The Chase for the Sprint Cup is NASCAR’s version of a playoff system. When the checkered flag flies at Richmond, the top 12 drivers in points officially become championship contenders. Drivers outside the top 12 are left to watch their championship hopes decompose in the NASCAR point’s landfill.
Championship hopes actually start at Daytona. Each year teams arrive with a renewed hope of a good season and their driver having a shot at being the NASCAR champion.
Much like New Hampshire, Daytona signals the beginning of the end for those hopes and dreams.
It doesn’t take long to sort out the haves from the have-nots. Some teams start the season off with a bad run, but bounce back and find their spot in the standings. Others start off bad and never recover.
Kasey Kahne started off bad at New Hampshire. An engine failure on lap 66 handed Kahne his first DNF of the season.
Heading to Dover, things don’t look to get any better for the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge.
Arguably his worst track, Kahne has five DNF's, an average finish of 24.1, and has only cracked the top 10 twice in 11 tries.
Adding more duress to the situation is problem’s going on internally at Richard Petty Motorsports.
An announcement was made just before the Richmond race that RPM and Yates Racing had committed on paper to merge. Since that time, there has been an exodus of managers and employees from RPM. Most noticeably, those working in the engine shop.
In 2006 Jimmie Johnson entered Dover 139 points behind the leader, and went on to win his first of three championships.
It is possible that Kahne, 161 points behind, can still rebound from all these distractions and quite possibly repeat what Johnson did.
It’s possible, but not likely.
First of all, Kenny Francis can only control what is done to the car once it’s unloaded from the hauler. The ineptitude of quality from inside the RPM organization is quite possibly beyond his control.
Second, Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis have proven they can win, but they are not Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, and have no where near the resources of the Hendricks organization.
Finally, three of the drivers ahead of Kahne in the standings are multiple championship winners. It is possible that one, or even two of them may falter in one or two of the final nine races, but highly unlikely all three would.