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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
So the Chase kicks off Sunday in Chicago. Fans have been asking me if I have any favorites. I do not have a favorite but I do have a couple sentimental favorites. Actually, this 2013 Chase really is anyone's to win, if you ask me. You have some guys coming in meek like lambs while you have some others coming in roaring like lions.
If you look at it strictly from a momentum standpoint, you have to say Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are carrying the most of that right now. Saturday night's win at Richmond was a big win for Carl. It seems that Ford has renewed power and life. Maybe this is finally the year that Carl makes the trip to the head table in Las Vegas as our champion. I don't know if that will happen, but in 10 fast weeks we'll have that answer.
You also can't discount Kurt Busch and that No. 78 team. I know they are working diligently to address what at the moment seems to be their only Achilles Heel, and that, naturally, is their issues on pit road. Week after week, race after race, they have fast race cars. They also have a powerhouse of a driver in Kurt Busch behind the wheel. They simply have to fix their pit-crew situation.
A month or so ago it was Jimmie Johnson's championship to lose. Now they have to show everyone they can win it. Sure seems like Lady Luck has abandoned the No. 48 camp for greener pastures, at least for now. We all are going to find out real quick if they can make their own luck and turn this thing around.
We know that they have fast race cars. We know they have all the resources at their fingertips that any team could ask for. However, like Elvis, Lady Luck has left the building. It just goes to show you that unless you have her on your side, it doesn't matter if you are the greatest driver on the planet; you will get no better results than the next guy. I think that's really where the No. 48 is right now.
It makes these first two or three races very pivotal and very interesting, because it's going to tell us a lot. It's going to tell us of these Chase drivers, who the contenders and who the pretenders really are. This is a fresh start for all the Chase teams. Who can step up and make the most of it is the storyline to follow.
Like the other years of the Chase and the way this season has progressed, I think we will see every a driver or two fall by the wayside couple weeks. By the time we get to the final race of the year at Homestead, there probably will once again be two, if not three, drivers still with a shot to win the whole thing.
With Jimmie, the Busch brothers, Carl and Matt Kenseth, we have the makings of a really interesting 10-race Chase. For the others, well, I just don't know. I mean, obviously, Clint Bowyer enters the Chase with a massive black cloud over he and the team. How much of a distraction will that be?
Can Ryan Newman and his pit crew come back together? If you didn't see his post-race interview Saturday night, Ryan slammed his pit crew hard on television. Two days later with the NASCAR penalty announcement on Michael Waltrip Racing, now Ryan and the No. 39 team are in the Chase. How much of a distraction will Ryan's public blasting have on his team and their willingness to go that extra mile for a driver who is leaving them at the end of the year, anyway?
You've got Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne in there, as well. Will they make something happen, though? That's yet another exciting storyline to follow these next 10 weeks as the Chase unfolds, and it all starts this Sunday at Chicago.
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