Two races into the Chase, and we've got a whole new truckload of NASCAR storylines and soap opera drama springing up out of Dover. It's the best stuff to come out of Delaware since Washington crossed that river!*
Kevin Harvick is forgetting why he's here. The regular season points leader is all of a sudden back in the pack and not looking much like the guy who dominated for most of the year. Plus, getting into fights with Denny Hamlin? Only Harvick knows for sure how much that distracted him, but one thing's for sure ...
Denny Hamlin might be a better poker player than we give him credit for. Hamlin's pop-off at Clint Bowyer was so out of the blue, so unexpected that it completely unhinged both Harvick and Richard Childress. And although J.D. Gibbs told Hamlin to cool it and perhaps not speak every thought that pops into his head. But what if Hamlin did what he set out to do: get into RCR's heads? If that was his goal, he didn't just get into their heads; he set up franchises in each one.
Let's not start crowning Jimmie Johnson just yet. Yes, Jimmie Johnson won. Yes, he's won the last four Cups. Yes, things set up well for him. But people are already throwing up their hands and giving the championship to the 48. It won't be easy dethroning the king, but then victory never is. And there are three or four guys right now who are running well enough to do it. Keep the faith, Vader-haters, and don't get too overconfident, 48 fans. We've got a long way to go.
Tony Stewart's kingdom for a gallon of gas. The decision to try to stretch fuel at Loudon could come back to haunt Stewart; he tumbled from first in the standings all the way to 11th. You can afford one bad run in the Chase; Stewart has now had two. And he's not alone ...
The pretenders have one more week to become contenders. Kansas is it. Stewart, Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle need a spectacular run -- like, top-3 spectacular -- at Kansas in order to keep their fading Chase hopes alive. The guys at the top are too good, running too well. A 50-point gap heading into the second half of the Chase is manageable. A hundred-plus-point gap three races in? Start your Christmas shopping early.
And now, your turn. What did you learn from this weekend? What are the storylines you see playing out over the season's final eight races? Have your say, friends.
*-Hm. Wikipedia tells me that Washington actually was crossing from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. So, Harvick-Hamlin-Bowyer is officially the best thing ever to come out of Delaware!