I know I have been away for a while, but I don't believe in blogging for the purpose of blogging. When you have something you want to talk about then you talk about it... So now that I want to talk about the Chase here we go.
This season has been a unique one. We have a defending champion determined to fight for his crown, a single car team having the year of a lifetime, and a legend in his last season running sub-par. The Chase is just 11 races away which means that Daytona marks 'the chase to the chase'. After the first 15 races, 10 drivers have qualified for the Chase including: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, and Carl Edwards.
This leaves just 6 spots remaining for the Chase field. Honestly I believe at most we will see 3 new winners (and that's a stretch) before the Chase arrives. So with that being said I want to talk about who I believe are the 3 drivers most likely to win their way into the Chase, and the 3 drivers with the best chance to point their way in. While deciding on drivers I will take into account how they have ran thus far in 2015, and the quality of the driver as a whole. I will also pick a 4th driver in both categories as a wild card. Now, lets get started!
TOP 3 DRIVERS I BELIEVE CAN WIN THEIR WAY IN:
1) Kyle Busch: I know many will disagree, but it is the perfect story line. Put one of the best drivers in the garage in against the wall, and watch him thrive. I know this will be no easy task, considering he would still have to average an 11th place finish, but I still would not be surprised to see this happen. I know it is a stretch, but if I am purely looking at winning your way in, he is the driver I could see winning soon. You also have to consider some of the tracks ahead. Kentucky, both road courses, and who can forget how dominant he use to be at Bristol.
2) Jeff Gordon: Gordon is a legend, and has struggled this season. It honestly seems like the #24 team just isn't clicking this year, but with his experience and talent you have to throw the 4-time champion on the list of drivers most likely to get a win before the Chase. Tracks like Sonoma, Daytona, Michigan, and Darlington are places Gordon has thrived, so he may still have a few bullets in the gun left.
3) Aj Allmendinger: Allmendinger simply makes the list due to both road races being in the next 7 weeks. Allmendinger cashed in at Watkins Glen in 2014, and has already scored the pole for the race in Sonoma. Allmendinger has two shots, and two HUGE shots to get his #47 in victory lane.
Aj Allmendinger wins at Watkins Glen in 2014
WILD CARD: Kyle Larson. I know his performance has been disappointing in 2014, but we are all use the sophomore slump in the Cup series. Larson has been sub-par with an 18.4 average finish, but still is talented to win on any given weekend. Everyone is still waiting for the young kid to get his first win, and honestly it could happen at any track. Just think if he could have stretched the fuel another 3 laps at Michigan he would have already gaurenteed himself in the 16 driver post season.
DRIVERS WITH BEST CHANCE TO POINT THEIR WAY IN:
1) Kasey Kahne: Kahne is currently 9th in points, and is the 2nd highest non-winning driver thus far. Kahne has averaged a 14.5 finish through 15 races, and running like that will probably keep him in contention considering his competition. Kahne has not run strong enough for me to believe he will win, but he is still a solid enough driver to point his way in for chance to win the Sprint Cup.
2) Jamie McMurray: McMurray has had a quietly solid season. Everyone expected Kyle Larson to easily be the best driver at Ganassi, but Jamie Mac has proven he still can run up front. McMurray has 7 top-10's thus far and continues to show decent speed every week. McMurray does have Daytona coming up next weekend, but other than that I don't believe the 1 car will have a solid chance to find victory lane, and Daytona is no guarantee so he is more likely to point his way in.
3) Ryan Newman: Newman started off the season just the way he ended it. Win-less but consistent. In the first 10 races Newman scored 6 top-10's and 3 top-5's, but has lost ground the last few weeks by finishing 18th, 39th, and 18th, the last three weeks. Though he has had a rough month of June, Newman's experience can push him past the competition. The 31 team can easily finish in the top 10 any week, which leads to solid point days. Newman still makes my list due to consistency over the last year and a half.
WILD CARD: Paul Menard. Menard is my favorite driver, but without being bias I do believe Menard is the wild card for this category. He almost made 3rd on my list, but Newman is a better driver and Menard usually has a rough summer. Menard has averaged a 16th place finish through 15 events, and flirts with the top-10 almost every week. Tracks like Daytona, Kentucky, Michigan, and Indy give Menard a handful of chances to sneak in some top-10 runs. This could be one of Menard's more consistent seasons, and could finally lead to him making the Chase for the first time in his career.
Well, there you have it. These are the drivers I believe have the best chance to win or point their way into the Chase. I know many will probably disagree with my picks, so I want to know who your top 3 is in both categories!!!