I find it funny how we can be in the middle of an unprecedented run by one driver at a 5th consecutive championship, and halfway through that run no one is talking about the chase.Ã‚Â Heading into Martinsville this week here’s what has been in the news.
This week in NASCAR it was all about who’s moving where and Kasey Khane’s sudden illness that also miraculously disappeared in time for him to run his inaugural 5K run the next day. It was about Marcos Ambrose wanting out of his contract early to move into Kahne’s spot. It was about what is happening to the team who bears the biggest name in this sport (Richard Petty Motorsports). It was about everything BUT the chase for the 2010 Sprint Cup Championship.Ã‚Â Yup you guessed it…. we’re in the middle of “Silly Season” in the NASCAR Garage.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do find all of those things interesting, but I find it even more interesting that in a season where the NASCAR officials decided to let the boys “Have At It” that as we draw towards the end of the season we have such low interest by both the fans and the media that there’s a guy waiting to make history and 3 other guys trying to stop him.
Although there was a little mention about how it seems to be a 3 way horse race now with Jeff Gordon sitting just on the edge of being a viable contender and Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch tied for 5th place. Denny Hamlin sits 41 points behind Jimmie Johnson and has the ability and the history at the remaining tracks to get the job done and unseat the reigning champ. And yet, he is more concerned with Kevin Harvick breathing down his neck than he is about catching Jimmie.
“One thing I can tell you is that the difference between me and Jimmie is a lot larger than the difference between me and Harvick,” Hamlin said. “He could be past me with five positions or something like that in one race.
“This is by no means just between me and Jimmie, I don’t feel like. I feel like he’s showed enough consistency through the whole year that I considered him the favorite this whole Chase and we’re only five races in and he’s still right there. It’s not me versus Jimmie, but like that commercial says, ‘it’s me versus myself.”
But let’s not count Jeff Gordon completely out just yet. Although he is sitting in 4th in the points he could also be the spoiler to this whole chase thing. Coming into Martinsville fourth in the standings and he’s a seven-time Martinsville winner — though his last win at the track came when he swept both Cup events in 2005. More significantly, Gordon is riding a string of 15 consecutive top-10 finishes at Martinsville — with only two of them being outside the top five. His team has compiled enough data to know what changes to make and when to make them so that Gordon will have the car he likes under him by the end of the race. He may just be the dark horse that everyone is overlooking. Yet Gordon himself seems to be lacking the confidence he needs to get there.
“Yeah, unless some major things happen I think we’re [out of it],” Gordon said. “I know it’s not something that I’m thinking about. We’re approaching the races the same way — it doesn’t change how we do that — but I can’t say that we’ve got this weight on our shoulders of the pressure of a championship. I feel like in some ways, that’s been taken off of us because I think we’re too many points back.”
So as we move into Martinsville let see how it all plays out. We still have the Talledega “Wild Card” coming up where anything can happen, and usually does. Who know’s where the chase is heading…. all I know is I want to be there at the end after having enjoyed a very exciting 2010 season.