Chase Watch: Race takes a familiar turn

The 2011 Chase is starting to feel like the last five after Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Jimmie Johnson dominates, the rest of the field struggles to keep up and now Five-Time has to be the favorite to win it yet again.

Here is how the Chase field fared in Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway:

1. Carl Edwards – Finished 5th: If Carl Edwards winds up winning the title, this will be the race where he won it. The 99 was terrible all day, went down a lap, kept working on the car and salvaged an improbable fifth-place finish. Afterwards, Edwards said it was as good as a win. (-)

2. Kevin Harvick – Finished 6th: Like Edwards, had no business finishing in the top 10, but he did. That’s the kind of salvage job Johnson has used in winning his five straight titles. Still, Harvick has to be better if he’s going to stay in this thing. (-1 point)

3. Jimmie Johnson – Finished 1st: Pure domination, on an intermediate track no less. Sunday’s race should serve notice to the field that the 48 crew is on top of their game. No doubt about it, Johnson is the driver to beat once again. (-4 points)

4. Brad Keselowski – Finished 3rd: He may be a Chase rookie, but he’s not going away. Give credit to a late-race call not to pit. That put Keselowski in front, and though he lost the lead quickly, the call meant the difference between finishing 3rd and finishing 10th. (-11 points)

5. Matt Kenseth – Finished 4th: Another under-the-radar day for Kenseth, who looked like the driver to beat early, then ceded the lead to Johnson and was never heard from again. One mistake by those in front of him in the standings, and Kenseth will be right there to capitalize. (-12 points)

6. Kurt Busch – Finished 13th: He was bad, then decent, then bad, then held the lead, and all along pumped his crew up by telling them how terrible they are. So is life in the 22 camp. A decent day, but in this Chase, decent means you lose ground. (-16 points)

7. Tony Stewart – Finished 15th: Had a top-three run going until the handling went away late, prompting a four-tire pit stop that cost him big time when he slid through his stall. Gotta ask the question: How many spots are you going to gain by taking four tires with just two laps to go? Curious call there. (-19 points)

8. Kyle Busch – Finished 11th: Yet another ho-hum race for Kyle Busch, who’s never ho hum. He shouldn’t be counted out, but he can’t be counted in, either. He’s just a non-factor right now. (-20 points)

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 14th: Looked like Junior might rally to finish in the top 10, but alas he slipped a few spots. He was much better at his first pass at these Chase tracks earlier this season. Timing is everything, and right now it’s not working out for Junior. (-43 points)

10. Jeff Gordon – Finished 34th: A blown engine pretty much ended attempt No. 10 at the “drive for five.” It’s too bad, because Gordon not being in the mix means the title hunt got less crowded by one fewer competitive car. (-47 points)

11. Ryan Newman – Finished 18th: At one point, five of six “Hendrick” cars were in the top 10. The one missing: Newman. Just like in the Chase, he was a non-factor on Sunday. (-54 points)

12. Denny Hamlin – Finished 16th: Tried throwing a Hail Mary when he stayed out late to hold second on a restart. Where he finished should tell you something about his race cars. (-79 points)

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
Slideshow: Raiders and fans pay tribute to Al Davis
Bloggers debate: Who will win the NLCS?
U.S. overcomes clumsy misses to give Jurgen Klinsmann his first win

Jay Hart is a Senior Editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jay a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Oct 9, 2011