Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven..........

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Well, there they are. A rather interesting field, all in all. Two rookies - Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher. Two not-that-far-from rookies - Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. One, a little iffy but made it in on points - Jamie McMurray. And the rest, pretty much the usual suspects. Two Hendrick drivers - Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. Three Stewart-Haas cars - Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Both Penske teams - Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. and of course, all the JGR guys - Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and I guess you may as well say, Martin Truex, Jr.

The result was probably most exciting for Ganassi Racing - first time that both of their cars have made it into the Chase. It was probably most disappointing for Roush Fenway. We tend to expect them to be somewhere in the mix but right now, they just aren't. And there are others who hold out hope to the last that they'll sneak in by hook or crook, most especially Aric Almirola and A. J. Allmendinger. After all, they've done it before. It didn't happen for them this year.

It great to see the new faces in the Chase but ultimately, the champion will most likely be any of the Gibbs cars, Kevin Harvick or either Penske driver. God, you don't know how I hate to leave Jimmie out of that mix but the performance just hasn't been there the latter part of this season. So I don't hold out much hope, barring some miraculous new discovery of speed by Chad Knaus.

If I could pick, (leaving out Jimmie), it would be between Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

The race itself was a mixed bag. I loved the four-car-abreast salute to the fans. NASCAR reminds of when I attended the Catholic Church. I loved the pomp and spectacle even when I didn't buy into all of it. Symbols are important  and the fact that NASCAR starts with prayers, the anthem, respect for the military and fly-overs sets the tone for the sport.

During the first when there were few cautions, it looked as though Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. were the class of the field and one of them was probably going to run a way with it. Then the pit road penalties began - bunches of them, mixing up the field. Then cautions started - matching the old record of 15. Brakes overheated and tires (a hot and somewhat scarce commodity at Richmond) went down sending cars into the fence.

Tempers flared. Tony Stewart nailed Ryan Newman. Newman accused Tony of being bi-polar. It looked like it was purposeful to the rest of us too. Matt Kenseth got wrecked by Keselowski. Maybe not so much purposely as carelessly. Kenseth thought he should have known better. Tony and Ryan may get over their snit since they've been long-time friends but Matt and Brad have a history and I don't think there will be peace between them anytime soon.

Kevin Harvick had snagged onto Danica Patrick's pit crew, at least part of it, because he was unhappy with his own. God, remember how critical fans were when Jimmie took Jeff's pit crew, even though Jeff was out of it by then? This time, no one seemed to think anything about it. I don't myself. If you've got a car in the Chase and one not, you give all your best stuff to the guy fighting for the championship.

Jeff seemed to step of the pace at Richmond. Maybe it's because he's settling into the 88 team. Wouldn't it be cool to see him win a race even if it wouldn't mean anything in the scheme of things?

I dislike the part of the Chase that coming up now - the elimination aspect of it. I think it depends too much on luck but Brian France hasn't asked my opinion, so I guess I'll just go with the flow.

Next weekend in Chicagoland, the Chase begins.