While all the NASCAR media pundits and fans are tracking this year's Chase Field as they head to Kansas Speedway, some of us fans are also keeping an eye on the drivers who I call the "Homers." They're the drivers who don't have top equipment or simply don't have the win factor in them.
They could be "homers" for a variety of reasons, but the point is, they help set the field of 43 and give other fans a reason to be at the track or to support them at home. Small time to big time corporations get a chance to be an automobile billboard at destinations across the continental USA.
Now, just as the Chasers are, "The Homers" are dedicated drivers who try to bring home at least a top 25 finish. These guys drive for the intermediate to small time teams, either formed in this decade or once dominant single car teams now relegated to the status of irrelevancy.
It's been going on for years, as it is in any sport with those who have it and those who don't. Competition wise, the gap between the two has closed in somewhat compared to the fields of ten years ago.
Still, you have to wonder (and wonder why I'm so fascinated by a race for the top 35), while the Roush Fenway brigade does battle with the Hendrick contingency and Childress trio, isn't there other racing going on in the field?
Well indeed there is, NASCAR fans, indeed there is!
Call me foolish, but the race to be for the top 35 in owner's points is quite an interesting struggle that pits the teams of Dave Blaney, Scott Riggs, AJ Allmendinger/Scott Speed, Robby Gordon, Michael McDowell, and Sam Hornish against each other.
The "hooligan's race" for the Top 35 is as important to these teams as the Chase is for the super teams. It boils down to three things: job security, sponsors staying put, and a sure fire spot in the field for the first five races of next year.
Robby Gordon, who's barely holding on to the 35th spot, only has an eight point buffer between himself and McDowell. Not too far from either is Hornish.
Gordon has endured a tumultuous season with the merger that never was with Gillett Evernham. McDowell's fortunate to even have a fighting chance to go for the top 35 in his crash course in Stock Car Racing, while Hornish, while showing flashes of brilliance at times, will push his car over the edge at times.
In a race that has a wily veteran, a consistently inconsistent rookie, and a wild card looking for a reservation to asphalt paradise from Daytona Beach to Bristol in 2009, it's hard to say who truly has the upper hand.
While Gordon has been here before, McDowell has at times been decent enough to grab a top 25 finish, and Hornish has found some comfort on the one-and-a-half mile tracks.
Who do you think will garner the somewhat honorable title of "Last Driver Standing?"
If you ask me, the advantage, right now, belongs to Robby Gordon. If he keeps his temper in check and focuses on taking spots cleanly on the track, he's a surefire lock for the top 35. He's not known as the sport's most tenacious and most fired up owner/driver for kicks.
With seven races to go, sheet metal is sure to be torn up and tempers will definitely be on the rise with these "Homers." These remaining teams and drivers are all not just going for points, but for wins, if possible, to spoil the Top 12.
The Chase might be the dominant story of NASCAR heading into this weekend, but the LDS is surely shaping up to be a tense, yet under the radar story for the rest of 2008.
Because as the Simple Minds song, goes, "Don't You Forget About Me."
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