By admin | September 23, 2008
By Richard Allen
A few weeks prior to the start of the Chase for the Championship a rumor began to circulate that Toyota was saving a little something extra in their engine package for the playoff. If indeed they were saving something, they had better start using it immediately.
It appears as though it was actually Ford Motor Company that had something extra in reserve.
During the NASCAR Sprint Cup “regular season” much of the talk among fans and media types alike centered on Toyota’s rise to prominence in only its second year in that division. Kyle Busch had won eight races and seemed on his way to a championship. However, his Chase, and to a degree Toyota’s, has been a disaster so far.
Of the two Chase races, the highest finishing Toyota has been Tony Stewart’s 8th place in New Hampshire. In Dover, Toyota’s best finisher was 10th place Michael Waltrip, a driver who did not qualify for the Chase.
All three of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas made the Chase for the Championship field. Mechanical troubles have doomed Busch’s hopes only two races into the playoff. Denny Hamlin also suffered mechanical issues in Dover.
Of the three JGR drivers, Stewart is the highest ranked in 7th. He is 118 points behind leader Carl Edwards. Hamlin is 11th, 193 points back, while Busch sits in 12th, 210 behind.
The likelihood of a Toyota championship in 2008 appears far fetched at best.
On the other hand, Ford seems to be the auto company in the driver’s seat early on.
Greg Biffle has seemingly come out of nowhere to claim the first two Chase races. He had not won a single race leading into the playoff.
Best of all for Ford and the Roush Fenway Racing team is that Biffle’s teammates appear to be his most serious threat.
Carl Edwards has scored two consecutive 3rd place runs in the Chase. The fact that he went into the playoff with 50 bonus points more than Biffle has allowed him to grab the early lead over Biffle and Chevrolet’s Jimmie Johnson.
Biffle’s other teammate within the Chase field, Matt Kenseth, is likely out of championship contention due to a poor finish in New Hampshire. However, should Kenseth continue to run as well as he did in Dover he could play a role in determining who the Chase winner will be.
So, those who feared a Toyota takeover of NASCAR’s top division can most likely rest easy considering the results of the first two Chase for the Championship races. It has been the fans of the “Blue Oval” who have had the most reason to cheer thus far.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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