New Hampshire is the next stop on the Chase tour, and if anyone needs to rewrite expectations it would be Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger. Both have not done well at Loudon in the past, though Almirola was fifth in the race 15 months ago and the Dinger has one Top Ten. Still, both average beyond 20th there and after the results in Chicago came in they find their title hopes down to fumes. Yet, it is nothing that an unexpected win would not cure.
Neither are among our Hot 20, based on the season to date. Brad Keselowski is, with back to back wins giving him five on the season. However, he is not the hottest based on this system of providing a 25 point bonus for a win. That remains Jeff Gordon, who despite having two fewer trips to Victory Lane, does have an average finish advantage of 9.7 to 13 over Keselowski in 27 races. Wins are big, especially in how we tabulate these standings, but being consistent also has its rewards. The difference is that Keselowski has finished outside the Top Twenty seven times this campaign, Gordon only three.
Something tells me Brad is not too concerned, with last weekend’s win locking him into a Chase spot for the next five events. However, it is still too early to hand him the trophy just yet. No matter what he does at Loudon and Dover, Keselowski will have the same 3000 points as the other 11 gents left in the Chase when they move on to Kansas.
Marcos Ambrose missed the Chase, and next year we will miss him as he returns to his native Australia. He is a fun guy with talent, especially when left hand turns lead to more to the right. Ambrose has a couple of Cup wins in 218 starts, both coming at Watkins Glen, and leaves to raise his family back on their native soil.
Nothing is more important than family. The Ward family lost their young son Kevin in an accident involving Tony Stewart, a case that will go to a grand jury to determine if the case should proceed to trial. While what video evidence I have seen leads me to believe this was a tragic accident Stewart was not responsible for, I was not there nor do I have knowledge of all the facts. A family lost their young son that day, and they deserve a thorough, transparent review of what took place. I pray for justice for all involved.
Sixteen drivers remain involved in the Chase, but do not expect much to change in the standings between now and the conclusion at Dover. Based on their track records, both Almirola and Allmendinger are done, with Greg Biffle in a fight for survival. I would expect over the next couple of weeks to see Jimmie Johnson absolutely shine. I would expect, based on past results, strong efforts from Gordon, Carl Edwards, Keselowski, and Matt Kenseth, with Ryan Newman coming on strong to beat out Kasey Kahne for the final spot to the next round. Of course, depending on who wins these races, all my speculation could wind up all out the window.
There is a reason why non-Chaser Kyle Larson is among our Hot 20. Based on results from earlier this season, expect him to be the star on these tracks once again this weekend and next.
BOLD = Current Chasers
*Points awarded as during the regular season, except the winning bonus is 25 rather than 3 points.
1 – Jeff Gordon – 3 Wins – 1023 Points
2 – Brad Keselowski – 5 – 987
3 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 3 – 982
4 – Joey Logano – 3 – 935
5 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 900
6 – Kevin Harvick – 2 – 873
7 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 845
8 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 831
9 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 811
10 – Kasey Kahne – 1 – 788
11 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 779
12 – Greg Biffle – 0 – 774
13 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 764
14 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 747
15 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 742
16 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 726
17 – Paul Menard – 0 – 724
18 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 719
19 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 709
20 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 701