The stage is set, and the Chase is upon us following Saturday night’s race at Richmond. Who is in championship form and who has work to do? We’ve got you covered!
Hot: Joe Gibbs Racing. As a team, JGR is the best right now. Saturday night at Richmond, they showed that they have two very serious title contenders in Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and possibly a 2011 Chase contender in Joey Logano. Placing three cars in the top 4 Saturday night gives this team the wave of momentum they needed going into the Chase.
Not: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior said this past week that he’s tired of his performance being a joke. You want to hear something that’s not a joke? Mattias Ekstrom beat him by two laps Saturday night at Richmond.
Hot: Clint Bowyer. The surprise of Saturday night came when Bowyer locked up his spot in the Chase. Alright, I kid. But it was a bit surprising to see Clint running as hard as he was, considering he only needed to finish 28th or better to lock up his spot. This could be the sleeper of the 2010 Chase right here.
Not: Jeff Burton. Burton said the other day that his team has been finishing better than they’ve run. That’s not good considering his last 4 finishes have been 24th, 16th, fourth, and 13th respectively. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that will quite get the job done in the Chase.
Hot: Marcos Ambrose. Marcos quietly powered his way to his second top-5 of the season Saturday night. Believe it or not, Ambrose has finished inside the top 20 in each of his last 5 races, with three of those resulting in top-10s. Atta boy, Marcos!
Not: Mark Martin. Richmond demonstrated Mark’s season in a nutshell. Two laps off the pace, never contended, barely finished in the top 20, and all this without serious problems. That’s why he missed the Chase. Now all he can hope for is to be the 2011 comeback driver of the year.
Hot: AJ Allmendinger. I’ve wondered for awhile how long it would take for AJ to become driver No. 1 at RPM. With Kasey Kahne eliminated from Chase contention, it looks like the time is now. At least, if his eighth-place showing on Saturday night is any indication.
Not: Kasey Kahne. I don’t know if Kahne’s crew just missed the setup, or if RPM can only have one fast car at a time. Either way, Kasey’s performance Saturday night was an embarrassment, and I’m sure this is not how he wants to part with his No. 9 ride.
Hot: Carl Edwards. This is my pick to win the 2010 Sprint Cup title. Mr. Edwards has been a model of consistency over the past 10 races, finishing in the top 10 in all but one of those events(a 12th-place showing at Bristol). Carl has also said that his team is more prepared for a title run than ever, including 2008. I’m buying it.
Not: Greg Biffle. If Biff can start out the 2010 Chase like he started out the ’08 Chase, he might be a title threat. Problem is, Greg hasn’t shown any signs lately that his team is even remotely a contender. And if Saturday night is any indication, Biffle’s team isn’t showing any signs that they can even finish just 2 laps down.