The other day, I posted the first half of my Chase predictions, who will finish twelfth through seventh. Turns out, not many people like it when you put NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver near the bottom of the totem pole. Oops.
Let’s see who I can upset this time around!
In this edition, I round out the top six. Each driver I list in this portion has a realistic chance to make something happen. They have shown me that this could be their year; even though it’s anyone’s game, some have a better chance than others through experience-or lack there of.
Cutting to The Chase (I couldn’t resist the bad pun, sorry), here is my predicted top six at the end of the season:
6. Clint Bowyer
He’s the liveliest driver in The Chase so far, cracking jokes about Jeff Gordon’s facial hair and being as outspoken as ever. People are watching Clint, winner of two races this year, including the deciding race at Richmond. He has a personality to die for, but I don’t think it’s his year. As good as Michael Waltrip Racing’s cars have been, I think Clint and his team can put together a consistent Chase.
5. Matt Kenseth
Quack! Matt is in a dilemma those in NASCAR typically call a Lame Duck situation. He’s leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season to fill the #20 at Joe Gibbs Racing. Of course, with that added pressure, who can win a championship?! I hope the NASCAR media understands that, for some, pressure is good. For Kenseth, that will help him make a strong case; his focus and sarcastic demeanor will use the constant Lame Duck chatter to his advantage. Stick that in your juice box and suck it, media downers.
4. Kasey Kahne
Speaking about pressure, here’s a driver who has a lot weighing on his shoulders. In his first year with Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne has overcome a brutal first seven races to win twice and grab a Wild Car berth. Many have their eyes on him for these races, and they should; at the end of last year, I knew Kasey would be true threat of the title. In last years Chase, he wasn’t eligible for the championship, but his run gained the third-most points. Him and Kenny Francis have notes after that resilient run with now-defunct Red Bull Racing, notes they can now use with top-tier equipment. Kahne’s able, you just wait and see.
3. Jimmie Johnson
“Oh my gosh, you’re not picking Five Time to win the championship! The world is ending!” Silly people, the world will end when Junior wins a Cup championship! (That was a joke, just so everyone knows.) Jimmie, as always, will put up a tough fight. With Chad Knaus in his stable, people will notice their dynamite chemistry in the end. However, it seems like Johnson is slipping under the radar this time around. Yeah, with three wins and five championships, that’s hard to believe. On the other hand, many are focused on a first-time champ or a shocking ending. There won’t be any twist; Jimmie and that #48 team will be up there making noise. Six pack, anyone?
2. & 1. Denny Hamlin/Brad Keselowski
Ding ding! Who’s ready to see two heavy-hitters battle it out, neither holding anything back?
In one corner, we got Denny Hamlin, the 2010 champion hopeful who suffered from the usual Post-Championship-Run-Letdown. This year, however, he has a secret weapon: Darian Grubb, last year’s champion crew chief. The successful duo have captured four wins and so much confidence. As a whole new person, Hamlin is looking for redemption, and he can certainly get it.
The other corner holds Brad Keselowski, the young gun who seems to drink and talk too much. Bringing new eyes to the sport, he has also brought more focus to the track. Him and Paul Wolfe make a crazy good pair, and it’s obvious Brad will do anything to win. Silencing a bit before these last ten races began, I expect Keselowski to put his Game Face on and show people Bad Brad knows how to seize a good opportunity.
Both of these guys have a serious chance at the main prize. Will it be one of them? Or will someone else shake things up?