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. Surprises, struggles: NHRA at one-third mark of ’15 season

    May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    nhra logo

    With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.

  2. Coulthard: Monaco mistake could make Hamilton think twice in future races

    May 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  (L-R) Race winner Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP and third placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP react on the podium following the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Ex-F1 driver ponders whether Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes may have taken a hit after his Monaco defeat.

  3. FIA seeking new teams for Formula 1 in 2016 and 2017

    May 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 18:  The German national flag flaps in the wind next to the FIA flag during practice ahead of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 18, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images) Getty Images

    FIA looking for more teams to join the sport in the next two seasons.

  4. Bottas confident Williams will bounce back in Canada

    May 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Williams Martini Racing's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas  drives at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After Williams recorded its first non-score since Brazil 2013 in Monaco, Bottas is sure that the team will respond in Montreal next weekend.

  5. Nissan to race with retro livery on Le Mans LMP1 car

    May 28, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    © Nissan NISMO © Nissan NISMO

    25 years on from Mark Blundell’s pole position at Le Mans, Nissan pays homage with a retro livery on its third car for the race.

  6. Magnussen unconcerned by Vandoorne’s success in GP2

    May 28, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and McLaren Honda waves to the fans during the drivers' parade before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Magnussen was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2014, but has hopes of recovering his seat in the future.

  7. Lotus rejects claim Grosjean brake-tested Verstappen

    May 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Verstappen 245 Getty Images

    Alan Permane claims the data on Grosjean’s car shows he did not brake-test Verstappen and cause their crash in Monaco last Sunday.

  8. Todt: Impossible to ban alcohol sponsorship in F1

    May 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 23:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda drives during final practice for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 23, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    FIA president responds to calls for a stricter policy on alcohol sponsorship in F1.

  9. Andreas Bakkerud to sub for Piquet Jr. with SH Rallycross at X Games

    May 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT

    Photo: SH Rallycross Photo: SH Rallycross

    Andreas Bakkerud will fill in for Piquet while he’s on Formula E duty in Russia.

  10. Wolff answers fans questions following Monaco pit error

    May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150528_WolffHamilton Getty Images

    Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took part in a Twitter Q&A earlier this week.

  11. Foust reflects on Red Bull GRC’s evolution, growth, what wins mean now

    May 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Photo: Tony DiZinno Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Two-time series champion looks ahead to a big year in Red Bull GRC with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.

  12. Gossage to Walker: “We need a more competitive race this year than last year”

    May 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    The Bombardier Learjet 500k Getty Images

    Gossage and Walker are in contact about how to best move forward with super speedway aero kits ahead of June 6 IndyCar race.

  13. Final tally of Pippa Mann’s 2015 #GetInvolved campaign revealed

    May 28, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    No. 63 driver tops $61,000 raised for Susan G. Komen this month.

  14. IndyCar drivers break down Belle Isle Park street course

    May 27, 2015, 4:57 PM EDT

    Chevrolet Indy Dual In Detroit - Dual II Getty Images

    The last seven races held in Detroit have been won by a different driver.

  15. INDYCAR announces post-Indy 500 penalties; Coyne, Herta pit penalties among them

    May 27, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Penalties doled out after the Indy 500, most notably to the No. 19 and 98 teams for pit incidents.

  16. Tristan Vautier, Rodolfo Gonzalez to race for Dale Coyne Racing in Detroit Duals

    May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Tristan Vautier Tristan Vautier

    Gonzalez returns to No. 18 car after running it in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

  17. Graham Rahal feels ‘really good’ about Detroit Dual

    May 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT

    Graham Rahal Graham Rahal

    After three straight top-five finishes, Graham Rahal returns to the site of his only 2014 podium.

  18. Volkswagen Andretti pair of Foust, Speed seek better fortunes, consistency

    May 27, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Photo: Red Bull Content Pool Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

    Ahead of the Red Bull GRC season, Tanner Foust and Scott Speed look for better luck in the pair of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetles.

  19. Charlie Kimball looks to capitalize on Indianapolis performance in Detroit Dual

    May 27, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT

    Charlie Kimball Charlie Kimball

    Charlie Kimball says his team has hit its stride after two straight top-five finishes.