With three of the 10 races that make up the Chase now in the record books it is starting to look like Brad Keselowski hopes to use Tony Stewart’s blueprint for success to win this year’s title. Last season all Tony did was go winless during the first 26 races of the season, but won his third Sprint Cup championship by visiting victory lane in five of the 10 Chase races.
Unlike Stewart, Keselowski entered this year’s Chase with three wins, but wasted very little time taking that total to five as he has won two of the first three Chase races. Sunday’s win at Dover ties him with Denny Hamlin for the series lead in wins, but more importantly moved him into first place in the standings with a slim five-point lead over Jimmie Johnson.
There may not be as unusual a race in the Chase as what we saw on Sunday as a couple of untimely caution flags caused the majority of the field to go at least one lap down early in the event. The cars that were fortunate enough to stay on the lead lap soon found themselves in a fuel mileage race with Keselowski and runner-up Jeff Gordon the only two drivers at the end that were able to race without having to conserve fuel in the final laps.
Dover, as it has done in previous Chases, proved once again to be the first stop on the 10-race schedule that may have eliminated a couple of drivers from being a threat to win the title. This time the one-mile, all concrete track broke the hearts of Roush-Fenway Racing as Greg Biffle finished 16th and teammate Matt Kenseth limped home 35th. Those finishes now have Biffle in 11th place, 51 points behind leader Keselowski, while Kenseth finds himself in 12th, trailing the leader by 72 points.
Only six of the 12 Chase drivers finished in the top 10 and it could be that this week that number could be even smaller as the schedule makes its second stop of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. This is definitely what you would call one of the wild card tracks on the Chase schedule as the use of the restrictor plates often produces at least one of what is referred to as the “big one,” which can easily involve more than a dozen drivers.
This is the first time in the Chase that Dover and Talladega have come back to back on the schedule. Talladega is usually later on the schedule, but this season Talladega switched its fall date with Kansas so that track could complete a repaving project that didn’t start until after its first race this season. Both tracks are owned by Speedway Motorsports, so the move was easily made by NASCAR, and next year the two races will revert to their original spots on the schedule.
TESTING UPDATE: It has not been that many years ago that teams that competed in the Sprint Cup Series were free to test as much as they wanted to both in and out of season. NASCAR decided that some of the better-funded teams had an advantage because they were testing at just about every track that hosted a Sprint Cup race. The sanctioning body began to limit the number of tests that teams could have during the year at tracks that host Cup events. The better-funded teams got around that by testing at tracks that don’t host Cup races but do play host to nationwide events. Since teams that had the money were still doing a lot of testing during the season, NASCAR changed the rule so that it eventually prohibited any testing at tracks that host any of the three major NASCAR series. The only exception to that rule is the annual January testing that takes place for the Cup Series at Daytona where every team shows up for several days of testing their restrictor plate programs. All of that will change next season as NASCAR has announced that it will begin allowing Cup organizations, regardless of how many teams they field, to conduct four tests besides the Daytona test at any of the NASCAR-sanctioned tracks that now play host to either the Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series. Each organization is free to pick both the track and the time of year that it wants to hold its test and the general thinking is that most organizations will want to hold on to a couple of test dates for later on when the Chase is underway.
Event: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
(2.66 mile tri-oval, 33 degrees of
banking in the turns)
Date: Oct. 7, 2 p.m.
Defending Champion: Clint