Well, it's finally here. The Chase for the Nextel Cup, NASCAR's version of a playoff system. To help you prepare for the 10 week showdown, Rusty's going to give you a run down of each of the 12 drivers in the Chase, this week. Included in that ranking will be the Rusty's Power Ranking, my own personal index of who's got the best shot to win the title.
Today we look at the #6 and #5 positions, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne.
Jeff Gordon - The rainbow warrior might have taken the biggest hit with the points realignment after Richmond. Going into Richmond, Gordon was 2nd in the points. After that race, and with the Chase points realignment, he's now 6th. Jeff's only found victory lane once this season, but he's been more than consistent by amassing 12 top 5's and 18 top 10's. In fact, Jeff's finished worse than 10th only 9 times this season. That kind of performance is why the #24 team has 4 championships, and why Jeff's one of the more serious contenders this year. If Gordon can continue to perform at this level, and tally a few wins in the Chase, he could easily take home his 5th trophy this year. The Chase has several tracks that are very good to Gordon, including Dega and Lowe's. Jeff's not the guy to beat, but if the 48, 14, or 5 slip up, he'll be ready to pounce.
Position before Richmond: 2
Rusty's Power Ranking 4
Kasey Kahne - Being a fan of Kasey Kahne is like living your life on a roller coaster. One year he's hot, 2006. The next year he's not, 2007. Lately, the Bud team's been hot. In fact he won just two weeks ago in Atlanta. Back in April and early May, he was far from it, going nearly 7 races without a top 10 finish. The good news is that he's peaking at the right time. The Chase also presents several of the intermediate tracks where Kahne seems to excel (Texas, Lowe's, Kansas, Fontana). Of Kahne's 11 victories, 9 have come at intermediate tracks (1.5 - 2 miles in length). While the schedule looks promising for Kahne, the stiff competition and the lack of consistency makes Rusty think the chances for Kahne's first championship are not great.
Position before Richmond: 6
Rusty's Power Ranking: 7
Tomorrow: #4 Denny Hamlin, #3 Jimmie Johnson