NASCAR season braking
Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2005
The Fab Five of Roush Racing do not need to throw out the white flag quite yet, but as the season winds down, DNFs and bad performances must be avoided. With half of the chase field driving for Jack Roush, many people predicted that he would walk away with his third consecutive cup championship. With the odds in his favor, even Roush admitted that his chances looked good.
After the race at Talladega last week, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth sit in fifth, sixth, and seventh positions respectively in the points standings. While these drivers still have a chance to win the championship, it is going to take a string of virtually mistake-free races to get them back into contention. Mark Martin and Kurt Busch occupy spots nine and ten and look to be out of contention.
The performances of points leader Tony Stewart and runner-up Ryan Newman are putting pressure on the other eight drivers. The chase is not over by a long shot, but unless these two guys slip up, the rest of the field will be in their rear-view mirror by the time the final race in Miami rolls around.
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After saying all that, anything can happen and probably will happen over the last six races. The jumbled up results at Talladega proved that.
Hats off to Dale Jarrett and Ford for breaking Chevrolet’s 13-race winning streak at Talladega. It was good to see Jarrett back in victory lane after such a long dry spell. His team needed it and Robert Yates needed it.
The Toyota to cup in 2007 plan is becoming clearer as the days go by. It seems that Toyota could be taking the same approach that Dodge took several years ago in its re-entrance into cup racing. Rumblings are that Toyota will sponsor eight teams in 2007. Penske Racing, a team that has never been afraid to change cars, is in line to field four Toyota cars, Bill Davis Racing will field two teams, and Michael Waltrip Racing will field two teams. These names should not be a surprise. Penske has a standing relationship with Toyota via the Indy Racing circuit, while Bill Davis races Toyotas in the truck series and Waltrip has been linked to Toyota for a while now. Do you think this news had anything to do with Kurt Busch making the jump to Penske? Could be.
Kansas Speedway is the 30th race of the year and the sixth in the chase for the cup. This track is the run of the mill mile and a half track that usually produces two-groove racing. To make matters worse for the Roush stable, this track has not been kind to those drivers in the past. Roush has not won a race at Kansas and only has one top five finish. Granted, Kansas has only hosted four races since 2001, but the Roush bunch has not had much luck there.
Last year, Joe Nemechek was this race, becoming the first non-chaser to win a race. In fact, he pretty much dominated the weekend, winning the Busch race, the cup pole, and the cup race. He will have something to say about who wins this week as well. Jeff Gordon is the career leader with two wins here and an average finish of fifth, but his team is snake bit and I don’t see them getting back on track until Daytona in February.
Despite Roush’s history at this track, my pick to win this week is Matt Kenseth.
Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His racing column regularly appears in newspapers across the southeast. He can be reached by e-mail at jeff. firstname.lastname@example.org.