Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two Down, Eight to Go: Dover Musings

Now can we consider Greg Biffle a title threat?

If his win in the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire wasn't convincing enough, how about a follow-up performance on Sunday at Dover? Battling his Roush-Fenway teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth (who can't seem to catch a break this season), Biffle went on to his second win in as many weeks, and now sits 10 points behind points leader Edwards.

Oh, and have I mentioned Biffle won at Kansas last year, which is where the Sprint Cup boys set up shop this weekend? A three-race winning streak to open the Chase is not out of the question, but it will be necessary as Edwards and two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson continue logging top-5 finishes (Edwards finished third and Johnson came in fifth at Dover).

I'm still not quite ready to count out Kyle Busch just yet (more on him in a bit), but Biffle's surge could not have been better timed. Biffle's been strong at times throughout the year -- he had the car to beat at Darlington before loose lugs and bad pit stops derailed him, and he led at Sonoma before deciding to dirt-track it -- but to come out of the gate with back-to-back wins is impressive and unprecedented.

Seriously, before Biffle, no one has ever won back-to-back races to start the Chase. It's also the first time since 2000 that Biffle has logged back-to-back wins. What'd he do that year? Just won the Craftsman Truck Series title, that's all ...


Kyle Busch's 43rd-place finish at Dover because of a motor problem left many fans ecstatic -- and Busch frustrated as his 80-point cushion heading into the Chase officially turned into a 210-point defecit. Busch sits 12th in the standings, last among Chase drivers.

To hear Busch talk, he's done. He said he started the Chase the same way in 2006 and finished last in what was then a 10-car field. And according to logic, he's right.

Thing is, logic and Busch don't go together. Neither do logic and the Chase, for that matter. For inspiration that his Chase isn't yet over, Busch need look no further than former teammate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson left Talladega in 2006 156 points out of the lead before rallying and pulling off the title.

Johnson was also down over 200 points after the Chase's midway point in 2004, but used an insane charge in the season's final five races to finish second, eight points behind champion Kurt Busch. So it's not impossible for Busch to go on a hot streak and drive himself back into this thing.

Then again, attitude has a lot to do with that. Busch is already waving the white flag, which can't make the No. 18 crew all that happy with him. They worked their butts off in Dover to get the car ready to drive again, but Busch refused to go out, make laps and try to salvage even three more points.

If that sounds familiar, it should; Busch refused to re-enter the spring race at Texas last season after a wreck. The car went back out, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel. Two months later, Busch was out of a ride and Junior was shaking hands with new boss Rick Hendrick for the cameras.

Not saying Busch will get fired again, but ... it's starting to become a pattern, isn't it?

Bullish Move

Gotta feel bad for A.J. Allmendinger, who this week found out he won't be back in the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota next season. Allmendinger, who came over last year from the now-defunct Champ Car Series, is in the Top 35 in owner points and has solidly progressed throughout the season. The addition of crew chief Jimmy Elledge has done wonders for that team, and Allmendinger can even claim a career-best 10th-place finish at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

But now, he's looking for a ride. Rumors have Allmendinger talking with Chip Ganassi Racing and Petty Enterprises about rides for next season, but the fact that Team Red Bull waited until late September to make the move leaves Allmendinger with few options. Allmendinger showed this year he has a lot of potential as a Sprint Cup driver, and I hope someone gives him that chance.

Potential Disaster

Now that Robby Gordon is no longer looking to merge with Gillete-Evernham Motorsports -- lawsuits are funny like that -- he's rumored to still be in the market for a merger. The potential suitor? According to multiple sources, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Yes, that DEI.

While it's hard to imagine Gordon's team being much worse than it already is -- we are, after all, talking about the Gordon who can't drive a stock car -- merging with a team like DEI just might do it. Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola aside, that team is largely in flux. Regan Smith and Paul Menard's futures are still up in the air, and sponsorship is also an issue.

Then again, when as the last time Robby Gordon did something smart?

Debut Time

Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski will attempt to qualify for two Sprint Cup races this season with Hendrick Motorsports, at Lowe's Motor Speedway and at Texas. Keselowski, third in the Nationwide Series point standings, has two wins this season and many feel once Mark Martin's completed his 2009 ride, the No. 5 could be Keselowski's.

Keselowski drives the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, a Nationwide Series team co-owned by Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

At 24, Keselowski has proven to be one of the up-and-coming young talents of NASCAR. He doesn't have near the hype or expectations of, say, Joey Logano, but if Hendrick feels Keselowski is the real deal, then I think Keselowski is someone worth watching.

Roger Penske reportedly offered Keselowski the No. 12 ride once Ryan Newman announced he was leaving, but Keselowski turned it down, mostly because of the potential future he has at Hendrick Motorsports. Keselowski's also smart, having admitted he's not ready for a full-time Cup ride and committing himself to running the full 2009 Nationwide Series schedule.

In a world where everyone wants to get to the Sprint Cup Series as soon as possible, such self-awareness and maturity is refreshing. Brad Keselowski is a Sprint Cup star in the making.

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