Saturday, September 16, 2006

First Chase Race May be More than Expected

Being left out of the Chase for the championship will not deter any driver from wanting to win. Winning is the reason for racing in the first place. Most of them are very sincere when they say they would race for a dollar So, it would be unwise to think that anybody is racing "The Magic Mile" at Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend with dampened spirits. It is extremely difficult to imagine any active driver who wouldn't want to get in a car and race.
To be certain, in the first of the ten Championship Series races, don't expect significant aggression from the ten Chase drivers. They will most likely use this race to feel out the competition and protect their points.The competition between these drivers should not be overlooked, howerver. This separate points race, which starts with tenth place being a mere forty-five points behind first place, is so close that one mistake in any of the final ten races will eliminate a team from any shot at the championship.
The care taken by the chasers to avoid accidents could be a boon to such drivers as Ken Schrader, Joe Nemecheck, Dave Blaney, and Scott Riggs. These drivers have good programs, and are stepping them up. Don't forget Elliott Sadler, either, as he is problably second only to Tony Stewart in ability of the drivers who are not in the chase, not to mention that the #19 team has to get into the top 35 in owners points to guarantee a start in Februrary's Daytona 500.
I am expecting a non-chaser to win the race, but I have been wrong before--in fact, I have rarely been right.
I can envision a great race for the finish between Sadler, Riggs, Stewart, and Blaney, Yes, Dave Blaney, who hasn't shown a lot is truely representing Bill Davis Racing as the top driver of that organization. He is another skilled Sprint car driver who has the ability to show excellence in the Cup cars. On a roll, from a forth place finish last week at Richmond, he has tasted what it is like to be in a good car, and he has expressed great enthusiasm for the BDR program, especially with Toyota entering the field next year with Bill Davis as one of its teams. Blaney is of the same tradition as Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Ken Schrader, and Kasey Kahne--give him something with four tires on it, and he will race it.
Back to the chasers. Of the top ten who may go for the win, the most likely would be Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin. Johnson, because he can't seem to do anything that will prevent him from finishing up front--his team is so good, he could wreck the car in the opening laps and be back in the leading three by mid-point of the race. Kahne, because the cute little guy is that damn good, overcoming what former team-mate Jeremy Mayfield sees as a handicap, that is, the Dodge Charger, and showing uncanny skill at negotiating the short tracks. Kevin Harvick, because his determination matches his skill, and though he is the most aggressive of the top ten, he is smart enough to avoid situations which could take him out. And Denny Hamlin, who can excell on any kind of track and can not help but to go fast. Needless to say, if any one of these drivers is up front beyond mid-point of the race, Gordon, Kenseth, and the others will make it a point to get up there as well. By no means will the race be boring, whether your favorite driver is in the Chase or not.

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