Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the 2009 NASCAR Chase to the Sprint Cup contenders, but who will win?

(Top photo of the 12 chase contenders was taken by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR and the bottom right photo of Brian Vickers out racing Kyle Busch to make it into the chase was taken by Chris Graythen/Getty Images via NASCAR PR, both at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.)

Ladies and gentlemen, last night at the famous ¾ mile short track, Richmond International Raceway played host to the final race to the chase race where NASCAR fans saw Denny Hamlin dominate and win at his home racetrack and Brian Vickers “race” his way into the chase by 8 points.

In watching last night’s race, I couldn’t help but notice that Matt Kenseth just didn’t have the car to get into the chase, so it was very clear that the #12 chase spot would be between Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch. I said to one NASCAR fan last night, I can’t believe it that I am routing for Brian Vickers to get into the chase. Be honest now, I bet you that if you are not a Vickers or Kyle Busch fan, you were cheering for Vickers to get into the chase too?

At this point, I am happy to see the race to the chase over, but I am sad to see that the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season only has 10 races to go in the season before we put another season in the record books and that summer is over.

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the 2009 NASCAR Chase to the Sprint Cup Contenders, 12 of the best drivers in NASCAR this season, but who will win and what would the final 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings be? Did I (Brian Vermette) pick the top 12 at the beginning of the season correctly?

Well here is my list from February of who I picked to make the chase, the ones in bold I got correct. In no particular order, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. That’s 8 out 12 picked correctly, not bad considering Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Dale Jr. were not even contenders this season and Kyle Busch missed the chase by 8 points.

Who will win and what would the final 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings be?

1. At the beginning of the season, I picked #48-Jimmie Johnson to win his fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship and I am going to stand behind that. Jimmie Johnson, his crew chief Chad Knaus, the #48 Crew and Rick Hendrick as the owner creates the perfect storm for this team to win the 2009 championship, but he is seeded in the 3rd position.

2. #14-Tony Stewart, not too many media or fans choose Smoke to win races or for that matter be in the chase in his first year as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner, but I did. I believe Smoke will contend for the championship and after watching the first 26 races, it would surprise me to see him win the championship that would be cool to see especially for this Tony Stewart (and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan.)

However I believe that Tony Stewart has been chipped, he won the 26-race regular season (the points leader), but doesn’t receive any bonus points for doing so. Last month I asked the question Should the NASCAR Points System and the Chase for the Sprint Cup be updated?, in the article I said NASCAR should award 20 bonus points to the winner of the 26-race regular season.

3. #5-Mark “The Kid” Martin. I like Mark Martin’s chances of winning his first Cup Series championship this season. He comes into the chase as a sentimental favorite (including mine), four wins and is (as ESPN puts it) seeded first. If Martin and the #5 team can get consistent for the next 10 races, he will be a contender for sure.

4. #11-Denny Hamlin. Hamlin comes into the chase with two wins on the season and is seeded 4th in points. Hamlin is the only Joe Gibbs racing driver in the 2009 chase and I have to imagine that JGR will pull out all of the stops to get Denny Hamlin up in the points and into victory lane.

5. #24-Jeff Gordon. Sorry Gordon fans, but I don’t see a drive for five this season. Jeff Gordon comes into the chase in the 6th position, for the #24 team, survival and good finishes should be the key to victory for this team.

6. #9-Kasey Kahne. Kahne is a lot like Tony Stewart in past seasons, he is a second half driver. Kahne comes into the chase with two victories (Infineon and Atlanta), is the only RPM driver in the chase and seeded 5th coming into the chase.)

7. #99-Carl Edwards. Edwards has been starting to come on as of late in the finishes category, but has been running well all season long, however with no victories so far this season, it is going to be a tough road for him and Roush-Fenway Racing to get win the 2009 Sprint Cup Series championship.

8. #2-Kurt Busch. Kurt comes into the chase in the 7th position, however even with one victory on the season from Atlanta earlier this spring, his finishes are all over the board and finding consistency for the final 10 races is going to be a challenge. Going into the chase, it was announced that the crew chief Pat Tryson is leaving the team at the end of the season to will assume same role with Martin Truex Jr. and MWR in 2010.

9-12. When it comes to 9th position through the 12th spot, it is really a tossup. Going by the numbers in the first 26-races and comparing them to the top 8 contenders above, this is what I believe is going to happen. 9th will be #39-Ryan Newman, 10th #16-Greg Biffle, 11th #42-Juan Montoya and finally in the 12th spot will be #83-Brian Vickers. For Vickers, he got one lucky victory this season, several poles, but no consistency period.

This should be a good chase for the Sprint Cup over the next 10 weeks, but for the ESPN/ABC, NASCAR, the media and the fans, there are going to be three races going on at the same time over the next 10 weeks. One race will be for the chase contenders, the second race is for top 35 in points, but the third is going to be for victories, top 5’s and top 10’s among the non-chase drivers, remember to cover those too.

Next up is the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway live on ABC at 1PM-2PM and in this race one year ago, it was Greg Biffle coming out of nowhere to win the race. The rest of the 10 race chase is: Sept. 27 at Dover (1 mile); Oct. 4 at Kansas (1.5 miles); Oct. 11 at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California (2 miles); Oct. 17 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (1.5 miles); Oct. 25 at Martinsville (.526 mile); Nov. 1 at Talladega (2.66 miles); Nov. 8 at Texas (1.5 miles); Nov. 15 at Phoenix (1 mile); Nov. 22 at Homestead (1.5 miles).

What do you think?