It's 10 races over the course of three months to decide one champion. The Chase has always been the part of the season where the drivers who are in it have to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
The schedule includes all aspects of NASCAR with the exception of a road course. Most of the teams will circle Talladega as the big "what if" of the Chase. That's normal because of how they have to race at that track, and no one knows how it will end.
But in reality the track that everyone needs to worry about is this weekend.
Yes, Dover is the track that every Chase contender really circles on the schedule as being a key race. But why?
It's simple. This track is just as unpredictable as Talladega, and has always determined who will be the contenders and who will fall out of the title hunt.
The last two years have shown that.
In 2008, the Roush-Fenway cars of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards each had great runs at the "Monster Mile" and nearly won the title because of it. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch fell out of contention because of a blown motor, his second consecutive DNF in the Chase.
Last year, Jimmie Johnson won his first race of the Chase, and went on to dominate the Chase and captured his fourth consecutive title.
This year, Dover could be the deciding factor in the Chase more than any in the past. The reason being, the field is wide open.
Look at Busch, who won here in May. This season he's been strong and has been dominant on the shorter tracks. Plus, when it comes to the concrete tracks, he has won all but two at either Dover or Bristol the last two seasons.
Johnson as well will look to get his Chase season rolling at Dover. He won here last year, who says he can't repeat?
Then, you have Clint Bowyer. He and his No. 33 team were riding high after dominating New Hampshire. They jumped from 12th to second in the standings with their first win of the season. But then it all fell apart.
Yesterday, NASCAR penalized the team 150 driver and owner points and suspended the team's crew chief and car chief for six weeks, because NASCAR discovered the car was tampered with.
The rear end of the car was just outside of mandated measurements, and by barely, we are speaking of sixty thousandths of an inch.
Is it possible for Bowyer to rebound?
If he does, he needs to at this track because he now finds himself back in 12th position in the Chase standings. Dover has shown to be unpredictable each time NASCAR comes to town, so Bowyer and company could be the spoilers in all the fun.
New Hampshire may have been the start to the Chase, and Talladega may be the "lotto" of these last 10 races, but Dover has been a huge deciding factor in the Chase the last few years.
In order to become champion, one must for sure survive the "Monster Mile."
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