For the last few weeks, many have focused solely on the No. 18 car of Kyle Busch and his ability to score three wins in the last four races. For the purpose of this article, I will expand that to three wins in the last six races and look at the top five points scoring drivers in the Sprint Cup Series.
This one statistic seems to project the top performers for the immediate future, and at this point in the season, you are only as good as your next seven races.
The driver who has outscored all others over the last six races is Matt Kenseth (two top 5’s, five top 10’s). His 888 points for the last six races surpasses all others, and has catapulted him into eighth place in the standings.
With Kenseth finding his stride with his new crew chief, I look for him to surprise a lot of us in the coming weeks with a couple of wins. He should make a strong run at the championship once we get to the Chase.
Second on the list for the last six races is Brian Vickers (two top 5’s, three top 10’s). He has scored 861 points, rising to a respectable 14th place in the rankings.
This stat for Vickers might be the most impressive of all, considering his dismal 37th-place points finish in 2007. With the reality that Red Bull Racing is figuring this NASCAR thing out, I look for Brian to complete his charge into the top 12.
I don’t see him challenging for the championship this year, but they will be ecstatic for such a strong finish. Look out in 2009, because this Red Bull team is starting to grow wings.
Third on the list is Jimmie Johnson (one top 5, four top 10’s). He has scored 850 points over the last six races. While I don’t particularly care for Johnson, you have to respect him for his ability to gather points when it counts.
He could easily go on another tear like he did in 2007 and rack up a lot of wins in a hurry, but I think the mojo once held by Jimmie and Chad has faded. Jimmie got beaten head-to-head for the first time in a long time last weekend.
That will play with his head for the next several races. He is a lock for the Chase, but I don’t see him getting higher than third in the finishing order.
Fourth is Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one win, two top 5’s, three top 10’s). Jr. has scored 840 points over the last six races, including a win.
Dale Jr. has drastically improved his consistency early this year. Despite having so many good finishes, it is hard to tell if Jr. can make things happen when the time comes. He is safely in the Chase at this point, yet it appears he is still points racing on a weekly basis.
With the vast resources of Hendrick Motorsports pushing him along, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jr. break out and win a few more races. Even then, I think it will be hard for Jr. to step up and win his first championship this year.
If he remembers how to step up and win like his good old days in the Busch Series, he can have it all several times over. Until then, which at the earliest will be in 2009, Jr. will fall into the finishing order only in the top 5.
Fifth on the top 5 of the last six is none other than Kyle Busch (three wins, three top 5’s, three top 10’s). He has managed 831 points over the last six races. Nobody has seen this Kyle Busch before in any of the NASCAR series.
We have never seen him win this often; more importantly, we have never seen him race for a championship. Between now and the Chase, Kyle will be covered solely on his chance to win 13 races this season. That, however, is not as important as his performance during the Chase. Can he do it?
If Steve Addington and Kyle Busch can continue their current tear throughout the Chase, the King's record will fall. Standing in his way will be the other drivers mentioned here, as well as 38 others who each want to steal the limelight for a week.
Also in his way are so many Kyle Busch haters, who converted from Jeff Gordon haters because he now has a wife and a kid, and because Jr. is his teammate. They will put increased pressure on every other driver to spin Kyle out each week. The only thing is…they won’t!
Personally I would bet it all on the No. 18. I think the Chase will end something like this:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Carl Edwards
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Jeff Burton
8. Greg Biffle
9. Brian Vickers
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Tony Stewart
12. Denny Hamlin
Only time will tell. The sure bet is I will catch it all behind either a NOS or a Coors Light (since I don’t like foreign beers like BUD), and I will probably be chewing on a bag of M&M’s.
The only Amp’s will be from the Interstate Battery in my Chevrolet (can only take it so far). However, if GM pulls NASCAR sponsorship, I will be making a brand change in that department as well.
See y'all next time, and thanks for reading! Leave a comment!