The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is the longest season in major professional sports. So, no driver or team is out of the championship hunt. Even drivers like Tony Stewart, who currently sits 22nd in the standings, can make a midseason push towards the Chase.
However, six races are complete, and everyone has a general understanding of where each driver and team stands. The Cup Series has now run a race at every style of track outside of road courses. Hendrick Motorsports has the season sweep on short tracks with wins from Kasey Kahne at Bristol and Jimmie Johnson last Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing appears to have a handle on the intermediate tracks with wins from Kyle Busch at Fontana and Matt Kenseth at Las Vegas.
Johnson leads the Sprint Cup Series in wins through six races, with one win at the Daytona 500 and another Sunday at Martinsville. It makes sense that he sits atop the point standings. This season looks no different than any other season for Johnson and the number 48 team. Right now, the only practical way for Johnson to not contend for a championship is if he has a disastrous summer that features wrecks and mechanical failures.
At this point in the season, there is no reason to question Jimmie Johnson. He’s never missed the Chase, and this year should be no different.
Another weekend finished means another solid run for the “Blue Deuce.” Keselowski has yet to win a race this season but consistency allows Keselowski to run up front on a weekly basis. Through six races, Keselowski has five top-10 and four top-five finishes.
Even if Brad fails to win a race until the Chase, which seems unlikely, his consistency will allow him to run up front all season long and have a chance to defend his 2012 championship when this season’s Chase begins in September.
Look for Keselowski to record his first victory this season during April or May. He already has a win at Kansas and always runs well at Darlington. As long as he continues to run in the top 10, there should be no questions regarding Keselowski’s championship hopes.
NASCAR’s most popular driver did not have the performance at Martinsville that many were hoping and predicting for. Junior dropped two spots in the standings due to his 24th-place finish at the half-mile, paper-clip-shaped oval.
Despite a poor performance at Martinsville, Earnhardt has a good chance to get back on track. He is one of NASCAR’s most consistent drivers so far this season with five top 10s and three top fives through six races.
That consistency will allow Junior to stay in the hunt for his first championship, but he will eventually have to prove that he can make his way to Victory Lane.
Earnhardt Jr. is not as familiar with Victory Lane as the other contenders. If he wants to contend with the likes of Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, he’ll need more than just one victory.
Busch is one of the most talented drivers on the Cup Series lineup. Therefore, many folks were surprised when “Rowdy” found a way to miss the Chase in 2012.
Despite last season’s disappointments, Busch is starting this season off with consistency and composure. Composure was never his best trait, but this year seems different. He is not racing too aggressively, which allows for clean races and good finishes.
Instead of getting himself tangled up in Joey Logano's and Denny Hamlin’s accident at Fontana, Busch drove conservatively on the final lap and flew past Hamlin and Logano for his first win of the 2013 Sprint Cup season.
If Busch can continue running in the top five almost every weekend, then this year might be the best opportunity for Busch to win his first championship. Sometimes racing for points is the better option.
Kahne is another example of consistency in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He never drives too aggressively, which allows him to stay in the hunt for every single race. That characteristic led to a strong start. Kahne won at Bristol and has three top fives in the first six races.
Expect Kasey Kahne to stay in the top five of the point standings all year long simply due to his team, Hendrick Motorsports, and his driving style. Kahne’s formula is perfect for points racing which means it is perfect for making the Chase and contending for the championship.