OK - we're a few days removed from the events at Richmond, the resulting NASCAR investigations and the announced penalties. Everyone has had a chance to take a few breaths, digest what they saw and react to how much justice was served with NASCAR's reaction.
Is it completely right? No. Will it ever be? Probably not. However, some truly newsworthy stories have been overshadowed this week with all of the attention elsewhere, and that's unfortunate. Some of what we SHOULD be talking about follows:
- Jimmie Johnson is attempting to win his 6th championship in 8 years. Like him or not, that's remarkable. We're watching history evolve before our eyes. He and crew chief Chad Knaus are arguably the strongest partnership in the garage, and they always seem to elevate their game at this time each year. If they can erase the awful luck they've had since the second Pocono date at the beginning of August, this championship still goes through the 48.
- Kyle Busch also seems ready. He has been in the Chase before and just not shown up. However, he seems calmer, more focused and more humble this year. I believe this can be attributed to his teammate, Matt Kenseth. If Joe Gibbs' Racing (JGR) can find some consistent reliability from Toyota's motors, their preparation is second-to-none. If the equipment is as steady as he now seems to be, don't take your eye off of the 18.
- Kevin Harvick is a sleeper. He's quietly consistent, and that's what has gotten him this far. I think his relationship with Richard Childress is still on good terms, even though he is leaving for Stewart-Hass Racing (SHR) next year. He would like nothing more than to reward his car owner with a championship on the way out.
- Kurt Busch's remarkable consistency is also what has gotten him into the Chase this year, and I've said all summer that his team is on the verge of winning, and I still believe so. What I really like about the 78 is that success seems to fuel them even more. They were a mid-pack team in the past who approached 2013 with increased focus and vigor, and now they're a top-10 team just about every week. Now that they're top-10, they'll soon be top-5 each race. Once they win, they will win some more. This could well be the team that goes on a Tony Stewart-esque tear these next 10 races, rattles off 3-4 wins, maintains their consistency when they don't win and hoists a Sprint Cup trophy just before Thanksgiving in south Florida.
All Chase competitors are worthy of their position in it. Each can win on any given week. However, with respect to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, I think that the championship will be won by one of the four drivers named above. Good luck to each of them!