The Chase positions are now set, and a few drivers and teams with high hopes are merely just now trying to salvage some wins in the last 10 races of the season. Among the disappointed is most definitely Kasey Kahne, the series top ranked Dodge driver, who just missed his shot at making it to the show. Even with two wins, Kahne will finish no better than 13th in points this season.
Among the drivers who did make it into the Chase, the odds on favorites have to be Kyle Busch, the points leader, and 8 time race winner in 2008. Carl Edwards is another favorite, with 6 wins. Jimmie Johnson has been on a run as of late, with 4 wins, with 3 of those coming near the latter part of the season. This years Chase is made up of cars running under the banner of only 4 different owners, those being Joe Gibbs Racing, Roush Motorsports, HendrickMotorsports, and Richard Childress Racing.
Despite some great races this year, Red Bull Racing's Toyotas, driven by A.J. Allmendinger and Brian Vickers will not be part of the big show. The only Toyotas in the Chase are the 3 cars of Joe Gibbs Racing. It would appear that the vast improvement in Toyota performance in 2008 was limited mainly to one organization. Though Red Bull, Bill Davis, and Michael Waltrip's teams all showed improvement this year, none was much of a threat in most of the races. I also find it interesting that even though all 3 of the Childress cars made the Chase, none of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. cars did, even though both teams share the same Earnhardt-Childress engine packages.
Once again, Hendrick Motorsports managed to get 3 of their cars into the Chase, with Jimmie Johnson, who has lead all of his teammates with 4 wins. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 1 win, and possibly the most shocking statistic of all, is that even though Jeff Gordon will be in the Chase, he has no victories as of yet this year.
Jack Roush managed to put 3 cars in the Chase field as well. Carl Edwards has had a phenominal season, and teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth will join him in this years elite field. Young David Ragan just missed getting in, which has to be disappointing to a driver who has showed much improvement this year.
As for me, I'm still not totally sold on the idea of the Chase for the Cup. If I'm in charge of marketing for Budweiser, which is the primary sponsor for Kasey Kahne's Dodge, or AAA, which is David Ragan's sponsor, I would be very much against the idea of the Chase. No matter what these two drivers do for the rest of the season, short of winning multiple races, these sponsors have to know that they will not be in the spot light for the rest of the season.
NASCAR keeps tinkering with the Chase format, and I expect further changes once again next year. In my belief, however, I think it's time for NASCAR to quit tinkering and just let the drivers race.