Welcome to From the Marbles' 2014 season previews. Here's how we think the Chase will shake out in this first year of 16 drivers and eliminations. Will we be right? Unlikely, but it's fun to think about our soothsaying possibilities until the green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23.
Driver: Brad Keselowski
2013 Finish: 14th
2013 Highlight: The win at Charlotte. Without a win before the Chase, Keselowski was on the outside looking in when it started. But you could tell that there was something more important about Keselowski's win than simply getting into victory lane. Maybe it was the fact that his Penske Ford was good on an intermediate track. Maybe it's because it keyed some swagger back. Maybe because it was the week after your headgames with Kyle Busch. Maybe it's none of those things.
Anyway, we're pretty sure it wasn't just another win.
2013 Lowlight: To put missing the Chase into context, the lowlight has to be the "what-if?" of Watkins Glen. The question was bound to linger had Keselowski done the opposite of what he ended up doing and did put the bumper to Busch. Instead, it lingered sourly because Keselowski didn't get another chance for a pre-Chase win.
However, it's also possible to overstate the significance of Watkins Glen. Yes, things would have likely played out differently had Keselowski won, but even with a win, he wouldn't have made the Chase.
Why is Keselowski here? Because we think 2013 was an aberration and Keselowski will get a win early in the season and make worrying about Chase qualification irrelevant. We'll say it happens at Bristol.
How could Keselowski not be here? Another winless streak pops up and is combined with a summer swoon like last year. Like many drivers in the top 10, it's hard to envision a scenario where Keselowski won't make the Chase, but after last year, we know never to say never.
Best Winter Olympic event: We'd pay to see a Keselowski vs. Newman curling match. Is there a sabermetric equivalent in curling? Keselowski would probably be totally on board with it.
Worst Winter Olympic event: Let's go with a sprint event in cross country skiing. After seeing Keselowski's Kansas run, we're not too worried about his endurance. Top speed could be an issue, however.
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