Joe Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin took the top seat away from Johnson by winning Saturday Night’s Richmond race, winning 6 races so far this season. But will Hamlin find the consistency in this chase that he has lacked in previous years? Hamlin has no problems winning races, but he has had problems finishing races, with engine problems taking him out in Atlanta. He also had the same problems in last year’s chase, being the favorite going in, but fading in the chase due to engine problems and DNFs.
Fellow Joe Gibbs driver Kyle Busch is in the same boat. He has showed that he can win races, but can he be consistent enough in the 10 race chase to win the championship?
The comeback of the year award should go to Richard Childress Racing. Last year, none of their drivers made the chase, this year all three drivers, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer, clinched spots.
The favorite driver out of this stable would be Kevin Harvick, seated third and winner of three races so far this season. RCR engines have dominated this year and the communication problems of the past seem to be forgotten. Harvick lead the points since April, with only 1 DNF. With consistency on his side, this could be his year.
Clint Bowyer is another one to watch, and could be a nice fantasy racing sleeper. Bowyer is seated 12th with no wins, but a few years ago he started in the same place and won 2 races including this week’s Chase Opener at New Hampshire.
Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and Carl Edwards have also shown promise in the last few weeks, with Stewart winning his first race of the season a few weeks ago at Atlanta and Busch dominating the mile-in-half tracks this year. Carl Edwards is still looking for his first win this season but he and fellow Rousch-Fenway teams Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle are showing some promise in the ford engine department.
Finally there are Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has showed promise with five wins this season, but he has had handling problems as well as 4 DNFs this season, something he hasn’t showed in previous chase years. The 48 has the ability to win their 5th championship, but they need an error free and consistent chase. Gordon is a long shot, but he is a four time champ. With this team being on the brink of wins this season, he could be the surprise of the chase, but the 24 needs to win and overcome the 6o point deficit.
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