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?
Mar 8, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
The winds of change are blowing over Formula 1 in 2014 – but there’s far more to it than smaller engines and ugly noses.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:54 AM EST
Although many drivers like to take the outside line when they race at its 1.5-mile race track, for fans Las Vegas and the inside line go hand-in-hand. The more information you have, the better your chances are of who to root for. Here’s this week’s edition of driver ratings, assorted notes and facts to give…
Mar 8, 2014, 11:15 AM EST
American prospect secures a test in Abu Dhabi next week for F1′s feeder series.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
No new teams for 2014, but plenty of driver changes, staff signings and engine supplier switches creates an interesting dynamic for the new F1 season.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Former F1 driver believes that losses of Raikkonen, Allison, Boullier and de Beer will hit Lotus hard.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Race at Port Imperial is still on the cards, whilst a return to Magny-Cours is expected in 2015.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Fan favorite returns to F1 in 2014 after a year away in the World Endurance Championship.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:15 AM EST
Hamilton and Rosberg look to end Red Bull’s dominance in 2014, and if testing is anything to go by, it could well be the year of the Silver Arrows.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:30 AM EST
Breaking Alberto Ascari’s sixty year record of nine straight wins could prove to be too big an ask for Vettel in Australia.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:33 AM EST
Friends and family of Dick Trickle are looking to build a memorial to honor the late stock car racing legend in his hometown of tiny Rudolph, Wis.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:05 AM EST
Could sibling rivalry one day extend to the Indianapolis 500? Kurt Busch will become the first NASCAR driver in a decade to run the proverbial “double” in May: the Indy 500 in the early afternoon and the most grueling race on the Sprint Cup schedule that evening, the Coca-Cola 600.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:45 AM EST
What is it about NASCAR drivers and hockey?
Mar 8, 2014, 1:21 AM EST
We’re not saying that his fans are going to go out and bet the farm, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. has some pretty good odds heading into Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:12 PM EST
Vegas pole sitter Joey Logano also talks about the issue.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:03 PM EST
In the waning moments of the final round of qualifying, Logano ran a lap of 193.278 mph to take the pole from teammate Brad Keselowski.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
“It’s not 100,000 from Las Vegas that will be sitting in these grandstands.” – KB
Mar 7, 2014, 4:55 PM EST
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver says that right now, he’s more focused on working with the new aero rules and qualifying format.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:20 PM EST
Crew chief Rodney Childers, driver Casey Mears, and the impact of the new rules package at Las Vegas are all part of today’s show.
Mar 7, 2014, 4:13 PM EST
Kurt Busch’s quest to become the first NASCAR driver in a decade to attempt the “Double” – racing in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, and then flying to Charlotte to compete in that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 – just became even more challenging.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:47 PM EST
Edwards and his Roush Fenway teammates pick up the pace after a slow Thursday test.
- Instead of significant improvement, 2014 starting off the way 2013 ended for Danica Patrick (10)
- Kurt Busch gives IndyCar chance to show they’ve learned lesson on promotion (10)
- Chrysler orders nearly 100 pristine Dodge Vipers destroyed (7)
- Alonso discovers an F1 take on Ellen’s Oscar “Selfie” (6)
- Disastrous day for Red Bull as Vettel manages just half a lap (5)