Monday, September 26, 2011

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

At New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was leading coming to the White Flag.  But he ran out of gas and Clint Bowyer drove by and won the race.  That was 2010.  This year, the situation was flipped.  Clint Bowyer led at New Hampshire coming to the White Flag.  But he ran out of fuel at the Start/Finish line, and Tony Stewart blew by for his 2nd straight win.  After a slow start to the season, Stewart has opened the Chase with 2 wins.  The last driver to do this was Greg Biffle in 2008.

Photo courtesy Getty Images
 5 of the Top 10 finishers were Chase drivers, with Stewart 1st, Brad Keselowski 2nd, Jeff Gordon 4th, Matt Kenseth 6th, and Carl Edwards 8th.  Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were 11th and 12th, while other Chase drivers ran into some trouble.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were 17th and 18th, which puts the 5-Time Champion in some hot water.  He finds himself 10th in the standings, the lowest he's ever been in his entire Chase career.  Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and Denny Hamlin all finished one lap down.  With this finish, Denny Hamlin's championship hopes seem to be done. 

Tony Stewart celebrates his 2nd win of the season (Photo Courtesy Getty Images)
After the 2nd race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, here are the Sprint Cup points standings:
1. (+1) Tony Stewart              --
2. (-1) Kevin Harvick              -7
3. (+3) Brad Keselowski       -11
4. (-1) Carl Edwards             -14
5. (+6) Jeff Gordon               -23
6. (+3) Kyle Busch               -26
7. (+3) Matt Kenseth            -26
8. (-3) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.      -26
9. (-5) Kurt Busch                -28
10. (-2) Jimmie Johnson       -29
11. (-4) Ryan Newman         -34
12. (--) Denny Hamlin          -66

Tony Stewart seems to have found himself at the right time.  Following his back-to-back wins, he is atop the points standings.  It will be interesting to see if he can keep this up, or if this is just a flash o the old "Smoke."  Brad Keselowski is 3rd in points, and doesn't look like he is going to slow down.  After a bad start to the race, he and crew chief Paul Wolfe worked on the car, and they came away with a 2nd place finish.  I still like Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon to win the championship, but Stewart, Harvick, and Keselowski seem to have something figured out.  And you can never count Jimmie Johnson out until he is mathematically eliminated.  But there seems to be trouble in paradise after listening to Johnson's radio on Sunday.  He and Chad Knaus seem to be having some relationship trouble.  May I recommend some couples counseling?  Anyway, we'll see what happens when the Chase continues from Dover next Sunday.

Who will win the Sprint Cup Championship?
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