I’m definitely not a fan of The Chase, mainly because the dude that works hard all season to earn a points lead basically gets shafted when the final ten races arrive. Last year it was Kyle Busch, and this year Tony Stewart will probably relinquish his respectable points lead to Mark Martin (or Jimmie Johnson?) once the Chase begins because the 5 car has taken the checkers the most (so far). Every other series uses a season long points system, and it seems to provide for some fairly exciting finishes.
But in the interest of positive discussion, I won’t whine about all of that, but instead look at which teams have the best chance to (1) actually get in The Chase and (2) ultimately challenge for the Sprint Cup title.
Of course, that crucial first step is to get into The Chase. The top drivers have maneuvered themselves into solid positions, and it’s safe to say that we’ll see the 14, 48, 24, and 2 cars ready to rumble for the title. The 11 and the 99 also look to be relatively comfortable. Then it gets interesting. I’m going to throw out the prediction that the 42, 9, and 39 survive. Along with the 16 and the 5.
That leaves us with the battle between the 17 and the 18 cars for that last spot. To me, the 18 car has the ability to challenge for a race win on any given day, and I’m not sure that the 17 car can match that right now. The downside is that the 18 car has also shown the ability to crash and burn and finish last on any given day, but I believe that the 17 car drops out of 12th place and gets replaced by the 18. The 83, 33, and others join the 17 in the void reserved for non-Chasers who don't pack the gear to run for the Sprint cup title.
With my predicted Chasers lined up at the start line, who takes home the big prize? Well, my front runners become the 14 and the 48 followed by the 5 and 18 cars. Beyond that, the 2 car and the 11 car have both looked like they’re peaking at the right time, and a case might also be made for the 42. Those that like darkhorse picks might go with the Blue Deuce just for kicks.
That 14 car has been tough all season, and certainly hasn’t looked like a newly formed team. Which always makes me suspicious that a big fallout is waiting right around the corner (just like the 18 team last season). That's the curse of The Chase.
The 48 team has this whole Chase nonsense all figured out, and certainly they’ve got to be considered the favorite. Look for them to gather win number four fairly soon and have the Nascar world predicting title number four in a row. (yawn).
The 5 team is the sentimental favorite, but can they stop the 48 juggernaut? That would be fun to watch, but might be a long shot.
Then there’s the wildcard 18 car. If Kyle Busch claws his way into the Chase, look out. I’m of the opinion that if he’s alive for the title during those final ten races then he’ll be the car to watch. He’d be my pick to shock everyone and steal the title from the 48 team. Or blow up trying.
Safe bet would be the 48 team, but hell, that ain’t no fun!