Sep 15, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
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?
Nov 20, 2014, 8:29 PM EST
Joey Logano on a turnaround and breakout season.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:37 PM EST
After a month of voting and more than 350 ballots cast by their peers on all Sprint Cup teams, the top pit crew members and overall pit crews of 2014 were announced Thursday.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST
The No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team dodged a bullet Thursday when NASCAR announced less severe than expected penalties for unapproved rear suspension parts found last weekend at Homestead.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:24 PM EST
All the latest from the ground in Abu Dhabi from NBCSN’s Will Buxton in this week’s “Paddock Pass.”
Nov 20, 2014, 4:18 PM EST
TV times, title outlooks for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Big night of F1 on NBC from 7 p.m. ET.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:09 PM EST
If you like wild, crazy and unpredictable, you won’t want to miss Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, airing LIVE at 5 pm ET on NBCSN.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:31 PM EST
In this edition of NASCAR Minute, Rick Allen and Kyle Petty talk about the wackiest things they saw this race season.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
After his departure from Ferrari was announced today, Alonso drops the biggest hint yet that he will be driving for McLaren in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:21 PM EST
What would the final 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings look like if there had been no Chase format? Would Kevin Harvick still have finished No. 1? You might be surprised.
Nov 20, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
New paint scheme for Danica Patrick’s No. 10 in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Gunning for his second world championship, Hamilton can be sure of the title by finishing second in Abu Dhabi – but will the pressure get to him?
Nov 20, 2014, 11:35 AM EST
How will Will Stevens’ debut go? He’s in a rare spot, making an in-season debut.
Nov 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
A few little things to look out for during this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 AM EST
Kasey Kahne’s arrival shouldn’t change the arrival of Chase Elliott at Hendrick Motorsports, but it may change the date.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Mexican driver admits trying to take a step down out of a race seat for 2015 is a risk, but feels it is the best move for his future.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EST
Matthew Brabham replaces Charles Pic in FE this weekend.
With Vettel, Alonso, Mercedes and Renault all on the move, Abu Dhabi will mark the end of an era in F1
Nov 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Lotus will be very different teams in 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
Kasey Kahne re-ups with Hendrick for three more years.
Nov 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Mexican driver all but certain to stay with Force India for 2015, with the finer details of his contract being ironed.
Video from NASCAR America
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