By admin | September 16, 2009
By Richard Allen
Each of the twelve drivers to have made the Chase for the Championship has an intriguing story. Among them are Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya as some of the most intriguing.
Johnson winning a fourth consecutive title would rank among the greatest achievements in the sport’s history. Only Cale Yarborough has matched Johnson’s feat of three consecutive championships in the modern era of NASCAR.
Obviously, another championship run by the #48 team would rank as the most compelling story of the season should it come to pass.
Going into the Chase, Mark Martin is probably the sentimental favorite. The popular 50 year old driver has never won a championship but has his best chance in years to accomplish just that. The only thing that may cause some to root against Martin would be the fact that he drives for Hendrick Motorsports, which is viewed by many non-HMS fans as ‘the rich bad guy’ in the sport. Otherwise, many fans would love to see Martin score a title to complete his career.
Juan Pablo Montoya could become the first foreign born Sprint Cup champion should he get on a roll during the final ten races of the season. The Colombian also has the opportunity to win the title without achieving a single win over the course of the season. That has never been done in the modern era of NASCAR racing.
Aside from these intriguing stories, there are more. Tony Stewart could become the first owner/driver to win a title since Alan Kulwicki. Ryan Newman, driving for Stewart, could create the oddity of making a fellow driver a championship owner should he capture the title.
Kasey Kahne could win a title while in the midst of his team merging with another team and switching brands of cars.
Kurt Busch could give legendary IndyCar owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Jeff Gordon could win a fifth championship and become only the second driver(Stewart) to win a title under both the old and new formats.
Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle could rescue a somewhat lackluster season for Roush Fenway Racing.
Denny Hamlin could give Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs yet another championship trophy, adding to his totals from both NASCAR and the NFL.
Brian Vickers, like Hamlin, has the chance to score a title for Toyota. Vickers could also win for his relatively new team, Red Bull.
Each driver offers an intriguing story as a potential Chase winner. There are perhaps more intriguing storylines going into this Chase for the Championship than there have been in any other season since the inception of the playoff format.
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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