NASCAR

Charting the Chase: Eight alive, including methodical Martin

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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It's going to be tough to evaluate until the end of the Chase for the Nextel Cup, but I hope that the last-lap wreck at Talladega does not weigh heavily into the final point standings for the championship.

Obviously, it has substantially affected the standings in the short term. For argument sake, let's say that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson would have finished second and third. You're looking at the difference between 175 and 170 points and 104 and 96 points where they finished in 23rd and 24th. That's a big points swing. I need to take my last four or five weeks worth of articles, throw them in the trash and burn them. Honestly, it would still be a little bit of a stretch for Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch to win the title because 185 points is quite a ways out. Plus, it's not like they are just a few drivers in front of them. They are behind eight drivers. From Jimmie Johnson in eighth and up, I can't count out anyone. Johnson and Jeff Gordon have some work to do, but it's phenomenal to see the top six drivers separated by 106 points.

Chase for the Cup photos
Race 4: Talladega

Race 3: Kansas

Race 2: Dover

Race 1: New Hampshire

After four races, Mark Martin has been the pleasant surprise in this Chase, sitting just 10 points out of the lead. He's been the only one that hasn't had a real problem of any kind. He's been called the sentimental favorite by many, and having worked with him during his rookie year, I would have a hard time arguing with that label. That's especially true because it looks like 2006 could be his last full-time season in the Cup Series. I got some fan feedback that didn't really like what I said about the No. 6 team at Kansas. But even Martin and crew chief Pat Tryson would tell you that they got a better finish out of that race (third) than the car they had. That's not negative. That's what you have to do to win a championship. Martin, Tryson and that group have been consistent week in and week out. They might not just top five or top 10 you to death. Maybe they're not leading races, but they consistently finish races. The way things are going with the rest of the Chasers, that strategy could prevail. Talladega was a wild card, and next week's race at Martinsville — a short track — could have a huge impact on the championship. At the end of the day, any race could be a wild card, including this week's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway with small fuel cells and a different left-side tire from the May race. The track still has new pavement. After the points shakeup at Talladega, it's hard to say what the standings will look like after Saturday night.

Do I think any animosity from Talladega will carry over this week at Lowe's? Absolutely not, and I can say that with confidence after a conference call on Tuesday for NASCAR Performance (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, SPEED). Chad Knaus, crew chief of Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, said that they are frustrated and mad. But when they walk into the garage area on Thursday morning, they will be smiling and on a mission to win the race. Whether directly or indirectly involved with any of the accidents at Talladega, every team will approach this week's race with same attitude and a clean slate.

Davey and Donnie

Anita from Lynn, Ala.: Thank you for your comments on Davey Allison. Being from Alabama, the members of Alabama Gang were my favorities. Davey did and will always have a special place in my heart.

Larry McReynolds: We go to Talladega twice a year, and it's sad that we don't have any representatives from Alabama, especially when you consider how strong the Alabama Gang was at one point. I'm looking forward to this Trackside (Friday at 7 p.m. ET on SPEED) because we're going to talk with one of the members of the Alabama Gang. Donnie Allison will be one of our guests, and we'll certainly address a lot of things with him.

Donnie's mom

Jo from Rock Hill, S.C.: Hey Larry, I haven't seen anybody talk about this since August, can you give this some play? I know it's late, but it's on Bobby Allison's web site:
Birthday cards for Miss Kittie
Bobby and Donnie Allison's mother (and Davey's grandmother) Kittie Allison will turn 100 years old on October 12. She's living in an assisted living facility in Charlotte, and the family is asking racing fans to help celebrate her birthday by surprising her with birthday cards. If you'd like to help her celebrate this milestone, please send cards to:
Ms. Kittie (Mom) Allison
c/o The Little Flower Assisted Living
8700 Lawyers Road
Charlotte, NC 28227

Speed Mail Larry McReynolds

True to two schools

Gets from Athens, Ala.: I'm an Alabama fan, and I hate Auburn. I think what you said about Alabama fans hoping Auburn wins because they're in the SEC is the dumbest thing you've ever said. It's even dumber than anything Jimmy Spencer has said. Larry McReynolds: I pull for Alabama and Auburn, and I would hope if you are a diehard Elliott Sadler fan, you would pull for Sadler's Evernham Motorsports' teammate Kasey Kahne in this championship race. My mom, dad and I were always Alabama fans, but why would I want to see the University of Georgia beat Auburn? When they play each other, do I want to see Alabama beat Auburn? Absolutely, but I'm not that bitter fan that wants to see Auburn get its tail kicked by every other team. Until they play each other on Nov. 18, I'll pull for Auburn and Alabama. If each team has a winning season, it will make the Iron Bowl, as it's called, a little more special.


FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.

"How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Jimmy Spencer

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