Is Chase a Three-Man Race?
September 27, 2013 | 2:00 P.M. EST
Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and points leader Matt Kenseth have separated from the field, leading some to question if this Chase is a three-man race. (Photo: Getty Images)
DOVER, Del. - What should Greg Biffle say? Should he concede? Should he admit what people are forecasting? Or should he fight back?
Two races into the Chase, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson have separated from the rest of the field. Biffle is fifth in the standings, nearly a full race behind Kenseth. So, is this a three-man race?
“The guys that are saying it’s a three-man are race stupid,’’ Biffle said. “There’s no possible way you could call this a three-man race. Am I saying I’m in it for the championship hunt? I’m not saying that, but there’s no way this is a three-man race. Talladega is around the corner. Anything can happen in this thing. Two races into a championship run and it’s a three-man race? Ain’t no way.’’
Maybe so, but the champion has been in the top three in points after the first Chase races each of the past five seasons.
“I’m not putting my guard down,’’ said Johnson, third in the standings, 18 points out of the lead. “I’m certainly looking forward and there are only two guys that I’m paying attention to right now, so in that mindset, sure you can call it a three-man race. It’s still way too early to count many out yet.’’
Each of the top three carries baggage that could alter this Chase.
Even though Kenseth has a series-high seven wins, he’s had two engine failures - among the issues Toyota Racing Development has had - and placed 30th or worse four times.
Of course, it’s easier to forget that with how Kenseth has run, winning the first two races of the Chase and posting the fastest speed in practice Friday at Dover International Speedway.
“I’ve always loved this racetrack and, with the momentum that we’ve been having ... I just honestly couldn’t wait to get back to the track,’’ he said.
While Busch has finished second to Kenseth in each of the first two Chase races, there remain questions about him being strong for all 10 Chase races. He’s never finished better than fifth in the points. He was fourth halfway through the 2011 Chase but incidents ruined his run and then he was penalized and forced to sit out the Texas race after his actions in the Camping World Truck Series event there.
“He has the ability,’’ Johnson said of Busch. “We’ve seen it week in and week out. We’ll see if he can keep it together over the course of 10 weeks. We all have something out there that media, fans and competitors hold against you and make you think about from time to time. His question is can you hold it together for 10 week and we’ll see.’’
Asked if he can be strong for 10 races, Busch said: “There’s only one way to find out and that’s to run these races.’’
Busch also won’t say this is a three-man race for the title, noting that anything can happen in the remaining races.
“I’ve literally had things fall out of the sky this year and hit my racecar, so just be ready for anything,’’ he said, referring to the cable that fell from an overhead camera and struck his car at Charlotte earlier this season.
Johnson also has his baggage that he says many remind him about.
“It’s the two-year dry spell,’’ he said of his last championship. “LIke it’s been an eternity since I’ve won a championship.’’
One driver, two drivers, three drivers with a chance for the title? Doesn’t matter to Kevin Harvick, who is sixth in the points. His focus is unchanged.
“A lot of people think that we change our strategy, but our strategy is to try to win every week,’’ he said. “Obviously you can't do that every week. You have to try to pull the best finish that you can from that particular weekend.
“Really that's our strategy is to go out and try to perform the best that you can, and if you're having a good day, capitalize on it. If you're having a bad day, try to figure out how to create a decent finish for it and gain maximum points. It's really the same strategy, Chase or no Chase.’’