After Week One of the Chase, we’re off to New Hampshire for Week two. So, just as Tony Stewart started last year’s Chase with two straight victories on the way to the title, the question will now be if Brad Keselowski can do the same thing. The only two times that drivers have won the first two races of the Chase were in 2004, by Kurt Busch, and Stewart last year. Busch and Stewart each won the Chase in those years.
Top 5 Picks
1) Jimmie Johnson – He finished second at Chicagoland while dominating much of the race. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him dominate and win in Loudon, where he has three victories.
2) Tony Stewart – He has three wins and 10 top 5s here, so this is an easy pick.
3) Clint Bowyer – If he wants to be considered a serious contender for the title, this is one of the places he needs to win at. He has two victories and three top 5s in 13 races at Loudon.
4) Denny Hamlin – He had been running so well before Chicagoland, which has never been a great track for him. Hamlin, one of the favorites coming into the Chase, needs a win to get all the way back to the front here. He has a win and six top-5 finishes in 13 races at New Hampshire.
5) Ryan Newman – He’s not a Chaser but he’s usually a factor in the outcome at New Hampshire. In the last five races there he has a win and three top-10 finishes.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda – A couple of guys I like, but couldn’t pick were Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne. Gordon has an average finish of 6.2 in the last five races there, but no wins. Kahne also has a win there and is a dangerous, too.
Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared in Week 1 of the Chase at Chicagoland.
Tony Stewart – 6th. He had a pretty good day considering he started back in 28th.
Denny Hamlin – 16th. He was set to finish ninth before running out of gas on the last lap. That could be some crucial points lost later in the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson – 2nd. Continued to be a driver who can dominate much of the race, leading 202 laps this time, but not win at Chicagoland.
Jeff Gordon – 35th. He was running fourth when his throttle stuck and stuck him into the wall.
Kevin Harvick – 12th. Not a bad finish, but was never really a factor on track that he has generally been good at. So one has to wonder if he will be a factor at all during the Chase.
43 Top 5s
60 Top 10s
Grade for the week: C. Johnson could have easily won this race, but as he said, Keselowski was just better at the end. Gordon may have been a contender too had he not found the wall. No matter, we need winners here. That’s what matters in the Chase.
One last thing: Seven drivers have 10 or more top-5 finishes this season, and they are each in the Chase, led by Jimmie Johnson’s 13. Kevin Harvick has the least amount of top-5 results among Chase drivers this season with four.