Backseat Drivers Fan Council
Rating the racing in California and early Chase prognostications
By: Matt Taliaferro | 3/29/12, 1:05 PM EDT
Tony Stewart is a virtual lock to make the Chase according to the Fan Council. (Photo by ASP, Inc.)
by Dustin Long
Five races into the season and a few drivers expected to make the Chase are struggling. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne both are outside the top 20 in points. Last year’s runner-up, Carl Edwards, has not shown the strength he did last season just yet. Kyle Busch, a regular in the Chase, is 14th in points.
While there’s plenty of time to reverse course for those drivers — the Chase field won’t be set for more than five months — members of the Backstreet Drivers Fan Council are not confident all those drivers will be among the top 12 when the Chase field is set after Richmond in September.
This week, the Fan Council looks at who will make the Chase and who won’t, along with grading last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.
WHO WILL MAKE THE CHASE?
After five races last year, nine of the top 12 (if you factor in the wildcard spots) went on the make the Chase. Backseat Drivers Fan Council members were given a list of the 12 drivers who would make the Chase (if it started today with the top 10 and two wildcard drivers) and asked which ones would make the Chase. Here’s how they voted:
98.3 percent picked Tony Stewart (4th in points but has 2 wins)
97.0 percent picked Kevin Harvick (2nd in points)
95.0 percent picked Jimmie Johnson (9th in points)
90.0 percent picked Matt Kenseth (6th in points with 1 win)
89.0 percent picked Brad Keselowski (would be 11th via wildcard with 1 win)
85.7 percent picked Greg Biffle (points leader)
83.4 percent picked Denny Hamlin (7th in points with 1 win)
76.4 percent picked Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd in points)
45.2 percent picked Ryan Newman (10th in points)
25.6 percent picked Clint Bowyer (8th in points)
18.3 percent picked Martin Truex Jr. (5th in points)
4.7 percent picked Paul Menard (11th in points)
What Fan Council members said:
• Hamlin and Newman are simply not showing the consistency and I don't think they will recover. If they make it, it will be by wildcard only. Truex, Bowyer and Menard are simply not strong enough in their current situations to make the Chase this year, though I do believe all three will (be a) threat and all will possibly get wins this season.
• Think the switch to Ford from Dodge is going to impact (Brad Keselowski) toward the end of the season. Not sure (Martin Truex Jr.) and (Paul Menard) still have the consistency needed.
• MWR cars (Truex and Bowyer) will not make it into the Chase. Their luck will run out.
• Junior still has his summer swoon coming. I think ultimately that and the fact that he doesn't win will keep him out. Truex will not be able to sustain nor will Menard or Bowyer.
• It's really too early to tell.
• Sorry, I just don't see Jr. having the consistency needed to make the Chase
• Believe it or not, I think it's Jimmie's year to miss it
• Not convinced on either Jr. or Menard, and I have Newman falling out too.
• The Biff will fade in time. The 39 has never really showed any strength. Martin Truex has a good team this year and will make it in.
Carl Edwards will not be on the outside looking in for long. (Photo by ASP, Inc.)
SO WHO WILL MAKE THE CHASE OF THOSE NOT IN THE TOP 12?
Fan Council members were given a list of the drivers who would not make the Chase if it started today and asked which ones will be there come September:
84.7 percent picked Carl Edwards (12th in points)
82.0 percent picked Kyle Busch (14th in points)
61.0 percent picked Jeff Gordon (25th in points)
27.7 percent picked Kasey Kahne (27th in points)
17.0 percent picked Jeff Burton (15th in points)
14.3 percent picked Joey Logano (13th in points)
8.3 percent picked AJ Allmendinger (26th in points)
7.7 percent picked Jamie McMurray (22nd in points)
7.3 percent picked Mark Martin (17th in points)
7.3 percent picked Juan Pablo Montoya (18th in points)
7.0 percent picked Marcos Ambrose (24th in points)
6.7 percent picked Kurt Busch (23rd in points)
6.3 percent picked Regan Smith (19th in points)
5.3 percent picked Bobby Labonte (20th in points)
5.3 percent picked Casey Mears (29th in points)
5.0 percent picked Aric Almirola (21st in points)
5.0 percent picked Dave Blaney (28th in points)
5.0 percent picked David Gilliland (30th in points)
What Fan Council members said:
• I don't see Joey Logano even winning a race this year and continuing to struggle to adapt to the Cup level. Jeff Burton has a winless streak almost as long as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he needs to find victory lane again before he can contend for a championship.
• Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, & AJ would be possibilities. Chose Jeff just because he seems to have better luck.
• Carl and Kasey both have good equipment and just are having rotten luck. I don't think Carl is suffering from the Denny Hamlin-post-championship-loss syndrome.
• I think it is Joey's time. This year should see all 3 Gibbs cars in the Chase. I think that Kyle and Denny have the best chance of winning the championship. I think Gordon and the 24 team will get things on track and get back into the mix in the next 6-8 races, too.
• How sad is it that Juan Pablo Montoya and Jaime McMurray have been in each of the first five races this year, yet Mark Martin missed Bristol and is still ahead of both in points. EGR needs help.
• I do think that Kasey Kahne could possibly win multiple races and get in via the wildcard.
• I think Carl, Kyle and Jeff Gordon are head and shoulders above the rest of this group. Marcos Ambrose and JPM might have a shot at a wildcard if they can win the road races or finally pick up an oval win.
• I think Logano is gonna shock the world since this is his "contract" year. Expect him to have a breakout (year) like Brad K did last season.
• Think Carl Edwards will barely make it. Kyle Busch took such a blow to his ego last year not sure he will make it at all this time.
• Edwards, Kyle Busch, and Gordon. Too good to miss it.
GRADING SUNDAY’S CUP RACE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
41.2 percent called it Good
39.9 percent called it Fair
15.3 percent called it Poor
3.7 percent called it Great
What Fan Council members said:
• Last three years at this track have been much more enjoyable than prior to then, last year’s race probably being the greatest ever at the track. There was some really outstanding racing Sunday especially watching Tony Stewart race his way through the field, however it was about half and half exciting and boring. I think if the race had gotten a chance at going the distance, then we would have seen another great finish much like last year with Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson
• When drivers are racing the rain, the races are typically quiet and rather boring.
• With all the negative comments about Bristol and the lack of cautions, where are all those people this week?
• Fontana is just a boring race — add the rain & at least it put me out of my misery more quickly
• Fast and strange come to mind when thinking about this race. It really seemed as though they were trying to outrun the rain. I also wondered if the amount of pit road penalties in some sense was due to the impending rain. But it did make the whole rain-shortened race more exciting.
• I was at the race, and although there were no cautions, there were plenty of duels going on anywhere on the track. I'm guessing this didn't play as well on TV as it did if you were at ACS.
• The intensity of racing to halfway really drove up the level of driving. No one was just cruising.
• In the 13 years I’ve been watching the sport, that was the worst race I've ever watched.
• I know Cali is supposed to be boring, but I wasn't bored. Perhaps it was because of low expectations or perhaps TV camera coverage was better.
• I was on top of a motor home in turn 3. The racing looked great from there. I liked the fact that there were no cautions until the rain came.
• Any race that ends early can't be considered "good."
• I normally find the "racing" at Fontana boring because of the long green-flag runs that allows for the field to be strung out. This one, however, was exciting. It's amazing what looming rain will do to a boring race.
I don't particularly care for long green flag racing. I like it when drivers can come in and adjust their cars better than they can do in a green flag pit stop.
Fans can join the Backseat Drivers Fan Council by sending Dustin an email at email@example.com.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
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