|Credit: Brian Kersey/NASCAR via Getty Images|
Yeah, I’m exaggerating. So what? This weekend kicks off the Chase, which has a brand spankin’ new format. I’m thrilled to see how it turns out and how it affects the racing. Things are bound to evolve even during the first race.
NASCAR won’t get off easy; I have questions involving Richmond, the Chase, and champions in this week’s column. I’m serving it up with a fresh side of sass as well. Enjoy.
Do the races at Richmond have bigger implications? OK, aside from The Catch Fence Man, both races at Richmond International Raceway SUCKED. That’s the cold, hard truth. I wasn’t expecting it to be the full-blown circus it was last season, but SOME action would’ve been nice. There’s something we can learn from this: Goodyear needs a better tire. If the tires actually had a fall-off quality, then someone could’ve rivaled Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. I was unaware I was watching the REGULAR SEASON FINALE. C’mon, Richmond. Pack a punch next time.
What should we expect during the Chase? First, I fully expect NO Richmond-esque lulls in excitement (sorry, I’m still bitter). The Chase is in a new playoff version, and we anxiously wait to observe how this actually works. Everything is going to be different; the motto has gone from “risk it for the biscuit” to “protect ALL the biscuits.” Conserving your strength and preserving your ranking is the game plan. Let’s all hope some excitement comes from it.
Who’s D.O.A in the first round? After the first four races, four people will be cut from running for the championship. It’s like a twisted version of "America’s Next Top Model." After much thought, I’ve decided the first bunch to be cut will include Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman. The last two got in on points, and I highly doubt they can knock out victories in the finals. As much as I love underdogs, Almirola and Allmendinger’s respective teams aren’t up to par with the Hendricks and the Penskes. If this were ANTM, though, Allmendinger’s hair would make it to the final four, and we all know who would win the grand prize (I’m looking at you, Kasey Kahne).
And our three champions are …? It’s difficult to predict everything that’s going to happen, so I’m just hitting the big point: who’ll be eliminated first, and who will be crowned champions. Sounds easy enough, right? Eh. Let’s start with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Matt Crafton is currently at the top, and he will stay there. Since the Trucks have fewer races, not much is going to change. Crafton’s been consistent all year. For that, he will be rewarded. The NASCAR Nationwide Series is a bit trickier, with both Regan Smith and Chase Elliott both putting up strong performances throughout the season. Does experience beat out fresh talent? Or vice versa? I’m sorry, Smith, but Elliott’s just too strong. He hasn’t had the miscues the No. 7 team has suffered. It may be a stretch, but that’s one I’m willing to take. Now, for the grand finale, I’m going to select a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Drum roll … OK, no drum roll, whatever. This is a difficult decision to make because two drivers stand out in my mind. No, three. No, two. The talent is just too good. If my life depended on a correct guess, then my life is in Brad Keselowski’s hands. There’s something about his attitude and mindset that sticks out to me. Penske power has been the prince to Hendrick’s king-like rule, but it will overthrow them in the end.
A TRIPLE-HEADER WEEKEND?! Can’t you tell that I’m excited?! Many people know my displeasure with the number of races the Trucks put on. Not only are they racing, but IT’S A NIGHT RACE TONIGHT!! I do have some reservations about this deal, though. The events this weekend are at Chicagoland Speedway, which isn’t the most exciting place. However, I’m choosing to remain positive. It’s the beginning of the Chase, the trucks are under the lights … this weekend won’t be anything like Richmond (thank goodness).