When the green flag flies Sept. 29 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del., some NASCAR fans might think the Chase for the Sprint Cup is already determined in only two of 10 races with the third race about to roll.
Leader Matt Kenseth has won the first two Chase races and teammate Kyle Bush is running a strong second. They appear invincible to some.
Granted, the bottom four drivers are down at least 48 points and are a race away already. The next four drivers up the point ladder are better off, but not by much. Even the top five drivers seem well-separated by double-digits.
Kenseth and Busch may continue to dominate if they have reliable mechanical performance and good crash luck going forward. That would seal their good fate.
That word "if" is always briefly spelled, but it's a tiny word that can produce hefty consequences.
Only one fact remains solid at this point. This Chase playoff is far from over.
Popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. explained.
“There is a lot of racing left,” Earnhardt said. “There are eight races—that's a lot of racing and a lot of potential for good luck and bad luck to be shared by everybody. Nobody's immune to someone else's mistake.”
Earnhardt also commented on Matt Kenseth's strong situation.
"Something could happen to those guys," he said. "That's why everybody in the series just continues to work hard because you don't know what's going to happen. Fortune or misfortune could be around the corner."
The leader, Matt Kenseth, heartily agreed with Earnhardt even though he may not have been aware of his comments.
"I know it’s kind of cliche, but it really is one week at a time—especially right now," Kenseth said. "Two whole months and eight weeks of racing is a lot of racing, and in this system, one bad finish and you’re behind."
Kyle Busch appeared to be on the same page even though they weren't talking to one another.
"I don’t think you do anything differently than you've done all year long," Busch said. "If you can unload and just hit it and be on it and get going, then that’s a better way to win each weekend. You've still got to work hard and persevere. It’s eight more weeks.”
Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson certainly has the required experience for NASCAR’s playoffs. Typically, Johnson kept his focus on productive behavior.
"I’m really looking forward to Dover," Johnson said. "It is one of my favorite tracks. This Lowe"s team has had a consistent start to the Chase and I expect more of the same this weekend in Dover."
Carl Edwards is in fourth place and yearns to move up. Like other top drivers, he shared his take on the remaining racing in Chase territory.
"This is grueling track, it's a tough place, it's very fast, it's hard on equipment, it's hard on the driver," Edwards said. "We'd love to get in victory lane and close that gap on Matt Kenseth and those guys in the top three positions. Eight races to go, a lot of racing left."
Greg Biffle and team are not running first like Kenseth, but they bring momentum with them as well. Biffle commented confidently.
"You have to be on your toes at Dover," Biffle said. "We're running a lot better on these short tracks and coming off a third-place finish last week, I think we are going to be really good at Dover this weekend."
Kevin Harvick is taking his present sponsors, Budweiser and Jimmy Johns, to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. Harvick hasn't let up at all and produced top finishes after Budweiser announced they were following him to SHR in July. Jimmy Johns announced recently.
Harvick may be additionally buoyed by sponsor support, but he seems to always be competitive and tenacious. His recent words validated his intentions.
"Dover is always a fun track to go to," Harvick said. "You can be very aggressive in your driving style there compared to most other places. We'll go there this weekend and run as hard as we can just like we do every other weekend."
Race 29 on September 29 at Dover is not yet determined, but fast action is about to happen. That action is likely to have championship consequences.
Fans without tickets for one of the 135,000 seats that overlook the one-mile oval track with 24-degree banking can catch the action on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.