With the Chase looming, a great deal of emphasis is placed on momentum going into the final 10 races. Does it matter? Will it help your title chances?
Kevin Harvick said last weekend in Atlanta momentum means nothing, yet there seems to be no clear-cut consensus among drivers.
Jeff Gordon has been one the hottest drivers on the circuit as of late, scoring two wins, six top-5s and 10 top-10s in the last 13 races. With many looking at him as a favorite, Gordon said momentum is "huge" going into the final 10 races, adding, "I haven't felt like this in a long time."
"I don't feel like in the last 10 races anybody has shown more strength than we have," he said. "This team is definitely full of confidence and has momentum on its side. But we're also very real in knowing how tough things are going to be in the Chase."
Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards was quick to point out Harvick and Gordon were "on opposite ends of the pendulum" when it came to momentum, but said he does not put much stock into momentum carrying over into the Chase.
Likewise, five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson has been able to win the title both with momentum working for him and against him entering the final 10 races, but said, "Momentum doesn't hurt going into the Chase."
Tony Stewart has been fighting backward momentum over the past few weeks. Entering this weekend's race he has yet to lock up his spot in the Chase and has said if he makes it in his team did not deserve a spot among the 12-driver field. Coming off his first top-5 since Loudon (seven weeks ago), Stewart said momentum is whatever you make of it.
"You could win the race last week and be terrible this week, so that proves momentum doesn't means anything," he said. "But if it means a lot to you personally, that's when it counts. Every driver is going to be different, every organization is going to be different. Still when you win the race on the previous Sunday you start over on Friday and you start from scratch."
The one consensus seems to be once the final 10-race stretch begins, it is a clean slate, like a brand new season. With no true favorite emerging from the regular season, many feel the championship will come down to the wire at Homestead.
"Anything can happen in those 10 races," Edwards said. "You can have some sort of problem, bad fortune or good fortune at any point in those 10 races and things can change in a hurry.
"As competitive as everyone has been, I don't see a favorite," he said. "I don't see anyone on a real big run that can't be beat by one bad race."
Brad Keselowski has definitely had momentum on his side, and agreed with Edwards in saying one finish of 20th or worse can end a team's title hopes.
"I think if you have one race worse than 20th you're done," he said. "I think that's just the way the new point system is."