 400

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 Getty Images

    Joey Logano finishes fifth, while Brad Keselowski (12th) and IndyCar’s Juan Pablo Montoya (23rd) falter after starting toward the front of the grid.

  9. IndyCar: Winning’s been a curse, not a blessing, over last six races

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    TORTrafficJam Getty Images

    The winners of the last six IndyCar races haven’t had much in the way of results in subsequent races.

  10. Jeff Gordon talks Brickyard 400 victory on The Dan Patrick Show (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Federated Auto Parts 400 Getty Images

    The five-time Brickyard winner discusses his big win and other topics, including whether he’d allow his young daughter to become a NASCAR driver.

  11. IMSA: Indianapolis thoughts and observations

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    IMSAatIMS Getty Images

    Two drivers from the 1995 Indianapolis 500 finish 1-2 in the 2014 Brickyard Grand Prix, while the race features a star turn from somebody born in 1995…

  12. Sauber close, but no cigar in terms of first 2014 points in Hungary

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    SutilHUN Getty Images

    Both Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez run top-10 in Hungary, and both fail to get Sauber on the scoreboard.

  13. NHRA: Courtney Force becomes winningest female in Funny Car with Sonoma win

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    ForcesSonoma AP

    Courtney Force beats father John in final for record-setting NHRA Funny Car win in Sonoma.

  14. No one deserved to lose the 2014 Hungarian GP

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    HUNPodium AP

    Despite the facial expressions of those second and third to Daniel Ricciardo on Sunday, each of the top three would have deserved the Hungarian GP win.

  15. Clint Bowyer fails to realize IndyCar doesn’t have push-to-pass on ovals

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    BowyerIndy Getty Images

    IndyCars have push-to-pass, but not on ovals. It’s all good, Clint.

  16. Hulkenberg apologizes after hitting teammate

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Nico Hulkenberg AP

    German driver retires for the first time in 2014 after hitting Sergio Perez during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

  17. NASCAR: Is Edwards a lame duck or could he still bag 2014 title?

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    EdwardsRoush AP

    The mindset of Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team will be key down the stretch, knowing they’re heading their separate ways at the end of the year.

  18. Kimi Raikkonen confident of improvements at Ferrari

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Finn underlines his belief in the team to turn things around in 2014.

  19. McLaren gamble backfires for Button and Magnussen

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Decision to fit wet weather tires in anticipation of more rain scuppers hopes of big points in Hungary.

  20. Gordon’s Brickyard legacy superb, but can’t be compared to other Indy legends

    Jul 27, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT

    Jeff Gordon AP

    A world of differences make it impossible to weigh Jeff Gordon’s accomplishments at Indy against those of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., and Michael Schumacher.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Jeff Gordon's historic Brickyard 400 win

Featured video

Inside the Hungarian GP
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches