banner
Jerry Bonkowski

Talladega will likely clear Chase fuzziness

Posted October 5, 2012

— It's going to be either all downhill or uphill for drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup following Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The fourth of 10 races in NASCAR's premier event of the season, Talladega is where we're likely to see the framework of who will be the remaining bonafide contenders to win this year's championship next month in the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway in south Florida.

During the first three races of the Chase, we've seen some interesting storylines emerge:

1. Brad Keselowski, even driving for a lame duck manufacturer that won't be in NASCAR next season (Dodge), has been the biggest surprise thus far with wins in two of the first three Chase races.

2. Denny Hamlin appears fully recovered from the meltdown that cost him the Chase in 2010. If anything, Hamlin has emerged stronger and more confident than ever – and could be one of the biggest obstacles for other drivers to overcome … if he doesn't win it all outright by himself.

3. Jimmie Johnson has unquestionably regained the form that led him to a record five consecutive Sprint Cup championships from 2006 through 2010. If he doesn't win title No. 6 this year, he's going to make it extremely difficult on whoever does.

Sure, doing well Sunday at Talladega is important for those three drivers, but there's a plethora of other drivers who will either see their Chase chances reinvigorated or witness the beginning of the end of those chances.

We're talking specifically about defending Cup champ Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and potential dark horse Clint Bowyer. All four drivers are far enough behind – yet still close enough – to begin a potential championship-earning rally if they do well at 'Dega.

Keep your eyes particularly on Kahne and Earnhardt on Sunday. Earnhardt used to own the 2.66-mile superspeedway, with five previous wins there, but none in a half-decade.

Kahne, meanwhile, is driving for the best team and in the best equipment he has ever had in his nine-year Cup career. While his overall record at Talladega hasn't been much to write home about up to now, given how well he's done thus far this season as a member of the Hendrick Motorsports stable of drivers, Kahne could potentially be on the verge of a huge blowout both at 'Dega and in the Chase.

Suffice to say, and even if a non-Chaser like Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards wins Sunday, the 12 drivers in NASCAR's so-called playoffs know just how important – and how much of a wild-card – Talladega will be in the overall Chase picture.

If they can successfully emerge from one of the most difficult tracks on the circuit, they have much easier tracks the rest of the way in the Chase, including Charlotte next week, Kansas, the stubborn little short track at Martinsville, the always challenging and high-speed race at Texas, the one-mile flat surface at Phoenix and the season finale for all the Chase marbles at Homestead.

That is, if someone doesn't clinch beforehand, which has never been done in the previous eight years of the Chase, and is not likely to happen this year, either.

Last but not least, there are five remaining drivers in the Chase that are going to need nothing short of a miracle to rebound back into contention.

Mathematically, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle all still have a theoretical shot at getting back into the swing.

But Kenseth, who is in his final season at Roush Fenway Racing (he'll move to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season), has had nothing but bad luck in the first three races of the Chase.

It's no wonder, then, that Kenseth is last in the Chase, 72 points behind series leader Keselowski.

While it would appear all is lost for Kenseth, as he's nearly the equivalent of two wins behind Keselowski, stranger things have happened in the Chase.

Look back to 2006, when Johnson was over 150 points out of the lead after the fall race at Talladega. With six races remaining after that event, Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus began thinking about next season, rather than what was still left to be.

But in an ironic twist, Johnson and Knaus refused to give up and ultimately won the title that season, the first of five in a row.

Granted, the points system was different back then, but if you compare the old system with the new one, the disparity isn't all that much different.

But if Kenseth has yet another bad race and drops to, say, 90 or more points back after Sunday, maybe team owner Jack Roush will give him an early release from his contract because all hope of Kenseth winning a second career Cup title for RFR before he departs would be completely gone.

It's been an interesting start to the Chase, similar to the way Tony Stewart kicked off last year's or how Greg Biffle won the first two races of the 2008 Chase, only to eventually fall behind as Johnson would go on to win his third straight title that season.

Perhaps the best analogy to describe where we're at in the Chase is this: because Talladega is so big and holds so many fans (more than 135,000), it's not surprising if those ticket holders sitting in the nosebleed seats need binoculars to see the sometimes fuzzy long-distance action around the track.

But after Sunday, a lot of the fuzziness in the Chase is going to start becoming significantly clearer.

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Golf: WGC-Dell Match Play Championship

    Tomorrow at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NASL: NCFC vs. Miami

    Tomorrow at 7:30 pm on WRAL-2

  • NASL Soccer: Miami @ North Carolina FC

    Tomorrow at 7:30 pm on WRAL-2

  • NASCAR: Auto Club 400

    Sunday at 3:00 pm on FOX50

  • Golf: WGC-Dell Match Play Championship

    Sunday at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NASL: NCFC @ San Francisco

    Saturday, Apr. 8 at 10:00 pm on WRAL-2

  • NASL: NCFC vs. Edmonton

    Saturday, Apr. 15 at 7:30 pm on WRAL-2

  • NASL: NCFC @ Miami

    Saturday, Apr. 22 at 7:30 pm on WRAL-2

  • NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • NCAA Tournament Elite 8

    Tomorrow at 6:00 pm on Buzz Sports Radio

  • NASL: North Carolina FC v. Miami

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 95.7 The Ticket

  • NHL: Canes v. New Jersey Devils

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NASL: NCFC vs. Maimi

    Tomorrow at 7:30 pm

  • NASL: NCFC @ San Francisco

    Saturday, Apr. 8 at 10:00 pm

  • NASL: NCFC vs. Edmonton

    Saturday, Apr. 15 at 7:30 pm

  • NASL: NCFC @ Miami

    Saturday, Apr. 22 at 7:30 pm

Men's College Basketball
NCAA Tournament
#4
4:09 PT5:09 MT6:09 CT7:09 ET11:09 GMT7:09 北京时间4:09 MST6:09 EST
Preview
#1
#7
4:29 PT5:29 MT6:29 CT7:29 ET11:29 GMT7:29 北京时间4:29 MST6:29 EST
Preview
#3
#3
6:39 PT7:39 MT8:39 CT9:39 ET1:39 GMT9:39 北京时间6:39 MST8:39 EST
Preview
#2
#8
6:59 PT7:59 MT8:59 CT9:59 ET1:59 GMT9:59 北京时间6:59 MST8:59 EST
Preview
#4
NBA Scoreboard
Denver 4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)00:0019:00 ET5:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Indiana 
Detroit 4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)00:0019:00 ET5:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Orlando 
Brooklyn 4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)00:0019:00 ET5:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Washington 
Cleveland 4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)00:0019:00 ET5:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Charlotte 
Phoenix 4:30 PT5:30 MT6:30 CT7:30 ET23:30 GMT7:30 4:30 MST6:30 EST3:30 UAE (+1)00:3019:30 ET5:30 CTNaN:�
Preview
Boston 
Philadelphia 5:00 PT6:00 MT7:00 CT8:00 ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 MST7:00 EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Chicago 
New Orleans 5:00 PT6:00 MT7:00 CT8:00 ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 MST7:00 EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Houston 
Atlanta 5:00 PT6:00 MT7:00 CT8:00 ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 MST7:00 EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 CTNaN:�
Preview
Milwaukee 
Sacramento 7:30 PT8:30 MT9:30 CT10:30 ET2:30 GMT10:30 7:30 MST9:30 EST6:30 UAE (+1)03:3022:30 ET8:30 CTNaN:�
Preview
Golden State 
Minnesota 7:30 PT8:30 MT9:30 CT10:30 ET2:30 GMT10:30 7:30 MST9:30 EST6:30 UAE (+1)03:3022:30 ET8:30 CTNaN:�
Preview
LA Lakers 
NHL Scoreboard
NY Islanders 4:00 PT5:00 MT6:00 CT7:00 ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 MST6:00 EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT
Preview
Pittsburgh 
Tampa Bay 4:30 PT5:30 MT6:30 CT7:30 ET23:30 GMT7:30 4:30 MST6:30 EST3:30 UAE (+1)19:30 ETNaN:� BRT
Preview
Detroit 
San Jose 5:30 PT6:30 MT7:30 CT8:30 ET0:30 GMT8:30 5:30 MST7:30 EST4:30 UAE (+1)20:30 ETNaN:� BRT
Preview
Dallas 
Winnipeg 7:00 PT8:00 MT9:00 CT10:00 ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 MST9:00 EST6:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ETNaN:� BRT
Preview
Anaheim 
MLB Spring Training
Cactus
Chi White Sox1Bot
5th
Oakland8
San Diego0Bot
6th
Texas4
Cleveland3Bot
7th
Chi Cubs0
Milwaukee7Bot
5th
Cincinnati9
Arizona4Bot
4th
LA Dodgers7
Kansas City1Bot
6th
Seattle(ss)3
San Francisco5Bot
6th
Colorado0
Seattle(ss) 5:10 PT6:10 MT7:10 CT8:10 ET20:10 ET0:10 GMT8:10 5:10 MST7:10 EST7:40 VEN4:10 UAE (+1)6:10 CT
LA Angels 
Grapefruit
Atlanta2Final
10
Detroit3
Philadelphia2Final
NY Yankees3
St. Louis3Final
Washington(ss)1
Tampa Bay0Final
Pittsburgh4
Boston2Final
Toronto3
Houston2Final
NY Mets0
Baltimore 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET19:05 ET23:05 GMT7:05 4:05 MST6:05 EST6:35 VEN3:05 UAE (+1)5:05 CT
Minnesota 
Washington(ss) 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET19:05 ET23:05 GMT7:05 4:05 MST6:05 EST6:35 VEN3:05 UAE (+1)5:05 CT
Miami 
Minor League Baseball
International League
Rochester 11:05 PT12:05 MT1:05 CT2:05 ET7:05 GMT
Syracuse 
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 11:05 PT12:05 MT1:05 CT2:05 ET7:05 GMT
Buffalo 
Pawtucket 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET12:05 GMT
Lehigh Valley 
Toledo 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET12:05 GMT
Indianapolis 
Norfolk 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET12:05 GMT
Charlotte 
Columbus 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET12:05 GMT
Louisville 
Durham 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET12:05 GMT
Gwinnett 
WGC Match Play (PGA)
Leader in BOLD/CAPS
MatchHScore
WILLETT v Knox164 and 2
HAAS v Kim164 and 2
Thomas v FITZPATRICK172 and 1
Na v WOOD172 and 1
MICKELSON v Holmes136 and 5
Berger v KIM181 up
Day v LEISHMAN0 and 18
WESTWOOD v Perez172 and 1
Hatton v CABRERA BELLO172 and 1
Wang v HOWELL III172 and 1
Garcia v RAHM146 and 4
CHAPPELL v Lowry181 up
Grace v SNEDEKER145 and 4
MCGIRT v Sullivan181 up
McIlroy v GRILLO18 up
Woodland v KJELDSEN0 and 18
CASEY v Schwartzel154 and 3
An v LUITEN181 up
Spieth v Moore180 up
Ikeda v TANIHARA173 and 1
Watson v Pieters180 up
Piercy v VEGAS173 and 1
Matsuyama v OOSTHUIZEN146 and 4
FISHER v Furyk164 and 2
Reed v KOEPKA181 up
KISNER v Dufner172 and 1
NOREN v Molinari0 and 18
WIESBERGER v Jaidee181 up
KUCHAR v Fleetwood164 and 2
JOHNSON v Steele181 up
JOHNSON v Walker155 and 3
KAYMER v Simpson163 and 2
View Full Leaderboard
Puerto Rico Open (PGA)
PosNameScoreThru
1tB. DeChambeau-1118
1tB. Lunde-1113
1tT. Mullinax-1112
4tT. Wilkinson-1018
4tJ. Henry-1018
4tT. Hoge-1018
4tC. Stroud-1018
4tR. Campos-1018
4tJ. Spaun-1018
4tD. Hearn-1016
View Full Leaderboard
 
