With two victories, a pair of seconds and four top-five finishes, top Chase seeds Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson have confirmed their status of NASCAR’s postseason elite.
But is this year’s Chase already a three-driver shootout?
Roush Fenway Racing veterans Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle – both with runner-up championship finishes on their resumes – say absolutely not.
Edwards stands fourth, 36 points behind Kenseth. Biffle, who finished a solid third last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is two points further back in fifth. The top-five teams represent all three NASCAR Sprint Cup Gen-6 manufacturers: two Toyota Camrys, a pair of Ford Fusions and a Chevrolet SS.
Kenseth’s advantage over the Roush Fenway pair is nearly a race worth of points. But the ebb and flow of past Chases suggest the lead is hardly a safe one. Example: In 2006, Johnson trailed by 136 points after the Chase’s second race – roughly a 32-point deficit under the current system – and rallied to win his first of five consecutive championships.
Biffle can speak to that. He’s been there and – unfortunately – done that.
“I’ve won the first two Chase races before and then didn’t win the championship,” he said, referencing the 2008 season in which he ultimately finished third. “Anything can happen.”
Biffle, a NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck champion, continues his pursuit of an unprecedented sweep of NASCAR’s three national series.
Edwards, who failed to qualify for last year’s Chase, finished second in 2008 and lost the 2011 title to Tony Stewart on the first championship tie-breaker in NASCAR premier series history. He won the regular season finale at Richmond and finished ninth in New Hampshire, 11th in the Chase opener.
RFR co-owner Jack Roush is optimistic the team’s Fords can challenge the current leaders – especially if they dodge some of the uncontrollable issues the team has faced in 2013. “I think there’s a very good chance that the kind of things that have happened to us in the recent past with bad luck that we couldn’t control, if those things visit the 18 (Busch) and the 20 (Kenseth) in one race, then we could be right back in it,” Roush said.