The designs for the pre-printed merchandise celebrating NASCAR's 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup champion are ready to be finalized. Production can start soon – maybe even as soon as this Sunday. The winner's gear can be ready long before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 17.
Well, it's pretty obvious that just three races into the Chase, the 2013 series champ is going to be one of three drivers.
Sorry Jeff Gordon, you're not one.
Nope, this title is down to leader Matt Kenseth, a closing Jimmie Johnson and a surprisingly stout (and consistent) Kyle Busch. All three of them are tucked tightly in a 12-point blanket, plenty secure to keep all three from being overrun by Gordon or Kevin Harvick (tied for fourth at 39 points back).
What about Greg Biffle, you say, just 41 points off the lead? I say fat chance, and I say it even louder for those further back.
I know, I know. The high banks of Talladega loom on the horizon. Anything can happen there, right?
It totally can. But there's just one problem: We aren't talking about one driver with a commanding margin on the Chase field; we're talking about three of them. The chance that all three will emerge with horrible finishes at Talladega while the rest of the Chase field flourishes are next to nil. That's just too much wishing and hoping.
Also consider that Kyle Busch has a 27-point margin on Gordon. There was just one seven-race stretch this season where Gordon roundly pounded Busch in accumulating points. That span, from Kansas to Pocono in the spring, featured Gordon outscoring Busch by a whopping 61 points. The only problem?
It wasn't so much Gordon running impeccably. Instead, it was the result of Busch crashing at Kansas, Richmond and Talladega in a three-race span before suffering a flat tire at Darlington while leading (he finished sixth) and then blowing an engine at Charlotte, again while having a leading car.
When you think about those mistakes and missed opportunities, it's easier to understand why he's been so good to start the Chase.
We've seen Busch have poor runs like that before in the Chase, and sure, it could happen again. But Gordon (or Harvick, or any other Chase driver) needs Busch, Johnson and Kenseth to have those week-after-week problems for this title race to tighten up.
Again, that's just not going to happen.
Like it or not, we're in for a three-man fight to the finish.
HOT: Did you really think Jimmie Johnson was going to lose the lead to a guy who missed pit road early in the race?
NOT: A big reason this Chase won't feature a comeback drive is because of the point system. There's just not enough credit for winning or grabbing a top-5. The only swings come with DNFs.
HOT: Joey Logano bounced back after a disappointing start to the Chase with a nice third-place run.
NOT: When are we going to have consistent side-by-side racing again in NASCAR?
HOT: The Chase drivers are in the Chase for a reason: all of the top-10 spots were taken by championship-eligible drivers on Sunday. (Yes, I know there are more than normal this year. My point stands.)
NEUTRAL: Marty Reid, the now ex-ESPN motorsports announcer, is an impossibly nice guy. It's unfortunate that he was released by ESPN over the weekend. That said, the number of on-air gaffes he had made lately was becoming concerning. Here's to hoping he lands on his feet somewhere else.
NOT: Danica Patrick finished six laps down and continues to exhibit very little improvement.
HOT: I don't think Jeff Gordon can win the title, but it's amazing how that team has improved the competitiveness of his No. 24 since the Chase started. What took so long?
NOT: Would you have guessed Mark Martin would be averaging a 19th-place finish after six starts (and no DNFs) in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14?
NOT: Kasey Kahne's Chase luck has just been downright miserable. Sunday, he battled an engine problem to a 13th-place finish.
HOT: Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway will be the second on Goodyear's new dual tread tire and the first at the track. If you remember the lack of passing in the first race at Kansas this season, you're like me and hoping for an improvement.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Jeff Gordon
- Kyle Busch
- Jimmie Johnson