WGC Match Play (EURO)
Leader in BOLD/CAPS
MatchHScore
WILLETT v Knox164 and 2
HAAS v Kim164 and 2
Thomas v FITZPATRICK172 and 1
Na v WOOD172 and 1
MICKELSON v Holmes136 and 5
Berger v KIM181 up
Day v LEISHMAN0 and 18
WESTWOOD v Perez172 and 1
Hatton v CABRERA BELLO172 and 1
Wang v HOWELL III172 and 1
Garcia v RAHM146 and 4
CHAPPELL v Lowry181 up
Grace v SNEDEKER145 and 4
MCGIRT v Sullivan181 up
McIlroy v GRILLO18 up
Woodland v KJELDSEN0 and 18
CASEY v Schwartzel154 and 3
An v LUITEN181 up
Spieth v Moore180 up
Ikeda v TANIHARA173 and 1
Watson v Pieters180 up
Piercy v VEGAS173 and 1
Matsuyama v OOSTHUIZEN146 and 4
FISHER v Furyk164 and 2
Reed v KOEPKA181 up
KISNER v Dufner172 and 1
NOREN v Molinari0 and 18
WIESBERGER v Jaidee181 up
KUCHAR v Fleetwood164 and 2
JOHNSON v Steele181 up
JOHNSON v Walker155 and 3
KAYMER v Simpson163 and 2
View Full Leaderboard
 
ATP Scoreboard
Friday, Mar. 24
Miami Open (ATP/WTA)
Second Round
(7) M. Cilic4 6 3   
J. Chardy6 2 6   
(26) P. Kohlschrei7 3 77   
T. Fritz5 6 64   
(3) M. Raonic6 7    
V. Troicki3 5    
(19) A. Ramos-Vino65 6 3   
J. Vesely77 4 6   
(2) K. Nishikori6 6    
K. Anderson4 3    
(30) J. Sousa68 6 3   
F. Fognini710 2 6   
(15) P. Carreno Bu6 5 1   
F. Delbonis1 7 2   
(28) M. Zverev4 4    
J. Donaldson6 5    
(5) R. Nadal0     
D. Sela0     
(23) S. Johnson4 1    
N. Mahut6 0    
(21) P. Cuevas5 0    
B. Paire7 3    
(13) J. Sock 
Y. Nishioka 
(20) G. Simon 
J. Struff 
(11) L. Pouille 
D. Young 
(25) F. Verdasco 
E. Escobedo 
(9) G. Dimitrov 
G. Pella 
 
WTA Scoreboard
Friday, Mar. 24
Miami Open (ATP/WTA)
Second Round
(32) E. Makarova     
A. Kontaveit     
(20) C. Suarez Nav     
J. Goerges     
(21) C. Garcia     
S. Peng     
(10) J. Konta     
A. Sasnovich     
(3) S. Halep6 2 6   
N. Osaka4 6 3   
(24) T. Babos77 2 0   
P. Parmentier61 6 6   
(25) R. Vinci3 2    
T. Townsend6 6    
(7) S. Kuznetsova6 6    
M. Minella2 2    
(8) M. Keys6 6    
V. Golubic1 2    
(28) I. Begu5     
L. Arruabarre3     
(1) A. Kerber 
Y. Duan 
(22) K. Mladenovic 
P. Tig 
(14) S. Stosur 
A. Barty 
(31) D. Kasatkina 
S. Rogers 
(16) K. Bertens 
R. Ozaki 
(11) V. Williams 
B. Haddad Mai