Many have claimed Nostradamus foretold the existence of Mother Teresa (The Saintly one, not the NASCAR one.), and the downing of TWA flight 800. Other translations of his nearly 1000 quatrains claimed the 16th century prognosticator said JFK would die in a plane crash. Well… he was half right. JFK did die.
In predicting the outcome of this years NEXTEL Cup Chase I hope to fall somewhere between Nostradamus and sham artist The Amazing Kreskin.
Lets start with the Pretenders:
Ryan Newman leads the pretender list after only barely making the Chase. In the first 26 events he has an average starting position of 6.8 (They don’t call him Rocket Man for nothing) and a finishing average of 16.7. Added to his poor finishing average is the 45 point hole he must dig the #12 out of. His partisans point to the Dale Jarrett incident as the cause of some of Newman’s problems. I contend his downward spiral started in Chicago. By attempting to enter pitroad at a speed approaching the terminal velocity of Halley’s Comet he placed his head somewhere South of his five-point harness.. That stunt resulted in a 29th place finish. Newman will finish as he started the Chase, 10th.
Carl Edwards has two things Newman doesn’t have. Two wins and Jack Roush. He makes the pretenders list based on his “yellow bumper” status alone. I’d be the first to admit a “Chase backflip” performed under the Chase microscope would be a thing to see – and even more impressive if performed from the NYC dais accepting the Cup – but not yet. The odds don’t favor Carl, not this year. A safer bet would be to lay a couple twenties on Edwards to take the Crown in ’06. 8th place sounds about right for Edwards.
Jeremy Mayfield, the only Evernham driver to make the Chase, scored his only win to date at Michigan in late July. Although the Dodge teams displayed some strength in the last month generally they have been at a disadvantage most of the year. Mayfield only has 4 victories in 7 years which isn’t a good thing. It will take at least one win in the next ten events to sit at the head table in NYC. Mayfield finishes 7th.
Matt Kenseth has been hot of late evidenced by his win at Bristol, 7th in California and 2nd at Richmond last week. His late season charge up the standings earned him 9 positions in the last 8 weeks. He also could get a leg up on the competition out of the box, he finished 10th at New Hampshire in July and has 4 top fives and 7 top tens at the mile oval. A similar finish this week should help his cause but I’m picking Kenseth to finish the year in 6th place.
Mark Martin is everybody’s sentimental favorite to win his first Cup championship. He starts this year’s Chase from the 6th spot 25 points behind Tony Stewart. I’m afraid bad Karma catches up with Martin. Mark has been in the top five all year, with his only win a non-points paying event during Charlotte’s All Star weekend. After dodging engine failures and other peoples wrecks all year the luck runs out. One 30 plus finish or DNF will send Martin to 9th in the final standings.
Kurt Busch, everyone’s favorite driver to hate, starts the Chase from 5th and seems to have peaked at the right time with a win last week in Richmond. Busch won both events at New Hampshire ’05 and the Miracle Mile may hold the key – as it will for everyone – to Busch repeating as Champion. Don’t under estimate the importance of the first Chase event, Busch’s New Hampshire victory in ’04 vaulted him from seventh to second in the rankings. That was last year, this year brings a solid but non-repeating 3rd place for the #97.
Jimmie Johnson will attempt to atone for last years near miss and his team owner seems to be pulling out all the stops to assist in an ’05 reversal of fortunes. With the recent announcement Robbie Loomis would be leaving the #24 as crew chief for a job with Petty Enterprises, Hendricks assigned Loomis as an “advisor” atop the Johnson pit box for the Chase events. But Johnson hasn’t shown the form of ’04 when he scored 8 wins and missed the crown by a whisker. The #48 and it’s “too many cooks in the kitchen” crew chief arrangement ends the year in 4th spot.
Rusty Wallace the second member of the “sentimental favorite duo” has had a solid retirement year and has been in the top ten since early May at Talladega. Wallace has had a series-leading 39 consecutive races in which he has been running at the finish. Odds dictate that may not reach 49. Rusty wheels the #2 Miller Lite Dodge to a 2nd place finish.
Greg Biffle started the year hot and had five victories before the end of June. As a member of the Roush Jihad assault on the Chase he can be expected to be a legitmate threat. In order to follow through he will have to start the Chase at a track where sucess has been fleeting. Biffle has run six races at New Hampshire with two top-10 finishes, including a career-best fifth in July and a 10th in 2003. He placed 28th last year. He has never led a lap at New Hampshire, and has a 24.7 average finish there. The #16 and Biffle will finish… Ah, you’ll have to wait and see the final standings in the extended entry.
Tony Stewart took over Greg Biffle’s “heat” in June and went on a streak that returned 5 wins in 7 events including his coveted Indy win. As my Pop used to say, “he’s hotter than a fresh f*cked fox in a forrest fire!” He has done what every champion must do. Stay out of trouble, win and string together top finishes. He has a series-leading 18 top-10 finishes this season. Starting the Chase in New Hampshire provides a mixed bag for Tony. He finished 39th in this race last year but won the July event this year. Will Joe Gibbs get his third and Tony get his second championship? Those that having been paying attention will know there are only two spots left unfilled, the Champ and fifth place. Who will it be Smoke or Biffle? The answer lies under the “more” link, and don’t forget to read the disclaimer.
- Greg Biffle (Hey, don’t laugh, I’m not the only one!)
- Rusty Wallace
- Kurt Busch
- Jimmie Johnson
- Tony Stewart
- Matt Kenseth
- Jermey Mayfield
- Carl Edwards
- Mark Martin
- Ryan Newman
In the race to the “After Thought Cup,” otherwise known as 11th place, Joe Nemechek will prevail and collect the one million large that goes with this rather dubious position. Wishful thinking isn’t it? Maybe so, but Joe’s luck has to change sometime and he did pull off one win during last years Chase in Kansas.
DISCLAIMER: Any resembalence to real, actual or imaginary results, drivers or events depicted in this post is purely coincidental. No pets were harmed in the production of this post. It you agree with my conclusions, congratulate yourself. You have an exceedingly high IQ!
If you take exception to these results, tough, sue me! Or better yet, sue Nostradamus and The Amazing Kreskin! They have been wrong a hell of a lot more often than I.