With one Chase race down, Brad Keselowski sits atop the standings.
Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
I know that a lot of race fans are looking at Brad Keselowski and thinking the engraver should go ahead and start putting his name on the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion’s trophy. Sure, he may look unstoppable right now, but we are only one race into this year’s Chase, and if you look back over the course of the season, you actually will see a pattern.
That pattern that I’m talking about is certain drivers getting hot and then not. Jimmie Johnson is a classic example of that. Back in late May and early June, Jimmie broke out of his slump and got on a roll. Remember how up until that point all the talk was, "Will Jimmie win a race?" Then after he got on a roll, it was, "There goes Jimmie for his seventh championship."
Funny thing, though — it hasn’t happened. If you remember, Jimmie and his team got cold. That’s what I think we’ve seen this season more than ever in the past is drivers get on a hot streak and then cool right back down. Jeff Gordon had his streak for a while where folks said this was Jeff’s year and not Jimmie’s.
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I actually agree with what Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. He said there really isn’t any clear-cut favorite this season. Drivers just get hot for a certain amount of time and then cool right back down with someone else taking their place. With the way the new Chase format is set up for this year, you may be good in the first round, but that is not a guarantee you will be good in the next round.
For whatever reason, it seems to fall to timing plus being as consistent as possible like a Matt Kenseth, for example. Here’s a guy who didn’t have a regular season win this year, but he’s stayed close to all the others and made his way into the Chase. He has just as much a chance to win this championship right now as the others do.
So I don’t want to give a tip of the hat to Brad Keselowski. Yes, he is definitely making a statement he is the best driver with the best race car out there right now. The key there is right now. He’s now guaranteed a spot in the next round, but that doesn’t mean he won’t go ice cold and not make it to the third round.
One win in the Chase does not guarantee you a championship. Go back and look at 2013 if you don’t believe me. After the first two races, we thought it was going to be Kenseth’s year for sure. The problem was someone forgot to tell Johnson that, because when the checkered flag fell in November at Homestead, it was Jimmie being crowned our champion for a sixth time; not Matt.
The bottom line in what I am trying to say is, to quote the late great Jerry Reed — "We’ve got a long ways to go and a short time to get there."