Jimmie Johnson keeps pushing but just can’t seem to cross into the front of the points. He won at Dover and almost had it in Charlotte but still holds a firm grip on second place. There is still enough room in the schedule to gain the points needed to move up but he does have to race better than the current leader, Matt Kenseth.
Talladega is next, followed by Martinsville. These two races offer big chances to move up, not just for Johnson but also for some that are back double digits. Kevin Harvick is 29 points off the front, while Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch are 36 and 37 points back. Talladega could shake the box quite a bit as the constant threat of a big crash taking out contenders lingers on every lap. The short track at Martinsville has been a winning track for Johnson and Gordon but the last bunch of meetings there have seen others pop into Victory Lane.
These two races crossing into the last half of The Chase should shake the box and we will see who is really riding the top. The odds still point to a showdown between Johnson and Kenseth as the season winds to the end. However, the super speedway at Talladega coupled with the technical racing at Martinsville causes a back to back scenario of a mixed bag of skill, patience, teamwork and a dose of luck.
Take a look at Kyle Busch. He was, just a couple of races ago, in the battle with Johnson and Edwards. Now he is 37 points back. It is, of course, much easier to move backward than forward. Busch’s position does show how quickly a loss can happen so it isn’t quite time to lock it down for Johnson or Kenseth.
You could also look at Gordon. Following Richmond and the shake up with Michael Waltrip Racing which allowed, through NASCAR decision, Gordon into the Chase as an unprecedented 13th qualifier, the #24 has moved up from the bottom steps to 4th overall. This is a hefty move up against odds. At 36 points off the pace there is still a lot of work to do but it seems the Gordon team is pushing with all they have.
Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon are showing the extremes of drama behind the scenes of the Kenseth vs. Johnson Chase showdown.
The race is on for The Chase. These next two races offer possibly the best chances for drivers third and back in the series points to move up. Only time, mixed with speed, will tell.