NASCAR: No clear-cut favorite in Chase
DOVER, Del. ó Jimmie Johnson has yet to take off on his traditional run of Chase dominance. Tony Stewart has two wins in the 10-race postseason without a points lead to show for his checkered flags. Kyle Buschís four wins in the first 26 races have meant nothing the last three weeks.
Three races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, no clear-cut favorite has emerged out of the pack of 12.
The standings are so tight entering the fourth Chase race this weekend at Kansas Speedway that thereís a tie at the top. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards have the same number of points ó but Harvick holds the tiebreaker because of his four season victories compared with Edwardsí one.
The top eight drivers are separated by only 15 points ó the top nine by 19.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in serious trouble, and Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin are the bottom two drivers and can start planning for next season.
With seven races left, the Chase is wide open.
ěI think the competition level is so even,î Harvick said. ěI donít think youíre going to see anybody come in here and dominate like you have, as far as just taking off and running away. Itís just a matter of keeping yourself in it until you get to the last couple of races. If you can keep yourself in contention, hopefully youíve eliminated most of the other guys in the Chase.î
The revamped points system has tightened the field and made serious swings in the standings possible. Johnson went from 10th place and 29 points behind the leader entering Dover to fifth place and 13 points out after a second-place finish to Kurt Busch on the Monster Mile. Buschís victory moved him from ninth to fourth in the standings, only nine points behind Harvick and Edwards.
More changes are ahead at Kansas. Stewart, Johnson, Newman, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon all have won races at Kansas.
Harvick, whose best Kansas finish was a third in 2010, considers himself a contender to race into Victory Lane even with a 14.3 average finish at the 1.5-mile speedway.
ěRight now, we are looking for a championship, so whatever we have got to do to fight through that is what weíll do,î he said. ěYou need to run good at all of them. You canít run bad at any of them, to tell you the truth, but Kansas has been a place where we have been pretty good.î
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