The thirteenth warrior: Can Jeff Gordon sneak by Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth?
By Jeff Hammond FoxSports
So after Sunday’s race at Martinsville we have the No. 20 and the No. 48 tied. I think we’re right back to where we started when I said a few weeks ago it really is a flip of a coin. Matt has the confidence and momentum coming out of Martinsville. Remember, that track has been Jimmie’s playground. Matt beat Jimmie at Martinsville and tied this year's points race up.
So here we are, all tied up with just three races to go – Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. When you have a dead-heat like this, it boils down to the little things. In this case, the little things in my mind are which team and driver can make the least amount of mistakes these next three weeks. I just think it's going to be that kind of end to the season.
Two of our last three races will take place on mile-and-a-half tracks. This season, on those type tracks, Matt has shown he is better. So if someone says you have to pick one of those two drivers, I would have to say Kenseth as we roll into Texas this weekend.
Both guys have left points on the table in this year's Chase, and that goes back to the mistakes. There are spots where you could say it could have gone either way. At Talladega, Matt could have come out of there with a 10 or 15 point lead. On the flipside, you could say the same thing about Jimmie at the same race.
Jimmie had his opportunity Sunday at Martinsville, but he let it slip through his fingers. Matt did all he could do and finished ahead of Jimmie and tied this thing up. What is a really interesting storyline from Sunday is the dark horse who won the race – Jeff Gordon. I have said it emphatically that Jeff can’t win this Chase because he can’t win races. Sunday he went out and did what he hasn’t done all season and that was put a win on the board.
Sure, if you just look at it mathematically, it’s a pretty steep incline that Jeff is facing to win championship No. 5. However, don’t lose sight of two things. Jeff has won at all three of these tracks we are headed to and Jeff won Homestead as recently as last November.
Have we all overlooked this 13th warrior that wasn’t even supposed to be in the Chase? Guess what folks: here comes the No. 24, and that win Sunday came at the most critical time of the Chase for him. It Matt and Jimmie get to racing each other too hard and ignoring the No. 24, I would wager it would be an even bigger upset than we saw in 2011, if Jeff could pull this off in these next three races. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is going to be a fun three weeks to watch this all unfold!