The Final Countdown

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If the NASCAR season were analogous to a football game, we'd be at the two-minute warning in a close game for all the marbles.

The tension is getting thicker, the rhetoric is ratcheting up and the situation is starting to get fairly desperate for all 10 drivers.

If you look at this weekend's race, it's clear that it's time for the all-out racing to begin.

Roush Racing entered the Chase as the all-conquering, five-strong juggernaut that was going to steamroll everyone. That hasn't happened. Biffle has the best chance to win a title, Carl Edwards isn't that far behind Biffle and the other three are too far behind Tony Stewart to make a real run unless Stewart steps in a major hole.

On the plus side for the Roushies, Biffle won the race here in April, and Edwards has two victories at Atlanta, virtually a twin to Texas.

Biffle is 75 points behind Stewart and Edwards is 107, but gaining points has been hard so far. Last week, both finished ahead of Stewart (Edwards won and Biffle was seventh) but Stewart was ninth, so that resulted in a net gain of just eight points for Biffle.

History holds against Biffle, however, as the track has never had a repeat winner, but that's in Edwards' favor. Of the Chasers, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin have already won at Texas, meaning that Stewart, Kurt Busch, Edwards, Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield are all on the statistical upswing.

Kurt Busch used up all his uncanny luck last year in winning the title, Mark Martin hasn't been consistent enough to win and Matt Kenseth got a bad start. Three-fifths of the Roush machine have been neutralized.

Likewise, Ryan Newman hasn't been the monster everyone thought he'd be after winning New Hampshire, Rusty Wallace has run into trouble three straight weeks and Jeremy Mayfield has had luck as bad as Busch's was good in 2004.

That leaves Stewart and Johnson. Just 43 points separate the two, with Stewart leading and Johnson closing. Of course, Johnson has been in this same position the last two years and come close to winning the title.

Stewart has been Mr. Consistency over the last 20 races, and unlike other years, his temperament has been nice and steady. Two bad races-Dover and Lowe's-failed to derail him and his team, and indeed, it will take a disaster of cosmic proportions to get him off the top spot.

At the two-minute warning, most teams put in a hurry-up offense and try to score points in the most efficient manner. Everybody but Stewart is running a no-huddle. Stewart is running the regular offense, trying to get a couple first-downs to run out the clock.

"I wish I could just win the last three races so I'd know for sure," Stewart said last week.

That's why they play the games, but after Homestead is over, he'll know one way or the other.

Photos

  • From the Archives: Dover
  • From the Archives: Dover
  • From the Archives: Dover
  • From the Archives: Dover
  • From the Archives: Dover
  • From the Archives: Dover
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • From the Archives: Charlotte
  • Sprint All-Star Race
  • Sprint All-Star Race
  • Sprint All-Star Race
  • Sprint All-Star Race
  • Sprint All-Star Race
  • Sprint All-Star Race

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