The chase is beginning this Sunday at Chicgagoland as 12 drivers will go at it for the championship. Jimmie Johnson looks poised for his sixth straight championship. Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are all looking strong enough to win their first. Former champions like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch all have a shot. Plus Brad Keselowski had an amazing run right before the chase. This is how I rank the chase.
12th Dale Earnhardt Jr: Dale Earnhardt is on the road to redemption. Earnhardt Jr has been strong at times this year, even contending for wins. His new crew chief Steve Letarte has done wonders to that team which finished 21st last year and 25th in 2009. Despite this The 88 looks to be the weakest car in the chase with only 50 laps lead this season.
11th Brad Keselowski: Brad Keselowski has an amazing four races in between leading to the chase. WIthfinishes of first, second, third, and first those are Jimmie Johnson type stats. Go from Indy to Richmond and it's ninth, first, second, third, first, sixth, and 12th. This team looks strong, but it is a rookie team. Don't expect them to be able to compete with the big boys just yet.
10th Kurt Busch: Kurt Busch started the year off strong as ever. The stalled and with a dominant win at Sonoma picked it up. Busch is a former champion and Steve Addington is as good as ever. The only thing that hurts this 22 team is consistency. In the last six races he has three top fives, but also three finishes of 17th or worse including two dnfs.
9th Denny Hamlin: After last year you would expect Denny Hamin to be ranked higher. But this year just has not gone his way. He has a win however and has three straight top tens. But Hamlin and co are not yet over the 2010's chase disappointment.
8th Matt Kenseth: Two wins this season and Matt Kenseth is back to his original form. He has been fast each and every week. Like the 22 this team lacks consistency. If they get it however, they could the ones to watch.
7th Ryan Newman: Ryan Newman is having a nice solid season. For the first time in his career a clinched a spot in the chase before Richmond. Newman with a win proves how good he can be. If he can win more races in the chase and just have more speed they can be a surprise.
6th Kevin Harvick: Kevin Harvickis tied for the most wins this season with four. That kind of speed can win championships. What can't is how inconsistent his team has been. Though he was dominant and won Richmond, that was his first top five since the first Pocono since June. That wont cut it in the chase.
5th Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson won't win six in a row, but he will defend it admirably. What hurts Johnson is that he doesn't seem to have the speed he has had in recent years. He has only one win and it was at Talladega. Also he has an ongoing thing with Kurt Busch. That could be a distraction.
4th Jeff Gordon: Jeff Gordon is going to contend for the championship is year. Three wins he is leading all Hendrick drivers. Gordon hasn't been this good since 2007. He and his new 24 team are just clicking right now. If they could have better cars on the short runs, they could win more races.
3rd Tony Stewart: A month ago he would be seventh at best. But it looks like Tony Stewart is just going to be a late bloomer this year. Smoke has some momentum going into the chase with one top five and three top tens in the last four races. Stewart has 16 win at all ten of the chase track combined (he is the only driver to have won at all ten chase tracks). So that is why you must consider him dangerous. He is the one to watch
2nd Kyle Busch: This is the year that Kyle Busch contends for the championship. With four wins this season Busch has been strong. This time of year is when Busch has seemed to unfold a bit. Not being to close races and get finishes. In fact he hasn't won a chase race since his rookie season in 2005 when he finished 20th in points. But here is when the new Kyle comes in. Busch has now learned how to get finishes and be able to take what the car gives him. That is vital in the chase.
1st and Champion Carl Edwards: This looks to be Carl Edwards year to win it. He dominated the regular season points for a while and fell off to fourth in points. But as the chase neared the 99 picked it up with three straight top tens including two fives. They were close to winning at Richmond which shows how good the 99 has become on the smaller tracks. The chase tracks with the exception of Talladega are all pretty good tracks for Edwards. Look the 99 team to win more races in the chase and for Edwards to add his name to the list of champions.