Championship Breakdown Part II
Sorry this is a little late…I did say Monday or Tuesday, right? Kidding aside, my laptop got a virus. Well, on to the breakdown.
Clint’s really stepped up. I never veiwed him as a contender, but after last year’s Chase, I’d be crazy not to consider him. Without the penalty, he would’ve been 5th and I think that the penalty got rid of something more important than points – momentum. Clint’s really stepped up, and this season’s been strong so far. After a horrid start, he has four straight top 10′s and two straight 2nd place finishes – and of course, Talladega was more or less a win, .002 seconds off P1. Clint will have a strong season and probably contend for the title.
I’ve been surprised with Menard. I’ve always been a huge critic, I’ve always maintained that he has no place in the sport, and I’ve always referred to him as ‘talentless.’ Well, Paul has proved me wrong. 11th in points, 2 top 5′s, 3 top 10′s, and a DNF. I’m not ready to jump on the “Menard For the Sprint Cup” bandwagon, and I’m not even sure he’ll make the Chase, but if he can continue with what he’s doing and keeps on improving, I think he’s a lock for the top 15 in points. Not to mention…Clint Bowyer attributed his turnaround this season, from the first 4 races to the last 4 races, to a setup the #33 team got from the #27.
I honestly don’t see Jeff contending for another championship, ever. He’s getting old and he’s starting to fade. Phoenix proved he still can get it done, but he’s been inconsistant. He’s only had 2 top 10′s since the win at Phoenix, and only 3 top 10′s this season, period. And it’s not like it’s just been unbelievable bad luck keeping him from the top 5. He’s only had one DNF. Jeff may just go crazy come Chase time and turn it around, but I honestly don’t see him doing much.
Mark has been pretty quiet this year. He’s been very consistant, always in the top 20, almost always in the top 15, but he hasn’t spent much time in the top 10 (3 top 10′s this year; 2 of those on restrictor plate tracks) and doesn’t have a single top 5, not to mention only one lap led. Especially after last year, I don’t see a championship for Mark. I don’t see a Chase, unless he improves. I do see a top 15 in points, but more than that? Sorry, Mark.
I was sure 2011 was going to be AJ’s breakout year. After how he ended last year, I was sure he’d make the Chase, win races, run consistantly top 10, etc. He hasn’t run as good as I thought he would, though. 4 laps led, 0 top 5′s, 3 top 10′s, 1 DNF. His results actually look pretty similar to Mark Martin, and if I don’t see a Chase appearence for Mark, how can I predict one for AJ? However, maybe because AJ is one of my favorite drivers, I think AJ can step it up, I think he can make the Chase, and although I don’t think he’s ready to contend for the title, I think he can get a good finish. AJ showed alot of muscle in the late stages of last year – remember Dover? – and if he can find that speed again, I think we’ll be seeing alot more of him in the top 10.
Greg’s quest to become the first driver to win championships in all three national touring series has hit a few road bumps recently (well, really, ever since he got to the Cup, but bear with me). His results the first three races were horrid; he’s been better the last 5, with 3 top 10′s and a 11th, but he’s still got some work – 16th in the points, 24 out of 10th. He’s shown he can rip off a few wins, so even if he doesn’t get the points, a wildcard is a possibility. But I just don’t see him contending for a title. Any driver who’s listed as a wildcard possibility is a question mark for the title, and Greg’s never really had the one year where’s he’s really shown he can win a title, other than 2005. If Greg ever does have “the year,” I don’t think this will be it.
Well, I’m clearly unbelievably biased, but I think that this year’s not been nearly as bad as everyone’s making out. Sure, 17th in points isn’t impressive. But consider his luck. Consider the inconceivable failure that is the Joe Gibbs Racing engine program. Denny hasn’t had bad performance; he’s just had bad luck. Once the racing gods stop frowning on Denny, he’ll jump into the Chase and cruise right to that championship.
Kasey’s actually been running really good, alot better than the points standings show. Like Denny, he’s had alot of bad luck – but not the bad luck as in damaged enough so you can’t run good, terrible race car, terrible engines, ill-timed cautions, etc., but the crashing kind of bad luck. Daytona. Martinsville. Talladega. When you count out those three, Texas has been the only race he hasn’t finished in the top 15, and three of the four races outside of ‘Tona, M’sville, and ‘Dega have been top 10′s. He’s still looking for his first top 5, he’s only led 10 laps, but he’s been performing good, he’s had fast cars, I think he’ll get up to the Chase by the time this is all said and done. I think he’ll contend for the championship. Win it, maybe not, but contend, probably. It all depends on his luck.
Martin Truex, Jr.
This is going to sound pretty familiar. His luck’s been bad. His performance has been good. 92 laps led, a best finish of 6th, but twice as many DNF’s as top 10′s. Once the racing gods decide they don’t hate Martin, he’ll get up there. I don’t see him contending for the championship, but it’s possible. Luck turns around, and the Chase is a lock.
Everything looked so promising after Daytona’s would’ve-could’ve-should’ve…but David has failed to follow up, with just one top 10 since the season opener. And the luck excuse? Despite 2 DNF’s, he hasn’t had the bad luck of Hamlin, Kahne, and Truex. If David can show the promise that appeared in the 500, he can possibly get up there. But I don’t see it happening. Top 20 in points, maybe, but other than that? Not a chance.