October 31, 2014
This weekend all the NASCAR action is at Texas Motor Speedway. It’s a very fast 1.5-mile track. It’s also the second of only three races in this Eliminator Round of the Chase. There are eight Chase drivers left but after next weekend there will be only four who qualify for the championship race at Homestead on Nov. 16.
When I look at the eight remaining Chase drivers, all of them, except maybe Carl Edwards who seems to still be off a bit on these type tracks, have a chance of pulling into Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
One thing I think I’ve seen as a constant this year is at a track like this, if you want to be that driver spraying champagne all over your team at the end of the race, you are going to need to beat either Kevin Harvick or the two Team Penske drivers of Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano. Like I mentioned Wednesday, two of those three drivers are already in a must-win situation, and that’s Kevin along with Brad. They are in a pretty deep hole and need to dig their way out of it. This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway might just be what they need.
Don’t forget that this is our final 500-mile race of the year. That means some sleepless nights and some nail-biting by the engine folks. The speeds will be at their greatest late in the race and, as you know, that puts a lot of pressure on those power plants. We know we will probably have our fair share of cautions while at the same time we know there will be our fair share of long green-flag runs.
We also know that tires will be very important at Texas so when the opportunity presents itself, these drivers will want new Goodyear tires any time they can get them. It’s hard to believe we only have three races left this season. Two races remain in this Eliminator Round, and then on Nov. 16 at Homestead, four drivers will have a shot at all the marbles — the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
With Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase hunt and with him taking a win off the board for the remaining eight drivers in the Chase, there is no doubt it makes a difference in the Chase scenario. There are only two races left in this Eliminator Round — this weekend at Texas and next weekend at Phoenix.
Having a non-Chase driver win Sunday at Martinsville like Dale Jr. did opens the box more for two drivers to make the final four on their points. Now sure, Hendrick Motorsports would have been thrilled to have Jeff Gordon win last Sunday because that would have guaranteed him a spot in the finals. However, a Hendrick car did win which is great for the company, but Jeff finished second which is a great start for the No. 24 in this round.
I’ll be the first to admit that this deep into the Chase, I am actually starting to change my philosophy a bit on what it would take to win the 2014 championship. I originally said and believed you simply had to win to make something happen here. I’m starting to change my stance based on what I am seeing.
Look how consistent Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are week in and week out during this Chase. Of our eight remaining Chase drivers and after Sunday’s Martinsville race, Ryan is second in the points with Matt only two spots back in fourth. So if you can have three solid finishes in this Eliminator Round, then you stand a real good chance of moving onto the final four at Homestead on Nov. 16.
There are two guys I had in my final four Homestead bracket who are in jeopardy of even making it, and they areKevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. I think both are going to have to win either this weekend or next weekend at Phoenix if they want to be a player at Homestead in the championship race.