Well well well... the long season is slowly coming to an end. With only 4 races left in the 2015 season the championship will be decided soon! After the mayhem at Talladega was complete, 8 drivers walked away with a chance to leave Homestead as the champion. Among these 8 drivers, four are competing for their first title, while the other four combine for 7 championships. The 'elite 8' as I like to call it features a host of different personalities and fan favorites, leaving many true race fans on their feet for the final chase for the championship. In this post I want to look past the whole Talladega controversy, I am here to cover the drivers of the Eliminator 8 round. This blog will be similar to a post I published a few weeks ago talking about the final 12. I will give my opinion on what each driver needs to do to advance, and their chances to win a championship. Hope you enjoy the read, and as always let me know if you agree or disagree!! Let's get going!
1. Joey Logano: Round 2 Finishes: 1st, 1st, 1st
No one is hotter on the circuit than 25-year-old Joey Logano. Logano who has finally become the driver he was expected to be swept round 2 firmly putting his name at the top of the list of favorites to win the championship. Joey who has been considered a favorite all year has stepped his game up to another level over the last 3 weeks, but honestly I don't expect this to continue. Though Logano is inarguable the most consistent driver right now, I don't think this streak can continue on this strong. Drivers just don't win 4 or 5 races in a row. That being said Logano will continue to run up front and should make it to Homestead if he avoids major trouble. Logano has the speed to win the title, and he has been one of my final four picks from the beginning. For Logano his job is simple, keep running up front. He has every tool to win the title this year, now he needs to take advantage.
2. Carl Edwards: Round 2 Finishes: 6th, 8th, 5th
Cousin Carl is pulling his best Ryan Newman impression. Though Edwards unlike Newman did find victory lane during the regular season, Edwards is moving forward the classic way. Edwards who had a 6.33 average finish in round 2 is setting himself up nicely. I will admit I was wrong about this #19 team, I never pictured them going this far. Edwards who ran sub-par all season compared to his teammates is timing his consistency right. For Carl I think the formula is to keep doing what he did in round 2. I don't think this team is good enough to go out and dominate a race, but if they can still a W like the did in the regular season, he will be at Homestead with a chance. Edwards isn't known for his performance at Martinsville, but Texas and Pheonix give him a solid chance to make a run for a title. They say that you have to lose one to win one, and Edwards has lost two, so maybe the third time is indeed, the charm. I still don't consider him a favorite, but he has been proving me wrong all Chase long.
3. Jeff Gordon: Round 2 Finishes: 8th, 10th, 3rd
The drive for five is definitely still alive heading into Martinsville. The 4-time champion has some how managed to position himself into a championship contender. Though Gordon still needs to find more speed, he has managed to turn 15th place cars into top-10 rides. The first two races of round 2 summed up what makes Gordon one of the best drivers in the garage. Gordon should have started off with two runs outside of the top-15, but the wily veteran has continued to fight and get what he can get on-track. If Gordon can continue to make sub-par cars finish inside the top-10, he has a shot. My recipe for Gordon is that he needs to win Martinsville. I don't know if Gordon has the speed to compete with the Penske cars and the #4 team, so he needs to take care of business at a track that doesn't require you to have the fastest car. I think Martinsville is the best chance for Gordon to win, and remember how well he ran there in the spring. Gordon still has to prove to me he can win his fifth, but being a little bias, I hope he continues and wins it all!
4. Kurt Busch: Round 2 Finishes: 5th, 6th, 10th
The 2004 champion has quietly put himself into the second to last round. Kurt who no one has talked about for weeks has been covered more for his new sponsor in 2016, than his success in 2015. People need to remember that the #41 team is still in this thing and they still have speed. This team has kept their success quiet over the last three weeks, but now need to go to the next level. Kurt and his Haas Automation team don't have a hard road ahead in terms of what needs to happen to make it to Homestead. Busch needs to keep the consistency up and stay in thick of things. Kurt who has put together solid runs at Martinsville, Texas, and Pheonix, in the past is someone who needs to be paid attention too. This team still needs to impress me and separate themselves from the other 7 teams, but don't count them out.
