Field of true Chase contenders slims

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson took the points lead Sunday. Can he take title?
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.


After this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway and looking forward, I feel like we’re down to three, maybe three-and-a-half men, who have a shot at the championship.

NASCAR Cup standings


Brad Keselowski won the title — but how did the rest of the Chase field end up? NASCAR Standings

Denny Hamlin and his group took such a hit after the mechanical failure at Martinsville that being able to recover from the amount of points they lost in Sunday’s race is going to be next to impossible in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hamlin is 49 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson now with three races to go.

As far as Kasey Kahne is concerned, and in particular Clint Bowyer – it appears Clint Bowyer is in the best position of the three in the way he’s been running as of late. He’s been very consistent and strong. Not taking anything from Kasey, who is fourth and 29 points back, but Bowyer’s got the next best opportunity.

After the race at Texas this weekend, it’s going to be even more clear whether it’s going to be a two-man race or whether Bowyer, in third and 26 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and Kahne can even consider themselves a factor.

In terms of who has an edge in these final races, you have to give the tip of the hat to Jimmie just because of the fact that he has the experience. He’s been there how many times now? Not only winning, but also losing it. Because of that scenario there’s not anything that can come up in front of the No. 48 team that is going to be a surprise.

NASCAR Power Rankings


Keselowski's back in charge after JJ's setback. NASCAR Power Rankings

Now second-running Brad Keselowski and his team on the other hand, yes they won a Nationwide championship but this is definitely bigger than that. There is that comfort of knowing a little bit of what to expect – the best way to break it down right now is what makes Brad Keselowski vulnerable, also makes him dangerous because of the inexperience and the way he’s going to attack this thing.

They’re going to come up at Jimmie and Chad and the 48 team. They’re not going to let up until the numbers don’t work out. So he’s going to be dangerous. They’re just two points behind and living on the edge. I think Sunday proved that. A gutsy call by Paul Wolfe gave them a better finish than where they had run during the race. They stayed pretty much 17th to 25th all day long and in the end they were able to make it happen.

That’s how you win championships. That’s just like the previous race with Johnson, who spun at Kansas. When he did that, everybody said, “Oops, there he goes. He just handed the championship over to Denny and Brad.” In the end, he rallied back and held serve.

So I feel like these guys, as far as Brad and Paul Wolfe are concerned, they’re going to be dangerous the rest of the year because they don’t know what they don’t know.

Tagged: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski

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