Today: Feb 25, 2024

Sports Commentary: Johnson isn’t the only favorite in this year’s Chase

PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Reporter 

If there was one word to describe the NASCAR season leading up to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it is unpredictable. 

As Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s car, goes for his sixth consecutive championship, this could be the year he is knocked off. 

With a new playoff and points system, the playoff race was as competitive as I’ve seen it. Each week, there was never a real clear favorite. On any given day, any driver could have won the checkered flag. 

Despite only one win this season in the spring race at Talladega, Johnson has quietly worked his way to the top of the standings. He had not been a real factor this year until his recent surge throughout the past month and a half. Johnson is no doubt one of the best athletes and drivers in NASCAR and is well-prepared to win it again. 

Seeing as how there have been so many different factors in each race, Chase drivers, like Johnson, can wait and just worry about finishing right now before making a move. 

The top 12 in the Chase is pretty fair. All 12 drivers in the Chase have either won multiple races or have consistently raced to good finishes. The fact that other drivers trying to make the Chase did not race well each week also played a major role. It gave an opportunity for contenders to work on their issues each week. 

Another favorite is the No.1 seed in the Chase, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s car. Can this finally be his year to shine? He is tied for the lead with four wins and has 16 top 10, and 13 top five finishes. Busch has had his weeks this year, only they have been fighting for a checkered flag. 

A dark horse is Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Bud Light. Since his car accident in August on the track in Iowa, hurting his leg, Keselowski has been sparked to go for the win at any cost. He has two wins since the accident, including winning at Pocono four days after the accident. He has worked his way from the top 25 of the overall standings to the Chase. As a young driver, the pressure to continue each week might get to him. If he remains hanging around after a month of races, he might shock the world. 

It is very hard to go against Johnson. He knows how to do it, and he is on his own level when it comes down the stretch run. As long as any Chase driver is up in the standings for the first half of the Chase, they should have time to play around. Down the stretch is when patience and strategy will make or break a drivers Chase hopes. With the unpredictability going into each race, I would be surprised if this was the year to knock off the best. 

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