After Saturday’s race at Richmond, the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field has been set. So who’s going to be crowned champion this season? Even though 12 drivers compete in the Chase, you have to look hard at the top six.
1. Kyle Busch – The most talented driver in the series. He’s got outstanding equipment and a very competitive edge. He’s matured in his eight-year career, but has he matured enough?
2. Kevin Harvick – With four wins this season, including Saturday night at Richmond, he’s got incredible momentum. The last two years he has loitered at the top of the standings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the championship.
3. Jeff Gordon – Someone you definitely need to keep an eye on. His post-race interview Saturday night may have been a giveaway that he knows something we don’t. He was uncharacteristically enthusiastic. He may know his team either has a technical advantage or a great sense of momentum. He’s a popular pick of the pundits to win his fifth championship.
4. Matt Kenseth – My dark horse candidate. Kenseth always seems to poke his nose into contention when it’s money time. He’s got amazing talent in knowing how to go the distance, whether it’s 500 laps or 10 races.
5. Carl Edwards – A tough competitor. He’s been atop the standings all season and is very smart with a race car. He could win his first championship and would be a very popular champion.
6. Jimmie Johnson – Knows how to play the Chase better than anybody. “Five-Time” could easily become “Six-Time.” He’s extremely focused on the championship and chasing down Earnhardt and the King’s seven NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. To quote the great Rick Flair, “To be the man, you gotta’ beat the man.” And nobody’s beaten JJ in five years. Will somebody this year?
I’m not ruling out the remaining six drivers – Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. These guys are very unpredictable. Don’t be surprised to see Keselowski or Hamlin come out of nowhere and win this thing.
We’ve got 10 races to go starting with Chicago this weekend, including the AAA Texas 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4th. We’ll see how it plays out.