Bad Brad as many call him is in one of the quietest years of his career. Still rolling off of one win early in the season, Keselowski and the #2 team need to find something to elevate their chances. Keselowski definitely has the talent, and if you look at his teammate, he definitely has the equipment. I am not sure what has been different about the #2 team, but it needs to change if they want a title. Some will wonder why I say that considering he has been solidly consistent, but I think he hasn't shown enough muscle. Keso only has 7 top-5's all season, and has only competed for the win a few times all year. I picked Keselowski to make my final-4 earlier in the season, but right now he needs to pick up the pace for my liking. Keselowski simply needs to turn top-10's into top-5's. Brad will need to strive for those few extra positions to get those oh so important points. Brad and crew chief Paul Wolfe need to take some notes from Logano and see what they can come up with. Of the tracks left, Texas sticks out to me as Keso's best chance to win, let's see if he can take advantage.
6. Martin Truex Jr.: Round 2 Finishes: 3rd, 15th, 7th
The little engine that could moves on into the 3rd round. Truex and the #78 have undoubtedly lost a little of the magic they had the first few months of the season, but they continue to move forward. Truex dodged a bullet with a rough day at Kansas, but rebounded with a solid finish at Talladega amongst the controversy. Analyzing the field I think Truex's days are numbered in the Chase, but hey I have been wrong before. This team needs to find the speed they once had if they want to move on to Homestead. Lucky for them the next three tracks are solid one's for this team if you pay any attention to how they ran there earlier in the season. In the spring Truex finished 6th at Martinsville, 9th at Texas, and 7th in Pheonix. Truex will need to replicate if not improve on these finishes if he wants the championship. The #78 team is not a winning team as of now, but if they can get some of the magic they had before they could be a real dark horse for the title. No matter what I think or what others think, Truex and company made it this far for a reason, let's see if this single car team can shock the world.
7. Kevin Harvick: Round 2 Finishes: 2nd, 16th, 15th
Regardless of how he did it and what happened at Talladega the 2014 champion is still a dog in this fight. Harvick who had one of his worst back-to-back performances of the season in round 2. Though the controversial 'big one' at Talladega is what many believe put Harvick in, the #4 team is still a team to beat. Harvick is strong at all of the remaining tracks, especially Pheonix. Harvick has found victory lane the last four times the Cup series raced at Pheonix, he is unquestionably the favorite. People will continue to say Logano is the best man in the Chase right now, but honestly I think Harvick is still better. To transfer on Harvick needs to avoid the trouble he has found the last couple weeks and get back to his consistent ways. Also, I won't be shocked if Harvick goes out and wins Pheonix, especially if his back is against the wall. This team is still in this; you can believe that whether you want to or not.
8. Kyle Busch: Round 2 Finishes: 20th, 5th, 11th
Busch has finally shown the patience to be successful in the Chase. I'll be the first one to tell you I was wrong about this team. Though he has had to claw his way through the first two rounds, Busch is still in the title hunt. I thought this team would have been eliminated by now, but they continue to show that this could be the year Busch takes his game to the next level. Though Rowdy hasn't been so rowdy since the summer, you never know what this team could pull off. Of the three tracks remaining I believe Texas will be his best chance to win, as long as Gibbs gives him the horses he needs to fight off Harvick and Logano. The secret for Busch to move forward is to keep his patience and keep pushing forward. Busch will need to show some more speed, but he has all the potential in the world. This will indeed be an interesting team to watch considering Busch has NEVER been in title contention this late in the season.
Well, thanks for reading, you all are awesome!! Really thankful that you all would take the time out of your day to read my silly opinion on things!!! Remember to follow me on Instagram: NASCAR OPINION & Twitter: nascar_opinion!! Have a great rest of your day!!