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. Team Penske, Carl Edwards look to earn Sprint Cup title for Ford – and Detroit (VIDEO)

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:02 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Motor City connections are plentiful between the three Ford drivers still standing in the Chase.

  2. Audi: Rumors of potential F1 entry just “pure speculation”

    Oct 25, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    AudiDuval1 Getty Images

    The 4-Rings takes to Facebook to dismiss yet another revival of the rumors that it’s going Grand Prix racing in the near-future.

  3. NASCAR Trucks: Crafton still controls title race, but Bubba looming larger

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Kroger 200 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Battle for Truck Series championship becomes three-horse race.

  4. Bubba Wallace pays homage to NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott with encore win at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT

    (Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. won his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway last October. He returned to the short bullring one year later to win there again in Saturday’s Kroger 200.

  5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier trying to bounce back after missing Talladega

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:28 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Stenhouse and Allgaier will start mid-pack on Sunday at Martinsville.

  6. Haas: Starting F1 team my biggest challenge yet

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

    Says first five years in F1 are about surviving, but cannot see the project failing.

  7. Kevin Harvick quickest in final Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Harvick turns in a 19.457-second lap around the Virginia half-mile to top “Happy Hour.”

  8. COTA set to provide Vettel with a dose of nostalgia

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 US Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    German driver looking forward to tackling the Circuit of The Americas in Austin next weekend.

  9. Dale Jr. Foundation gives brand new 2015 Corvette to ailing fan

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy WITN.com) (Photo courtesy WITN.com)

    Despite fighting breast cancer for the third time, NASCAR fan Wendy Smith decided to spend $25 to help others even less fortunate. Her gratuity paid off in a big way, earning a brand new $65,000 Chevrolet Corvette.

  10. Danica Patrick angry with NASCAR over ‘Dega qualifying, questions its diversity program

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Patrick not afraid to tackle thorny topics yesterday at Martinsville.

  11. Bubba Wallace honors Wendell Scott by earning pole for Martinsville Truck race

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Getty Images

    On a weekend that carries a lot of significance for honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame-elect inductee Wendell Scott, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. paid tribute in his own way to Scott, earning the pole for Saturday’s Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series race.

  12. Karthikeyan: F1 completely unsustainable for small teams

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix Of India Getty Images

    Former HRT driver casts his damning judgement on the current cost crisis in F1.

  13. Will the top powers in F1 now get the message about the cost crisis? Don’t count on it

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    The demise of both Caterham and Marussia has been on the cards for some time, yet Formula 1 has allowed it to happen.

  14. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon pace early-morning Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Despite chilly temperatures in the mid-40s in the 50-minute early-morning session, Jimmie Johnson led all drivers in the next-to-last Sprint Cup practice with a best lap of 98.023 mph, the only driver over the 98 mph mark.

  15. Sir Jack Brabham’s life and legacy celebrated in special event at Silverstone

    Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race Getty Images

    Over 400 people attend special event in celebration of Brabham’s life and legacy.

  16. Maldonado hoping for strong finish to 2014 season

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Practice Getty Images

    Lotus driver has failed to score any points in 2014, but feels that next season will hold better things.

  17. Moto GP: Marquez breaks pole position record in Malaysia

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    MOTO-PRIX-MAS Getty Images

    Yet another record falls to the Spanish sensation in Malaysia.

  18. Marussia also set to miss United States GP

    Oct 25, 2014, 5:48 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Bernie Ecclestone claims that there will be just 18 cars racing in Austin.

  19. Jimmie Johnson: ‘That day is out there’ when he’ll split with crew chief Chad Knaus

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

    (Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    In a surprisingly candid admission, six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson says that while nothing is imminent, the day is coming when he and crew chief Chad Knaus will go their separate ways.

  20. ‘Hey, I’m Kevin (Harvick), welcome to Outback. Can I get you a table?’ (with video)

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse) (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse)

    In a bemusing video released Thursday, NASCAR star Kevin Harvick spent one of his recent off nights working the room at an Outback Steakhouse.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. R. Preece (1830)
  2. K. Busch (1395)
  3. M. Kenseth (1380)
  4. R. Newman (1283)
  5. L. Cassill (1190)
  1. J. Johnson (1189)
  2. K. Kahne (1157)
  3. D. Coby (1145)
  4. J. Gordon (1048)
  5. R. Rovelo (1027)